Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “wind”

Gear Review: Brooks Silver Bullet Jacket II

It’s no secret that I will choose outdoor running over the treadmill no matter the weather conditions. I’ve run in blizzards, wind and rain storms, and temperatures in the negative digits. I’ve come home with a nice layer of sweaty ice covering much of my body, and plenty of chilly but survivable digits. At the heart of my survival is a solid winter running coat or outer layer. For the past few years, I’ve put an old race-earned running jacket to good use and it has served me well as one of many layers. However, the zipper finally broke and I found myself in need of a new cold-weather running jacket.

Running in the unpredictable Iowa winter has given me plenty of food for thought as I searched for the ideal jacket to meet my year-round outdoor needs. Not only did I need something relatively lightweight, but also windproof and water-resistant. Ideally, I would also find a jacket I could utilize into the mid-30s as well, until I made the quick transition to long sleeves and shorts 🙂 I ended up doing far more research and reading than was probably necessary, but I’m nothing if not thorough. This overabundance of research left me with a good sense of my options. Ultimately, I opted for a running-specific jacket as opposed to a more general use soft-shell with good running cred. I pulled the trigger on the Brooks Silver Bullet II jacket, and I couldn’t be more happy with my choice!


Fit & Appearance: The jacket has a semi-fitted structure. It’s by no means baggy, and hugs my body quite well, while also being loose-fitting enough to accommodate a variety of layers underneath. It sits below the hips, and has a nice elastic strip at the bottom to keep it from riding up while running. This update to the original Silver Bullet jacket includes an articulated hood that stows in the collar for quick deployment via a zippered-pocket. It cinches easily in the back, has a small brim, and offers a nice snug, athletic fit that stays put, even in 30 mph headwinds! This is not a cheap after-thought hood. The added detail of a fabric overlay at the top of the zipper is a nice touch for added comfort, and the collar comes up high enough for nice neck protection and has a soft feel for comfort. The jacket also has extended thumb holes for added coverage on your hands, and added “flip-mits” that work as emergency mittens. These are more of a gimmick than an effective addition to the jacket, but I applaud Brooks for trying something new. The arms extend a bit longer on top of the hands as well, which is a small, but nice detail.

I decided on the Kelly green color, with black accents, and plenty of reflective stripping. Although this wasn’t my first color choice, I’m not really happy with the choice. It’s bright enough to add some additional visibility without being obnoxious. Although it’s a running-specific jacket, I’d definitely grab it for a more active hike or colder outdoor ride. For those of you that like to carry your phone or other media player with you, a water-proof internal pocket is nicely positioned lower on the abdomen to prevent jiggling. This serves as a nice secondary pocket, complimenting the two side pockets, for nutrition storage as well. The medium fits my 5’11” 165 lb. frame extremely well, to the point that it could have been tailored for me.


Breathability: I sweat A LOT, so I’m always concerned with the breathability of running apparel. Various products that claim to be breathable have left me drenched in the past. However, the lightweight material (nylon and polyester) breathes very well, while retaining heat (more on that to come). The inside of the jacket was almost completely dry, even after 30 miles in single digit temps.

Warmth: This is where the jacket really shines…or should I say reflects! The internal aluminum membrane reflects your body heat back towards you “for powered warmth without the weight”. It looks really cool, but sounded a bit gimmicky when I bought it. However, after running in it for a few months, I’m sold. This jacket claims to be built for 40 degrees and below, and it absolutely fits that bill. I was quite comfortable in nothing more than a short-sleeve tech shirt at 20 degrees, and a long-sleeve tech shirt in 10 degree weather. Below 10 degrees, I busted out a heavier Under Armor heat gear shirt, and it kept me toasty warm, even when the wind chill dipped below -20! The lightweight nature of this jacket would have left me skeptical, but the proof was in the pudding. This jacket does the job.


