The 10 Commandments of Running Buddies

"2015 Hagg Lake Mud Runs Ultra 25k"

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. -African Proverb

The running buddy relationship is something special. As in, if you get a good one, it’s well worth it’s weight in gold. Or at least finisher’s medals.

He’s willing to hang patiently outside a public restroom while you tend to mid-run, marathon-training GI issues (thanks, Brian). You talk him out of that “dark place” while helping him conquer a new race distance (nice work, Ben). She’s a seasoned pro who selflessly paces you in your first ultramarathon (you rock, Jamie).

You meet her for “runch” to knock out a few mid-day miles (yep, Tasha). Or maybe you don’t even know each other, but you meet at the tail end of an overnight relay and provide some mutual moral support for the final few miles (shout out to Allison).

And those are just a handful of memories from the past year or so!

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As much as I enjoy running solo to the tune of my own thoughts, there’s just something wonderful about the bond that forms between people who break a sweat together. And much like that elusive runner’s high, a good running buddy makes it feel effortless: The conversation flows as the miles fly by.

That’s not to say it’s a relationship without its ups and downs… Inevitably, you’ll end up seeing each other at your very worst, but you also learn the subtle art of pushing one another to be the best version of yourselves.

It’s also not a partnership to be taken lightly, which is why I love this running buddy pre-nup by Amy Marxkors. She hits the nail on the head when it comes to finding happily ever after, complete with calf cramps, bloody nipples and covered in GU. TMI?

With running comes freedom, but also a responsibility — and it’s that notion that inspired me to make my own list of “10 Commandments for Running Buddies,” a set of principles to help guide us as we tackle the roads and trails together.

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1. Thou shalt remember that what happens on the run stays on the run. Runners usually cover more ground together than just miles, so they key is discretion when it comes to everything from topics of conversation to bodily functions.

2. Thou shalt not judge a book by its cover. Sometimes it’s the oddest couple that makes the best match, so keep an open mind and test the waters with a few casual runs before jumping into anything too serious.

3. Thou shalt aim thy bodily fluids properly. Say it, don’t spray it. Your buddy wants the news, not the weather. That goes for spit as well as snot, so just be smart and try not to unleash directly into the wind.

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4. Thou shalt choose thy buddy based on similar pace and goals. It’s important to have a frank discussion about where you are and where you’re looking to go. But don’t necessarily discount people of different paces! Even if they’re much faster, your tempo could be their recovery day, so it’s all about coordinating ahead of time.

5. Thou shalt respect thy buddy’s time — and vice versa. Occasional lateness is understandable, but perpetual lateness is unforgivable. Commit to whatever time you set, so you’re not leaving your buddy out in the cold (literally).

6. Thou shalt learn to read thy buddy’s body language. Some days your mouths may be running faster than your legs; other days one of you may feel like being more quiet and reflective while working through a wall. Respect each other’s space, and remember it’s ok to communicate if you need some silence.

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7. Thou shalt accommodate each other during training. Sh!t happens while running, so plan on sticking with your buddy through any kind of mid-run mishaps. Not only is it good karma, but it’s only a matter of time before he will be returning the favor.

8. Thou shalt not race without a game plan. There’s a huge difference between racing for fun and for time. If it’s the former, plan on sticking together and not paying attention to the clock. If it’s the latter, make a pact that you’re each going to run your own race — it’s every woman for herself in the pursuit of a PR.

9. Thou shalt not take things personally. Whether it’s conflicting schedules or chemistry that fizzles, recognize if something’s not working and when it might be time to move on. And just because you aren’t running soul mates doesn’t mean you can’t be yoga or boot-camp buddies instead.

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10. Thou shalt maintain a sense of humor. Above all, remember to have fun together. Repeat after me: Keep it in perspective; it’s just one foot in front of the other, after all.

In the grand scheme of things, all the medals, PR’s and podium finishes in the world won’t outweigh the personal satisfaction that comes with forging a bond that allows you each to push each other beyond what you once thought were your limits.

Are there any running buddy commandments that you’d add to the list? 

