Review: Brooks Cascadia 9

I pretty much don’t do reviews, because I throw serious side-eye when others do, as it’s usually to shill crap that they are an ‘ambassador’ for.  I get it; they want to earn a little money from their hobby, with the hopes of one day giving up the day job.  But zero percent of my brain is going to trust a review of something you didn’t spend your hard-earned money on.

Last week, in an attempt to cheer myself up because I couldn’t work out, I went shopping.  I knew that I would need to buy a pair of trail shoes that didn’t massacre my feet after 10 miles for the Highland Fling in April, and I had heard good things about the Saucony Peregrines.  Without even having tried on a pair (I’m impulsive like that), I had made up my mind that I was going to walk into the running shop, try a pair on, and buy the shit out of them.

It was unusually busy in the shop when I went in, so I had to wait to be seen.  I decided that I might as well scope out the competition as I waited, and my eyes were drawn to a pair of bright purple shoes.  They.  Were.  Beautiful.

Transfixed, I almost didn’t notice the store guy come over.  When he asked how he could help I told him I was looking for “the least trail-y trail shoes.”

I have a pair of Solomon trail shoes (which I bought because they were purple, and looked pretty, and despite my outwardly unfeminine persona, sometimes my X chromosomes dominate my brain functions), but they are uncomfortable to run in after a few short miles.  I am pretty much a sucker for cushioning.  I mentioned to the sales guy that I’d heard good things about the Peregrines, which he nodded at, but to my delight he picked up the purple shoes and told me they would likely be my best bet, because they were like a cross between a road and a trail shoe.

“Excellent, because I think they’re the prettiest!”  Dude looked a bit confused, but got my size.  I never even tried on the Peregrines.

In the store, the Brooks Cascadias (HEADS UP: affiliate link) felt nearly as comfortable as my road shoes (also Brooks, but I alternate between the Ghosts and Vapours).  Usually you’re expected to go up a size for trail shoes, but the 7’s fit me fine and left plenty of room in the toe box.  They weren’t suffocatingly narrow for my increasingly wide feet.  They felt bouncy.  They matched my dress.  I was sold.

A Brooks orgy.  And some beautiful sequined ankle boots.

A Brooks orgy. And some beautiful sequined ankle boots.

Now, I know it’s widely accepted that you’re meant to gradually break in new shoes, but they were so comfortable that I opted to wear them for Saturday’s long run.  Within the first 30 seconds of running, I was horrified that the back of my socks seemed to be pulled down underneath the lip of the heel part, and I anticipated blisters aplenty, but happily that was the last I noticed my heels, my socks stayed put, and – most importantly – no blisters!

We covered over 25 miles, and my feet were drenched (thank you boggy conditions and river crossings) for about 95% of the run, but I still walked home without any pain in my feet whatsoever.  Even the brief sections on roads, which I was dreading, because in my Solomons road running is highly unpleasant, were run comfortably thanks to the bounciness.

Basically, I love these shoes.  They were comfortable for 7+ hours on my (wet) feet, they were comfortable enough to run on the road in, they had enough room so as not to crush my toes and batter my toenails, and I only slipped once (downhill, in a mudslide – I’d have needed crampons to avoid that).  Oh, and they’re beautiful.  Or at least they were, before I took them out for a test run.

Brooks Cascadia 9's

Brooks Cascadia 9’s

Sore bits and good support.

It’s no great surprise that parts of my body are suffering with marathon training.  Some of you may remember one or two photos of my feet I uploaded (I am still unapologetic), and blisters are no longer a real shock to me.  I know men suffer with bleeding nipples, and I am glad to be a woman, because chicks (one would hope) wear sports bras when they run, which prevents chaffing.

At least nipple chaffing.  Part of the problem with having sizeable (even after a reduction) chest pillows is that they are more difficult to keep locked down.  For as long as I can remember, I have doubled (and sometimes tripled) up on bras to avoid painful bounce.  Even after my reduction I am a DD cup, and although I have noticed enormous benefits to having a smaller chest, they’re still big enough to need some serious support.  I have forever relied on Shock Absorber bras as my main man for such a task, and although they’re great, wearing one, and sweating in one, and moving in one for hours a week causes some unique problems.  Witness:

This is an improvement.

While the photo above doesn’t look too bad, it is a VAST improvement to the raw, seeping mess my underboob area looked like a week and a half ago.  Take a moment to imagine the searing pain (and hissed swearing) that occurred in the shower recently.