All-Weather Protection: The Silver Bullet is billed as windproof and water-resistant. The harsh Iowa winds have given me plenty of opportunities to test the windproof-ness of the jacket, and it has held up quite well. The semi-fitted nature of the jacket also means the wind isn’t sneaking in and creating the parachute effect we are all familiar with in other jackets. As with many products that claim to be water-resistant, this was true to a point with the Silver Bullet. It definitely beads up water and will keep you try during short showers, or a light rain. However, harder rains/snows or more driving rains/snows will accelerate the saturation of the jacket. In those heavier precipitation moments, I averaged about 30 minutes before the moisture started to soak through. However, the jacket kept me toasty warm even once the moisture began to seep in. This is always the trade-off when you go with water-resistant vs. water-proof. The increased breathability makes this a more than acceptable trade-off for my running needs.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with the Silver Bullet II running jacket. Brooks has produced a well-designed, and versatile running jacket for folks who don’t retire to the treadmill when the temps dip below freezing. I may be recommending this to a few friends to increase my winter running company!

The Law of Exponential Taper Gremlin Growth

At any given time, the last 20 weeks or so either feel like they have blown by quicker than I could blink or crawled by at a pace that would make a 3-toed sloth laugh. This weekend, I tackled a sub-zero marathon on Saturday, and then slogged through a snow-covered follow-up run on Sunday. Each had their highs and lows, but they were good training runs and I’m feeling strong. More importantly, this weekend marked my last long back-to-back weekend, which means I now have the long-awaited joy of tapering! Did I say joy? Maybe I meant disdain. You see, the psychological and physical aches and pains that tapering, combined with a long and intense training season, bring, seem to have grown to proportions I haven’t experienced before. This obviously led me to wonder if there might be more to my extended tapering pains. The result is a theory that will no doubt win me accolades the world over, so I guess y’all should feel honored that I’m sharing it with you first!

Perfect weather for a marathon, eh?

Perfect weather for a marathon, eh?

Aside from the vehicle-induced aches and pains I recently incurred, I’ve noticed that the phantom wandering pains that typically arrive during my taper period came much earlier this time around. I probably started feeling various issues about 5 weeks ago, and they’ve been flowing through my body ever since. My right Achilles was acting up, and then it was my left forefoot, along with both of my knees at various points, and my groin before that. I’ve monitored all of these issues, and they’ve gradually dissipated and then disappeared altogether. However, they seemed to begin around the time I really started to look forward to my upcoming trip to Arizona and Across the Years. I’ve written before about battling the injury gremlin, and this most recent ongoing battle led me to wonder if the fact that everything was happening earlier had anything to do with the increased distance I was running. I mean, I will be attempting to run longer than I’ve ever run before, and the entire race experience will be brand new. I’ll be stepping into uncharted territory, much like all of my other running firsts. Perhaps my body knows this, and it began making me hyper-aware of every ache and pain that much earlier as a result.

I think winter is finally here.

I think winter is finally here.

Over the last two years, I’ve pushed myself harder and further than ever before, and my endurance has certainly increased. My recovery time has also decreased, which has been a welcome development, especially considering my consistent back-to-back long runs on the weekends. As a result, my outlook on various distances has changed along with my goals, which is to be expected, I suppose. This has led me to contemplate the recent exponential growth of my tapering conundrum. It would seem as if the more I increase my race distance, the earlier my taper gremlin emerges to start whispering sweet nothings in my ear. In general, you can think about this Law of Exponential Taper Gremlin Growth like this:

Taper Graph 2.1

Now I should be clear that my sample (methodology) is one of convenience (me) and these results may be limited to my own well-being (limitations). However, it seems fairly clear at this point that the longer the race, the longer the tapering aches and pains. This wouldn’t be horrible, except for that fact that I’m still only tapering for the next three weeks, which means I have been left to deal with the drawbacks of a taper, while still logging long distances. This hardly seems fair! If a graphical representation hasn’t made this new, highly scientific discussion clear, I will also include a more detailed explanation (discussion). Ultimately, I think I can work through the following race distance stages.

Stage 1 (Half-Marathon): I’m ready and feeling good- let’s go!

Stage 2 (Marathon): I could sure use a massage, but let’s knock this out!

Stage 3 (50K): I think my knees could definitely use the rest.

Stage 4 (50 miles): My back, knees, and shins are definitely feeling the training, but I’m ready.

Stage 5 (100K): Thoughts of seeing a PT or podiatrist creep in a few times a week.

Stage 6 (100 miles/ 24 hours): Those thoughts are happening daily. Can I just taper in the hospital to be safe?