The Almond Milk Experiment

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Our recent Whole30 experience left Ben and I between a rock and a hard place when it came to morning coffee: Either drink it black or pay a hefty $1 or so per ounce for the deliciousness from Portland Juice Company.

Now wanting to blow through our grocery budget, I knew there had to be another way. Sure, we could fudge our way through with store-bought almond milk, which even when it’s organic and free of lactose, soy, gluten can have some nasty additives (just Google “carrageenan,” for example).

So that left us (read: me) with one, final option: Making it home-made, which I was trying to avoid at all costs — literally and figuratively.

A little math:

  • Nut-milk bag: $10.99
  • 6 oz package of raw almonds: $4.99
  • 12 oz package of dates: $6.99
  • Finally getting over the fear of using my food processor: Priceless

Is it worth it? Well, I might not be the best person to ask since I love my dairy and have since added it back into my diet — in moderation, of course (#BecauseIceCream). But almond milk is a delicious alternative for people with dietary restrictions — especially with the addition of dates as a natural sweetener and pumpkin pie spice for an extra kick.

Making it on my own not only was a learning experience, but it also got me thinking about all the extra gunk I’m consuming in my usual store-bought, sugar- and chemical-laden creamers, so although I don’t expect to make it regularly, I will add it into my repertoire of “every-now-and-then” recipes.

Here’s a look at the process:

Step one: Purchase nut-milk bag. Get mocked by husband when you tell him you’re “going to the store to buy a nut bag.”

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Step two: Soak almonds. Overnight, ideally, but for at least a few hours or until the nuts plump up.

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Step three: Rinse almonds and place in food processor with 3-4 pitted dates and a few cups of fresh water. Blend.

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Step four: Clean up explosion of water from said food processor. Locate manual and read instructions about not filling above “fill line.” Oops.

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Step five: Repeat step four. Clean up second mess, and wonder if you assembled it incorrectly. Nope — just too much liquid. Again.

Step six: Finally blend (for 1-2 minutes) until white and frothy. Smells lovely.

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Step seven: Hold open nut-milk bag over a large bowl and pour mixture into bag to strain. Gently squeeze to get excess liquid out.

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Step eight: Store in airtight container. Preferably a mason jar, particularly if you live in Portland, to cement neo-hippie status.

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Now…what do do with the almond remnants? I’ve got a recipe for that, too! Stay tuned…

Have you made home-made almond milk?

Sweat like a pig, look like a fox…and smell like neither (+ giveaway!)

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Ever play that game where you see if you can squeeze in just one more workout out of an outfit? Well, trust me, it’s a scenario in which no one wins.

And now that we’re headed into winter (i.e. indoor workout season), I’d like to make a public service announcement: Please do yourself, your nose and the noses of those around you a favor and regularly de-funk that fitness gear.

Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up from trial and error over the years, along with some new tips for feeling so fresh and so clean next time you hit the gym.

But first — why so smelly?

Blame those moisture-wicking technical fabrics. Sure, they keep you from getting soaked during sweatfests, but their water-repellent technology also means it takes more than a simple wash cycle to penetrate those fibers. Plus, we’re used to our street clothes getting slightly soiled; workout gear gets downright dirty with trapped oils and residue, so it takes some special TLC to get things totally clean.

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Ok, so what should I do?

Short of burning it or buying a whole new wardrobe, there are a few things I like to do to keep my gear from getting too gnarly:

1. Strip Down: Lounging around in sopping-wet clothing is a no-no for several reasons (ladies, you know what I mean); get it off ASAP.

2. Hang Dry: If you can’t wash clothes immediately, at least drape them over a shower rod or door handle to air out and dry.

3. Soak Up: I let super stinky stuff set for 15-30 minutes in the bathroom sink with water and one cup of vinegar before washing.

4. Wash Well: I used to think my usual detergent was sufficient, but I’ve recently been converted to WIN (details below), a detergent designed specifically to treat fitness and sport clothing.

5. Dry Thoroughly: Dry clothing on the hottest dryer setting that’s appropriate for the materials. Or hang air-dry items outside in direct sunlight to kill any remaining bacteria.

If all else fails, know when it’s time to throw in the towel (or sports bra or bike shorts) — if it’s still full of stink after several washes, wave the white flag and throw down a few bucks for a new pair!

