Marine Corps Marathon: The Expo

Things are getting real! I made it over to the D.C. Armory for the Marine Corps Marathon Expo last night. Other than a few wrong turns on the way to the expo that made it a much longer trip than it should have been, things went very smoothly.

The Marines have this one down to a science, so I was in and out of the tent to pick up my bib in just a few minutes. After going through another round of security (first one was to get into the tent to grab my bib) I made my way into the armory and it was time to explore!

I made Ian take some silly pictures of me when we first walked in.

expo2 expo1I cannot wait till I have The Iwo in my sights on Sunday and am getting my picture snapped in front of it with my finisher’s medal. Does anyone know how I could just fast forward to that part of things?!?

After that I picked up my shirt and for the first time of my three MCM’s I will actually wear this one and not just keep it as a souvenir. Don’t get me wrong, the bright red and mustard yellow cotton unisex mock turtle necks in the bin under my bed do hold a special place in my heart…they just don’t get worn very often (read ever). This year they unveiled newer technical long sleeve shirts that look a whole lot better and might actually get me to “rock the mock” as they like to say! Kudos to MCM on making this change!

expo4After grabbing my shirt, there were a handful of free samples you could grab before heading into the Brooks official merchandise area.

expo3The lines were really long so I didn’t end up getting anything, but I may try to find my way back there before it closes. My only complaint about the gear was the sheer amount of pink women’s MCM gear. I like pink as much as the next girl, but it doesn’t seem to fit with this race in my mind, and I also get frustrated when people think all you have to do to sell gear to women is slap some pink on it. Regardless there was still a lot of good stuff!

I also wanted to get a new pint glass for this year to go with the one I have from 2011, but didn’t see any. I very easily could have just missed them though. If you were there and saw them, let me know!

I wish I had more time to explore the booths, but we were there pretty close to closing time and hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I moved through pretty quickly checking out all the different running gear and goodies. I did stop by the Clif Bar booth to pick up my 3:35 pace band!

All in all, it was a pretty great expo and I left feeling motivated and excited for race day!

Are you racing MCM? How was your expo experience? Are you a fan of large race expos?


Shoe Showdown: Newton Distance vs. Brooks PureConnect

My last Shoe Showdown post featuring Newton Gravity and Nike Free 5.0 shoes seemed to be a big hit, so I thought I’d follow it up featuring the two newest pairs of running sneaks in my lineup. I bought my Brooks PureConnects with a Groupon at City Sports in late October just when I started physical therapy, so it was awhile before I actually got to go running in them. My brother and his fiancée surprised me at Christmas with a new pair of Newton Distance kicks. They give great gifts!

Here’s how they stack up…

Newton Distance 2012

Just the Facts:
Women’s Size 8
6.8 oz.
2mm heel-to-toe drop

How They Lace Up:
I said trying on my Newton Gravity shoes was love at first step, and the Distance model somehow managed to feel even better. Lighter and an even smaller heel-to-toe drop than the Gravity model, the Distance shoes felt like I barely had anything on my feet. The blue and orange colors are bright, fun and make me smile every time I look at them. The mesh makes them very breathable, which will come in handy when it heats up here. It’s already been nice to see how quickly they dry after some snowy and rainy winter runs.

Similar to the Gravity model and all Newtons, these feature their trademarked Action/ReactionTM technology and a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate. The sensor plate lets you run more naturally since it allows you to sense the ground better making your stride more efficient and more stable. The lugs while still providing cushioning, give you a very engaging and responsive feel, making you more efficient and costing you less energy with each step.

I haven’t gone further than 7 miles in these yet, so I don’t know how they’ll hold up to high mileage of marathon training or if I’ll have to switch back to the Gravity for that. I plan to train for and run a half marathon in April in these anyways, so that shouldn’t be an issue. These are great for neutral runners and really encourage a midfoot strike. The shoes are snug, but my toes have a lot of wiggle room, and I’ve never had any blister or discomfort issues wearing these. The lower heel-to-toe drop and lighter feel makes these feel real fast, and I can’t wait to test out my speed outside of a track or treadmill in an actual race.

Brooks PureConnect

Just the Facts
$90 original price, currently $59 on
Women’s Size 8
6.5 oz.
4mm heel-to-toe drop

How They Lace Up:
The Brooks PureProject was released last year to a lot of fanfare, and the PureConnect is a sharp-looking shoe. Obviously you can tell I like bright colors. These neutral shoes are incredibly light giving you a barely-there feel, yet somehow still manage to feel like they have some cushion. They’re also very breathable and flexible. They feature a split toe groove that extends through the forefoot that is supposed to allow you to better connect with and feel the ground, but I didn’t really notice a difference with this.