I haven’t backed down on training – the past two weeks have been my highest ever mileage weeks, back to back.  What I have done is switched to a different sports bra for my longer activities to minimize painful rubbing on this weirdly vulnerable area.  It’s still a Shock Absorber, but it’s their specialist running bra.  I can say that this bra has saved my skin recently.  But more than that, it has the power to hold my chesty junk in its trunk.  Seriously, my mammary meat is firmly strapped down, and it is as though I had an extra pair of hands holding me in place.  I cannot sing this bra’s praises any more.

Oh wait, yes I can.  It comes in the standard black/white colour choices, but also some jazzier colours.  The most recent one I’ve bought is this beauty:

I can get into this contraption solo, but it is helpful to have a drowsy boyfriend to clip you in on early Sunday mornings, I will admit.  This particular colour combination is the one I have linked to above, but unfortunately I do not have an Olympic women’s beach volleyball player’s figure that fills me with enough confidence to go for a jog wearing it sans t-shirt.  But I know I’m wearing a nice bra.

The quest continues, however, for socks that prevent all blisters, end up dry at the end of a run, and massage your feet throughout your workout….

Looking like a ‘serious’ runner

Well today, despite a beasting 10k yesterday, I dragged my tired legs out of bed for my long run.  On today’s menu: 12 miles.  I’ll be honest, I was not feeling it before I left the flat.  The sun, however, was, and I wasn’t going to pass up some sweet rays after nothing but rain and cloud for two weeks, so out of bed and into running gear I went!  Today was important for two reasons:

  • 12 miles = my longest training run
  • This would be the first time I traveled with supplies!

I bought a belt pack thing (so eloquent) a couple of months ago, but I could never be bothered wearing it before, because none of my runs were really long enough to warrant energy supplies.  Today, though, I wanted to make sure I was hydrated and fueled.  After dry heaving at the aftertaste of sport beans before my run, I substituted the rest of the pack for a gel shot, and filled a 500ml bottle with gatorade.  Ready to rock.

The first 5 miles were pretty non-eventful.  At around 5.5 I had to stop because of traffic (which makes crossing a street a bit more difficult).  An old man was shuffling across the street and it looked like he was speaking to me.  The dialogue followed as thus:

Old man: I used to be able to run to [inaudible place] in 30 minutes.  Not any more!  Now I can barely walk!
Me: (polite chuckle) Wow, that’s good going!
Old Man: So what are you doing, just keeping fit?
Me: No, I have a half marathon next month.
Old Man: You’re getting married next month?
Me: No, a HALF MARATHON.  In 4 weeks.  I’m training.
Old Man: You WANT to get married in a month?  No problem love, I’ll marry you.  I’ll need to get rid of the wife first, but after that.
Me: No.. Half.  Marathon.  You know, running? (gestures running)
Old Man: OH! A half marathon.  How much longer have you got today?
Me: Umm, about 6 miles I think.
Old Man: Glad it’s not me!

Too right, old man.  Too right.

Anyway, the run went pretty much without incident.  I had my gel shot at about mile 6.  I didn’t realize it was just a clear, sugary goop, but it didn’t make me feel gross and I felt strong (but ready for the couch) at the end of the run, so I think they’ll be making a reappearance.

And here’s a shot of me with my sexy water belt that was apparently enough to get me a marriage offer today:

Sidenote: I LOVE those tights!

Sport Relief Week and New Kit

Well, there’s no escaping Sport Relief this week at school – there have been activities on every lunchtime, and a collection going around during registration every morning.  It is a constant reminder that I’m doing 6 miles for Sport Relief on Sunday, and I have raised a great, big, stinking ZERO pounds.  Still, even the registration fee goes some way, and I usually buy some kind of merchandise on the day, so I don’t feel as bad.  Plus, over the years I have pretty much exhausted the goodwill of my friends by fundraising for various runs, so it isn’t like I’ve done nothing charitable in my life.  I mean, for real, I’m a teacher.

Yes, I did buy them because they matched my nail polish.

Anyway, speaking of money, I’ve been dropping some hard cash this past week.  I hit up Run4it in a big way, initially to look for trainers for my boyfriend (who is doing the 3 mile run on Sunday, but whose running I imagine is akin to a flailing monkey on acid).  What I ended up with is a new pair of trail running shoes (a sensible purchase considering I’ve signed up for the Ythan Challenge and Tough Mudder, and street shoes just wont cut it), and the sports bra to end all sports bras:  The Shock Absorber Run.