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As I mentioned above, I’ve always relied on traditional detergent for washing my workout gear. Even if something seemed fresh when I pulled it out of the drawer, though, I’d occasionally notice that yucky mildew smell on some pieces as soon as they got wet (like my sports bra during last weekend’s trail race, for example).

But all clothing detergents are pretty much the same, I thought. Right?

Nope.

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Enter WIN, which I heard of previously while at a race expo but only recently got a chance to test. It’s specifically formulated to remove oils and residue that cause odor from synthetic fabrics — it literally breaks up all that gunk that’s accumulated on the fibers, removing the source of the smell and truly cleaning the garment.

My verdict: This stuff really works. Clothing smells good coming out of the wash, even better out of the dryer…and stays that way. So much so that I (who at one time may or may not have stocked up on so much underwear I’d only have to do laundry once a month) have done a load each day this week. Yep, it’s WIN for the win.

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But you don’t have to take my word for it — you can try WIN yourself! Enter via Rafflecopter below, and you’ll have the chance to win two bottles of WIN detergent (one regular and one green) to try at home on your stinkiest of workout wear.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Got any best practices for keeping the stench out of your gym clothes? I’d love to hear!

A big thank you to Fit Approach for the opportunity to check out WIN. While I did receive samples of the product, all opinions are my own. I would never promote something I didn’t believe in.

Dad Knows Best: Must-have advice for life…and working out

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Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere!

Moms may have gotten nominated as having the #WorldsToughestJob, but dads don’t necessarily have it easy either.

So listen up, and heed all those words of wisdom from over the years…if not for life, at least for your next workout or race. You can thank him later.

“Use common sense.”

Pause, even if just for a second. Think before you act, and respond rather than react.

Common sense is a biggie with my dad, and taking a moment to think something through — whether it’s a project at work, a plan with a friend or a race-day strategy — can help you avoid costly mistakes and missteps.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Sad, but true — which is why it’s important to prioritize and spend resources (time, money, energy) on what’s most important to you.

At first glance, it may seem limiting. But, in fact, it can be freeing to focus on quality over quantity, be it trips, toys or even race entries.

“Just try your best.”

You don’t really know what you’re capable of until you try. And in the grand scheme of things, as long as you know you gave it your all you can — and should — be proud.

In fact, there’s a great running quote about this that I love: “Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”

Another quote to consider: “There are wish bones, jaw bones and back bones. Those who dream about doing things, those who talk about doing things, and those who actually accomplish things.”

Don’t waste a bunch of time talking about things. Just. Do. It. (Thanks, Nike!)

“Eat your vegetables.”

A side effect of growing older (and smarter)? Coming to the realization that sometimes what’s best for us isn’t always the easiest or most appealing option (at least at first).

But you know what? A little delayed gratification can be good; in fact, it builds characte, strength and an appreciation for the process, whether you’re saving up for a special treat or training for months in anticipation of a big race.

“Always have something to look forward to.”

It’s easy to slip into a bit of a lull now and then — especially after a big life event or the completion of a major race.

So to avoid the blues, I always try to plan my next race or event as soon as possible. Make a game plan to improve upon past mistakes, and give yourself a new goal to which you can look forward and work toward.

“Never regret the choices you make in life.”

This one’s always a work-in-progress, but I’d like to think of life less as a path of “wrong” and “right” turns and more as a series of opportunities to learn.

Of course, this is often much easier said than done! But all you can really do is take what you know, and try to grow from it.

What’s your favorite advice from Dad?  

Mom Knows Best: Can’t-miss advice for life…and breaking a sweat

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Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere!

No vacations, no salary, screaming bosses, dealing with poop and vomit. It truly is the #WorldsToughestJob, as evidenced in this recent ad.

Haven’t seen it yet? It’s definitely worth a watch — and, wow, I guess it also goes without saying that Mom has probably picked up a few pointers for dealing with some discomfort, disappointment and delayed gratification along the way.

Which is why we need take her up on that advice…if not for life, at least for your next workout or race. You can thank her later.