After what can definitely be called an exhausting training period and academic semester, I’m definitely ready for my taper, as well as a bit of rest before January hits. Ultimately, I know the various aches and pains come with the territory, and I’ve put my body through a lot lately, so it has earned a more relaxed schedule. My endurance is up, and I’m as ready as I’m gong to be for this race, so focusing on the planning, organization, and nutrition will gladly fill my thoughts for the next three weeks. In my free time, perhaps I can shop this “law” around to various scientific journals. This publication showing up on my vita would definitely turn some heads!

Fall in Iowa…Short but Sweet!

As I’ve said before, I’ve been looking forward to beautiful, sunny fall days for perfect running conditions. This past week was a rest week for me, so my mileage was lower to give my legs a chance to recovery. This meant I could take things easy over the weekend, with scheduled runs of 14 and 10 miles respectively on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday’s run entailed a 5AM start in order to meet up with some friends. Early morning runs seem to be the one exception to my early wake-up allergy, and it felt great walking out of the house in the dark to tackle some miles. The first 8 miles were very comfortable, and a great opportunity to chat and catch up while running down the middle of the road (one of the joys of living in a small town in Iowa). We met up with our running group a bit later, and I ended up pushing my pace at that point, but was still feeling really good so I went with it. We got stuck in a brief rainstorm, but nothing too extreme, and the cool rain felt rather refreshing so I wasn’t complaining. I ended up running a bit longer than 14 miles, as I have a tendency to do, and ended up with 16.68 miles, which still got me home by 8AM, which was great! I had plenty of time to eat breakfast, clean up around the house, and settle in to watch the Arsenal vs. Swansea BPL game 🙂

Fall 3

Yesterday, I ended up spontaneously inspired to hit the trails by a friend, and I headed out to a local off-road favorite. I got started a bit later than usual on a Sunday due to the Minnesota Vikings game in London, but it was nice to finally see the Vikes pick up a W! The beautiful epicurean dropped me off at the park, and I headed out onto the trails. Once I passed the grasslands, and ventured into the woods, things got even more interesting. I have run these trails numerous times, and was fairly confident of my directions. However, I must have turned left instead of right at some point, because I ended up on a series of trails I had never seen before, and it was a blast just plowing forward, totally uncertain of where I was or where I was going. I was confident that something would look familiar eventually, so I wasn’t too worried, and the new trails game my brain that amazing endorphin rush that comes with a new route.

Every trail needs a bridge...even if the creek it goes over is bone dry!

Every trail needs a bridge…even if the creek it goes over is bone dry!

The semi-out-and-back route still totaled about 6 miles, and then I headed back towards home for the remainder of the run. As soon as you leave the park, the country road turns south, and you head up a significant hill. That’s when the wind decided to test me! I found myself heading up a half-mile hill into 30 mph winds, and I was gassed by the time I got to the top.  The wind didn’t let up, and the next mile and a half was a slower than average and my knee started to bother me, most likely from adjusting my gate while heading up the hill. I made my way back home via an infrequently traveled country road, and was reminded of the beauty that exists around me in Iowa. The sun was shining, the winds died down, and the air was just cool enough to be refreshing. Looking out over the fields of golden corn, ready for harvest, and listening to nature made for a nice reminder not to forget to slow down and enjoy the ride. Races are important, as is sticking to a training plan, but I run because I love all the little things in between. This weekend was a fantastic reminder of that!

Fall 2

Harvest time in Iowa...

Harvest time in Iowa…

Fall 6

Fields of gold!

Fields of gold!

The Benefits of Running Outdoors

The wacky weather continues as the most recent winter storm dumped copious amounts of snow on a wide stretch of the southwest and midwest. If you are like most people, this is the time of year where cabin fever really starts to kick in! Having just finished shoveling the driveway yet again, I can certainly say that I’m ready to get back to complaining about the heat of summer 🙂 More than the cold though, is the time we spend indoors. Even if you are an outdoor runner during the winter, you likely aren’t stepping outside nearly as much for other daily activities. When you do head outside, you are bundling up in layer upon layer of clothing, trying to put as much space between you and the cold and wind as possible. The reality is that we withdraw from mother nature in the winter months. We might as well find our own warm cave and head off to hibernate!