Now I have always had a problem with boobs + exercise.  As a natural 32F, it often took some extreme hardware to keep my chest in check.  It was unheard of me me to wear LESS than two sports bras at a time, and STILL, there was bounce.  But last year, for a whole host of reasons, I had breast reduction surgery.  I’m now sitting at a still voluminous 32DD, and while I usually still double up on sports bras, I definitely feel more ‘restrained’.  However, this sports bra, the Shock Absorber Run, is amazing.  Nothing moves.  It is as though my own hands are clamping down on my breasts and holding them to my skeleton – I am impressed.  My reservations about the £37 price tag have disappeared, as well.  Ladies – if you have substantial boobs and have never tried this bad boy out – do it.

Anyway, it has been an amazing few days, sunshine-wise, in Aberdeen.  That, coupled with the lighter days, has been really uplifting – it’s amazing what some good sun can do for your spirits!  It was even semi-light when I left spin on Monday night!

Totally looks like a tornado. Isn't.

Oh.  And last night after spin I managed a 5 minute plank.  By the end I was grunting like Tony Soprano approaching climax, but I got it done.

On my knees!

Or, more accurately, on my hands, rolling my shrieking quadriceps into the ninth dimension of hell.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

My knees have been giving me bother for a few weeks now.  There is a dull ache, on and off throughout the day at the bottom of my knee cap, and sometimes behind my knee cap when I do squats.  This has caused much frustration and swearing at my knees under my breath.  The kind of swearing that would make sailors look at you in disgust.  I’ve been to the GP.  He said rest.  I’ve been to the physio.  She said keep going, but do some squats do build up strength around the joint.  I went for a sports massage.  She said “foam roller the hell out of [my] lower leg.”

Since Tuesday I have been resting.  So far, minimal change.

Today, I had my boyfriend venture to the local running shop for a limb destroyer foam roller.  I’ve just been in, outright abusing my lower body, and can honestly say it is not one of the most pleasant experiences I have had.  The same pain you get during a spots massage when you’re told to “take deep breaths, this might be a bit intense,” is on par with what this foam roller can inflict on you.  I had no idea something so benign-looking could cause my heart rate to spike just by staring at it and remembering that merely 5 minutes ago, I was yelling “Mother Fucking Shit Fists!” in my empty flat whilst “relaxing” my muscles.

In fairness, my legs feel pretty good afterwards, and I might even notice a slight improvement in knee pain (or it could be that the aforementioned quad-rape has distracted me temporarily from my ailments).  I’m going to keep up the torture, and hopefully I’ll manage next Saturday’s parkrun.

Moby Dick-ulous!

So, you know how I was RAVING about my Garmin?  Well I was RAGING on Wednesday night when I got in after spin to find that the screen was blank and no amount of charging/button-pushing/yelling made up swear words would bring it to life.

The next day I went in to Run4it, where I had bought it just over 1 month before, and explained what had happened.  Luckily they had one left in stock, so once I’d brought in all the components/chargers and a proof of purchase, I was briskly walking to my spin class with a new Garmin in my rucksack, ready to open when I got home.

And you know what?  My problem with the fiddly USB connection that I cited as the only complaint I had about the Garmin in the first place?  Not even an issue.  It looks like I got a faulty watch, as it had not properly saved a couple of my workouts (in addition to the wobbly power connector), and I am more satisfied with the replacement one than a broke hooker with blow in Charlie Sheen’s neighbourhood.

I lost all my workouts for the last week though, so that’s a bit of a bummer.

Baby Got Back – Taking the 2XU tights out for a test run

I must be one of the few women that lives outside Brazil that wants to hear a solid “Yes!” when I ask the question, “Does my butt look big in this?”.  Sir Mix-a-lot has the right idea, big butts are hot, which is why I like maximizing mine with running, squats and lunges.  But drawbacks to having junk in thine trunk?  Having running tights ‘ride low’ at the rear when they’re pulled up to the ribs at the front!  Running in town on the weekend is hard enough with avoiding pedestrians, puddles of vomit and the inexplicable grease patches that are always outside McDonald’s.  What I don’t need to worry about is flashing ass-crack to Sunday church-goers.

This is why, when I finally bought my pair of 2XU tights, I was relieved to see the drawstring – invention of godly importance!  I can tie the tights tight enough (too. much. alliteration) so that the drawstring sits over my hip bones and all ass-flashing worries fade away.  I say ‘finally’ as I have been trying to buy a pair of these bad boys for ages.  The first time I went into the running shop nearby, they were out of stock (and apparently so were 2XU – at least in my size).  The second time I tried (last December), I had them order some in for me, but was in Australia by the time they phoned back.  It was only by chance that I popped in yesterday to inquire about my old older that I discovered they had one pair, IN MY SIZE (!!!) in stock, and so I didn’t hesitate to part with my cash.