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

Got injured and had to drop out before that big race? Been there. Didn’t hit your paces or snag that PR…again? Done that.

As frustrating as it feels when things don’t go as planned, try to roll with the punches, keep an open mind and find the growth opportunity in every situation.

“Always be curious.”

Without curiosity and learning there is no growth or forward motion, so don’t be afraid to explore.

Mix up your weekly workout regimen, add in a new form of cross-training, test out a different training program. You won’t know until you give it a shot, and you just may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

“Approach life with a light heart.”

From funny race photos to mid-workout flatulence, from getting lost on trails to losing your lunch in front of people, there’s a good chance something embarrassing will happen sooner or later while you’re breaking a sweat.

In every occurrence, find the funny. And surround yourself with like-minded friends who can help change these moments — or even your life — for the better.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Every time I race I’m reminded of this one. And as much as my ego gets bruised when I’m passed by the 70-year old man in sweats and an old-school pair of gym shoes, it also makes me smile.

The lesson here? As my grade school history teacher said, “Don’t assume anything. You only make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.'” No athlete is perfect, but perfection has never been the standard. Where’s the fun in that, anyway?

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

It goes without saying that you should be nice to others — but remember to hold yourself in the same regard.

Caught up in negative self-talk? Nip it in the bud, and tell that evil voice inside your head to take a hike.

“Never change who you are for someone else.”

When the gun goes off on race day, there’s an explosion of ego and adrenaline. It’s easy to get caught up in it and speed off…only to crash when your body realizes it’s moving at an unsustainable pace.

A better plan: Run your own race. Competition is good. It’s inspiring, and it can bring out the best in us. But real satisfaction comes from self-motivation, so don’t surrender control of this essential asset.

“Don’t underestimate the power of a nap.”

Classic trench coats. Fresh flowers. Good manners. Little black dresses. Some things never go out of style — and a decent nap is one of ’em.

It works like a charm, whether you’re three, 33 or 103. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

What are your favorite words of wisdom from Mom?  

What’s the deal with running?

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Runners….yeah, we ARE different, as the ads proudly state.

After exploring the quirks of swimming and cycling in honor of my recent triathlon training, I’m turning the mirror on myself and my swift-footed cohorts to examine some of the peculiarities of the third and final discipline, such as…

What’s the deal with the preoccupation with bodily functions?

Here’s a little running math for you: Whether it’s color and frequency of “number one” — or consistency and urgency (!) of “number two,” the telling of too much information goes up exponentially as either A) the number of runners or B) the length of any run increases.

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What’s the deal with the gross side effects?

I’ve seen plenty of pictures and run across the occasional telltale red dots on male runners’ shirts at longer endurance events, but it wasn’t until my 30K at Lake Chabot this past winter that I came face-to-face with the worst case of bloody nipples I’ve ever seen. My girlfriends and I had to hold back shudders as we watched a gentleman cross the finish line with red literally streaming all the way down to the hem of his shirt.

Another lovely unintended consequence of pounding the pavement? The dreaded black toenail — aka it’s-only-a-matter-of-time-’til-it-falls-off syndrome. I’ve been fortunate up until this point (knock wood), but it’s only a matter of time — or a combination of lengthy descents and ill-fitting shoes — until this happens to most of us.

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What’s the deal with snot rockets and spitting?

Not only does a good run get our competitive juices flowing, but it also gets our bodily fluids going, as well. I envy the runner who can launch perfectly-formed pockets of spittle or blow a spray of snot with sniper-like accuracy. Whenever I’ve attempted to do so, I end up with a face full of spit — or worse.

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What’s the deal with race-day rituals and superstitions?

Whether it’s a special pre-race dinner, a lucky piece of clothing, a favorite pair of shoes, a particular way to tie shoelaces — or, like me, putting the left shoe on first — running tends to bring out the quirks, rituals and obsessions in every one of us.

The oddest part? We can tell you what it is, but we often can’t tell you why we do it. Because even we don’t know why; we just know it works.

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What’s the deal with the fashion faux pas?

I’ll be the first to admit guilt here: Back in my high school track & field days, I was out there in my shorts, sneakers and (cringe) tall athletic socks, which were neither running nor compression socks, but rather the awkward mid-calf length cotton variety.