I love these for cross training. They’re great to wear when I’m biking, hitting the elliptical, cranking out burpees or suffering through single-leg squats. I wanted to love these for running too. I really did. Unfortunately, I don’t. They fit nice and snug which I like through most of the shoe, but the toe box is very tight as well. When I was finally cleared to run in these I found that my toes started rubbing and feeling really uncomfortable after just a few miles. I think sizing is the main issue causing this and wish I hadn’t been cross training in them for a couple months before taking them on a run or I’d try to return them. I’d recommend going a half size up compared to your usual size. I wish I’d used my Groupon on other gear and gone to one of the many awesome specialty running stores around here (Pacers in Clarendon is my favorite) to ensure the right fit instead of getting sneakers from a salesperson busy waiting on five other people at the same time.

My only other issue with these shoes is after experiencing the 2mm heel-to-toe drop, it’s amazing how much of a difference a couple of millimeters can make. I wish they’d taken this one a little lower, but I still think (if bought in the correct size) they would be a great way to transition to minimal running.

Showdown – The Verdict
Given that I can’t run more than a few miles in my Brooks PureConnects, it’s pretty obvious that the Newtons win out in this showdown. I standby the Brooks shoes as great cross-trainers,  but would have to see if the 8.5s fit better before putting them at an equal level to my Newtons. The Newton Distance really kicks it up a notch with it’s low heel-to-toe drop and extremely light shoe. I feel like I can fly in them and love the feedback I get when running in them. I can instantly tell when I slip into a heel strike where I’m reaching my leg out in front of me, and it’s almost as if they force or guide me into more of a midfoot strike underneath my body.

Newtons have won my heart for now and will be my primary race shoe for 2013.

I’d love to hear if others have had a better experience with the PureConnects. All Newton wearers out there – have any of you tried the MV2 model? I’m thinking of treating myself to these after my first goal race for my speed sessions and shorter races.

Book Review: Hansons Marathon Method

Since I currently can’t get my usual running fix (more to come on that in tomorrow’s post), I’ve started reading about running. Yes, I’m addicted. I’ve been familiar with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project and the great professional athletes they’ve produced including Desiree Davila, so I was excited to hear that they had a new book out detailing how everyday runners can use their method for marathon success.

Thanks to my impulse buying and Amazon Prime membership, I had a copy of Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path To Your Fastest Marathon in my hands just two days after learning about it. Written by Luke Humphrey, an elite Hansons runner who also has a master’s degree in exercise science, with Kevin and Keith Hanson, the book outlines their philosophy and program for a successful marathon covering every aspect from training to strategy to recovery. In just a couple of days I’d read the book from cover to cover and I was sold. I’m going to give their program a shot for my next marathon.

Most marathon training programs are fairly similar. For beginners you usually run three shorter runs during the week and a long run on the weekend peaking around 20 or 22 miles. As you get more advanced, speed workouts and higher mileage are added to the training schedule, but the long run – still peaking at 20 or 22 miles – remains a staple of most programs. The Hansons method takes a different approach. It “teaches a strategic and scientifically grounded approach to everything from the long run to speed workouts to pacing,” writes Kevin Hanson in the book’s foreword. The Hansons method has evolved over the years helping runners of all levels to marathon success since the 1990s.

The biggest difference in the Hansons program is the long run. Rather that the typical 20-miler, the longest training run in the standard Hansons program is 16 miles. The reason this works, Humphrey writes, is that the long run should simulate the last 16 miles of the marathon, not the first 16. It’s all based on experiencing the cumulative fatigue you experience in a marathon without completely zapping your energy for the next week of training. The book cites a guideline that your long run should not exceed 25-30 percent of your weekly mileage. For beginners who have completed just three short runs during the week,  a 20-miler on Sunday can sometimes be 50 percent or more of their weekly mileage. This can be demoralizing and lead to injury – both of which can turn people off from running.

The book covers the philosophy behind the program and delves into the physiology of running covering issues like glycogen depletion and VO2 max. From there Humphrey’s discusses the training program components including easy mileage, which is made up of warm-ups and cool downs, easy days and recovery days, and something of substance (SOS) workouts, which include speed, strength, tempo runs and long runs. The book goes over proper pacing for each of type of run before outlining it’s training programs including both a beginner program and an advanced program. It also talks about program  modifications for when life and injuries get in the way.

After covering the program, the book moves into the strategy side of things. It talks about setting race goals; how to incorporate supplemental training such as cross-training, strength-training and flexibility; and marathon nutrition and hydration during workouts, on race day and for recovery. It moves on to marathon gear, race tactics and post-race recovery – leaving no stone unturned. Finally, the book includes an appendix showcasing the elite Hansons program and describing how its principles are very similar to the ones in their beginner and advanced programs for everyday runners. It even shows Humphrey’s training program for the 2011 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (this course was my first marathon back in 2005!) where he placed fifth in a personal best time of 2:14:27.

If you’re a runner, you’ll want to give this book a read. Even if you decide to stick with your current training program, you’ll most certainly learn something from it. I’d love to hear about the programs you’ve used in the past, and if you’ve had experience with the Hansons method in the comments section.