After trail racing for fifteen years I've had the opportunity to make plenty of mistakes. But more importantly, I've also had the chance to learn from them. Today, I'd like to think I'm a much smarter racer and runner for one very specific reason.
So much about racing is out of a runner's control: the weather, the competition, the course conditions. This is after all, what makes racing so exciting. But as someone who has dealt with an embarrassing amount of chafing, blistering and cramping (and sometimes all three together) during my race career, gear is the one thing I no longer leave to chance. An ill-fitting shoe or a scratchy pair of shorts have often been the difference between victory and defeat, or more importantly for me, having fun and being miserable. Sure, it's tempting to throw on that ratty college tee shirt and those old Erkel-esque high school gym shorts, but I've ended up wasting more time fussing and adjusting than running down my competitors.
So these days, I invest in the right apparel. That way, when the gun goes off, I make extra sure my clothes are working for me, not against me and I can focus less on what I'm wearing and more on what I'm there for, crushing the competition.
Last weekend I ran the Dipsea, the oldest trail race in America. Below is my review for running gear that delivers less bunch and more punch:
Asics GEL Kayano 16, $140
As running shoes go, the GEL Kayano 16 is a bold new twist on a cult classic. I sprinted down some ofthe rockiest singletrack, and I still felt like I was walking on clouds, thanks to the well-cushioned forefoot and killer impact guidance system. Featuring a new asymmetrical lacing design to alleviate pressure, the new GEL Kayano 16s are snazzier-fitting then their predecessors and even more comfortable.
When you’re flying down hills and skipping stairs three ata time, there is no question a serious racing woman needs a little support. But for those of us who are tired of sports bras that strap a woman down flatter than Kansas, the Saucony Women’s Motion Adjust Bra offers the perfect alternative. Featuring stretchable custom-fit molded cups, a hook-and-eye closure and comfy, breathable chafe-resistant material, this bra is for the active woman who prefers to kick ass AND keep her curves.
I could've sworn I was wearing Kleenex when I tested out the Moving Comfort Balance Tank. Made from ultra-light,seamless material engineered to move moisture and prevent odor I couldn't believe how weightless it felt. While the collar was a little too high for non-racing casual wear, the subtle textured design added a feminine touch, and I never felt constricted. One note of warning: get in a crunch session before racing in this top, because it clings like a second skin.
When youhave a jacket like this waiting for you at the finish line, you have a reason to run a little faster. Sleek is the wordof the day when it comes to the lululemon athletica Define Jacket. Made from 4-way stretch luon, the Define Jackets hugs a woman’s curves the way Dale Earnhardt Jr. handles racetrack. Considering how complimentary and form-fitting this jacket felt, I was impressed by the generous amount of pocket space. I also loved the thumb holes that kept my sleeves perfectly in place. The Define Jacket is certainly one of my new favorites for keeping warm and looking sharp both on the course and off.
--Shauna Sweeney is an editorial researcher at Outside. To read about her misadventures racing her dad at the 2010 Dipsea, read here.