Other offenders here include shorts that are too short or too long (both bad for obvious reasons), blindingly bright colors (although great for night runs!), socks with barefoot shoes, obscene amounts of gear and other assorted fashion fails.

And don’t even get me started on our shoe collections… As my Twitter friend Peter Esko so eloquently put it: “The correct number of running shoes is n+1 where n is your current number of running shoes. #moreshoesmoremiles”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Any other running-related habits that you find humorous?

What’s the deal with cycling?

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In a recent post, I channeled Jerry Seinfeld and talked about some of the fun idiosyncrasies of swimmers in the style of his popular “What’s the deal with…?” routine. Well, now it’s time to turn to cyclists, the second discipline in the triathlon trifecta.

So without further ado, here are a few questions I’d like to pose to my fellow riders now that I’ve immersed myself in the cycling culture during training. For instance…

What’s the deal with aerodynamics? 

Ok, I know what it is and why it’s generally important. But spending thousands of dollars in an obsessive quest to shave off mere milliseconds? Sure, I get why the pros and age-group podium contenders do it, but let me be clear — I’m talking about us middle-of-the-pack racers here.

I’m competitive and I want to improve as much as the next person, but there’s a point where it starts to get a little silly. After all, as I overheard recently at a bike store, “The least aerodynamic part of the bike is the rider, and there’s only so much you can do with that.”

What’s the deal with “bike love?”

I never quite understood affection toward an inanimate object…that is, until I met Winnie.

My trusty Cannondale commuter got me through several sprint-distance triathlons just fine, but once I set my sights on longer races, I knew that an upgrade would be inevitable. What I didn’t expect was that my feeling toward biking would turn from ‘meh’ to maniacal as a result.

Quite simply, it was love at first sight. Not only is she beautiful, but every new adventure we tackle together has also been full of pure joy and exhilaration. Our relationship has been moving along quickly, but I’m hoping (with more time together) we can go even faster because I’ve got a good feeling about this one…

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What’s the deal with clipping in?

Just like aerodynamics, I understand the reasoning behind it, but still think it’s a funny concept. Especially the fact that falling over in slow-motion while clipped in is a rite of passage for many athletes.

What’s the deal with helmets?

Nope, I’m not talking about those oddly-shaped aero ones (although that could be a whole other blog post); I’m talkin’ about the fact that while bicycle helmets do a good job of keeping our skulls intact in a major crash, they do almost zilch to prevent concussions and other significant brain injuries.

Wait — what?!

Yep, I didn’t know that either…until a friend of a friend at a bike store mentioned it during our conversation about cycling gear. This article in Bicycling Magazine is a must-read on the topic; it goes into detail about bike helmets and the current state of the industry with respect to research on concussion and brain injury.

The article’s author puts it perfectly: “The choices cyclists make with their money matter. You can pretend to protect your brain, or you can spend more money and get closer to actually doing it.”

What’s the deal with the etiquette (or lackthereof)?

Finally, from feelings of intimidation when walking into bike stores to feelings of indignation upon being yelled at by cyclists while running and trying to share the road, I found it tough, initially, to develop the warm-and-fuzzies toward a culture that felt, well, kind of cold compared to running.

Luckily, however, my stubborn streak kicked in…along with a healthy dose of curiosity and a determination to succeed. So, sure, I’ve still got days where I suffer from major imposter syndrome (a “runner in cyclist’s clothing,” as I call myself), but it’s usually overridden by those feelings of euphoria mid-ride.

And for every person who went whizzing by without so much as a, “You ok?” while my girlfriends and I were on the side of the road trying to troubleshoot our first tire change, there have been others who warmly welcome newbies with open arms. Case(s) in point: my Coeur teammates, who patiently took me on my first long ride (clipped in, no less) — not to mention Gethyn, my “bike matchmaker” from Hank & Frank Bicycles, who helped me navigate the first-real-bike-purchase process.

Thank goodness for them — otherwise, there’s a good chance I might have been trying to compete in next month’s triathlon on my old mountain bike!

Any other cycling eccentricities that make you go ‘huh?’