Comedy faces don't work so well when you forget the flash is on. Also, ignore the bathroom decor, I'm saving up to sort that out.

This morning, I hoisted myself into them and skipped out the door, as it was a rare weekend where both days were sunny!  I was planning on running my easy 5 mile route today, but I felt so good I improvised, hit the beach again and managed about 7.5.  These tights, whilst not as sexy as my Nike compression tights, felt amazing!  Everything was sucked in and I felt like a superhero.  When I ran, I sprung.  I will definitely be purchasing a second (back-up) pair.

They also get the seal of approval from the boyfriend, though he agrees the Nike’s are ‘hotter’.  He also, being the pervert that he is, administered vigorous ‘cheek cup’ testing, and decided that it is, “not as good as rubber.”  I did remind him that lycra was more breathable, and therefore slightly more suited to running

Garmin Haiku

Can’t run without you.
Heart-rate monitor so tight –
My favourite strap-on!

Seriously, it is not normal to be so in love with a piece of technology.  I feel lost without it (literally!).  I don’t know how I managed to run for so many years without being aware of its sheer magnificence.  Men with vibrating real dolls (don’t click on the link) don’t feel this kind of closeness!

Running in heat!

Well, I arrived safe and sound yesterday in Australia and met the rest of my family at Sydney Airport.  We then took the (very, very bumpy) hour flight to Albury, where my grandparents live.  So far I have been gifted with sunshine and warmth, and while for pretty much everything that is amazing, for running it can make things difficult.  Especially if you’re used to dealing with limbs losing sensation due to the cold and trying not to get sleet whipped into your eyes due to gale force winds (Ah, the joys of running in Scotland).

The flights over were, while not completely terrible, long and sore.  I didn’t get too much sleep, but I did eat a lot.  Apart from the crew wearing santa hats/reindeer antlers, and a little Lindtt chocolate bunny, there wasn’t much of a fuss over Christmas, so I was a bit disappointed, even though I am still not sure what I was expecting.  On Christmas Day we stopped in Bangkok for about an hour, so I had a bit of time to stretch my legs and take an obligatory ‘Christmas Day Photo’ at the airport:

Bangkok Airport, Christmas Day 2011

When we finally arrived in Albury, we were shattered.  I had a power nap (and apparently had some fantastic photos taken of my sleeping face courtesy of my uncle’s new flashy camera and my brother’s suggestion, I’m sure) and then awoke to a lasagne feast!  Much better than plane food.  About 11pm, I could resist sleep no more and hit the hay.

Santa's stash!

I awoke at about 3 this morning to a phone call from my bank alerting me to some possibly fraudulent transaction attempt.  I had to verify that it was indeed me trying to withdraw money in Australia unsuccessfully (causing major distress at Sydney after a parched flight), and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I looked outside.  Darkness.  I checked online for sunrise times. 5:55am.  Ages to go.

I decided to stay awake and then head out as soon as the sky started getting light to avoid having to run in immense heat.  At 5:30, I donned my brand new Sauconey running shoes (courtesy of Santa), set up my Garmin and made sure that I had a map of the area set up on my phone.  I set off shortly after and managed to fit in a respectable 6.81 miles.  The pace was slow, but I decided to ease my body back into exercise after all that traveling, and allow it to get used to the temperature change.  I also had to check where the hell I was occasionally, and I stopped to take a few photos.  I got back shortly after 6:45am and it was already 23 degrees.  Ridiculous!

Below is the route I took, courtesy, obviously, of my Garmin.  See if you can spot the 400m (roughly) track I found and took a lap on!

Route: 27 December

Tomorrow and Thursday I’ll be doing classes at the local gym and taking advantage of the last two days it’ll be open this year (Mental holidays!  You wouldn’t have to put up with that in Aberdeen!).  Then more running!

Here are some snaps taken during this morning’s run:

Payphone

Lavington Literary Institute

Blurry 'action shot' of the running track I came across

Abandoned trolley

Early opening laundromat on Mate Street

A deserted Mate Street at ridiculous o'clock

By the way, the new Sauconey shoes are great!  And while I was being ultra healthy, my boyfriend was thousands of miles away indulging in a Boxing Day BBQ!