So, as we near the end of our hibernation, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the benefits of running outdoors. I certainly try to avoid the dreadmill as much as possible (my two-year streak is still alive!), but other than boredom, I don’t have any real reason for doing so. For many of my friends, the treadmill is an excellent way to maintain training without dealing with the elements. This is especially true when it’s icy outside, as one of my friends who recently fractured her tailbone can attest. However, there are some other important reasons to try to get outside during the winter months, safely of course. A recent NYT Times article hit the nail on the head for me, and reinforced my commitment to running outdoors whenever possible. The highlights include:

1. You stride differently outdoors- you are constantly adapting to the terrain, and you occasionally run downhill as well (which isn’t very easy on the treadmill)

2. Outdoor running expends more energy- you are working harder outside!

3. Higher self-esteem and lower levels of tension, depression, and fatigue- in addition to the activity itself, you are increasing your vitamin D intake by taking advantage of the sun when it is out!

4. You are more active overall

5. Higher oxygen intake- and it’s fresh air, instead of the smelly version due to the sweaty person next to you!

I’m heading to Little Rock, AR for the Little Rock Marathon this weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited to put on a pair of shorts and run outside. The temperature is only going to be in the 30’s at the start, but I don’t care! Thus, for at least 4 hours (fingers crossed) of running, I’ll be able to remind myself of the milder weather to come. I don’t know if the snow is done falling, or if we still have some freezing rain ahead of us (knock on wood that we don’t!), but I’m certainly going to continue to push myself to head outside for those miles, even when a warm blanket, a snuggly dog, and a good book are far more enticing!

Critters make the cold bearable!

Post-Workout Snuggles: Critters make the cold bearable!

31 in 31: Starting the Year Off Right

It’s the R & R time of year. Reflection and resolution. The media top 10 lists are in full swing as everyone reflects on the best, worst, strangest, longest, shortest, weirdest, funniest, etc. In addition, if my Facebook feed is any indication, then everyone is also reflecting on their own 2012 as they look forward to 2013 and set new goals for themselves.


I’ve never been big on resolutions. I think I’ve always been of the mindset that if you want to make a change in your life, then waiting until January 1 seems silly when you can start immediately. In addition, the whole idea of New Years resolutions has been so over-commercialized that it ends up being more about a gimmick for companies to make money.  The gyms are all packed in January, but by Valentines Day, things are backed to normal.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly still support people setting goals for themselves and making changes in their lives! In fact, one of the common goals I’ve seen people sharing involves setting mileage goals. Thus, I thought it would be fun to set up a challenge for anyone interested! The idea is simple. Run at least 1 mile every day in the month of January and start the year out right. Start the year with a run streak:  31 in 31. 🙂

Rules (barely):

1. Run at least 1 mile every day in January. If you can’t run on any given day, you can make it up with a second run on another day.

2. Commit to the challenge publicly. You can comment here, or anywhere else.

That’s it. You don’t need to spend hours planning and scheduling. Heck, you could run around the block a few times every night when you get home from work or when you wake up in the morning. As long as you log a mile every day, you are good to go!

The prize is just as simple- you start the year out committing yourself to a healthy lifestyle. With 31 in 31, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your running goals!

Are you up to the challenge?!

Are you up to the challenge?!

Seasonal Transitioning

Fall is definitely in the air, and with it all of the wonderful smells and flavors of the season. This time of year also means transition for me in terms of the daily aspects of life and running. Although I overall really enjoy autumn, I started thinking a bit more intentionally about just how different things become as the leaves fall off the trees and the air starts to nip at your nose. Here are a few of my observations:

Would anyone like to come over and rake the yard?

Nutrition: We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a weekly bounty of vegetables from a wonderful CSA this summer. Alas, our share of the veggies is coming to an end this month, and with the drastic weather conditions over the summer, I have a feeling it’s going to become much more difficult to find reasonably-priced fresh produce that hasn’t been over-treated with pesticides and left to sit in a warehouse for too long. However, autumn also means the emergence of one of my favorite flavors- pumpkin! You can bet it will be finding its way into breakfast smoothies, breads, coffee, pizza, and just about anything else I can work it into on my plate.

Even more delicious when you fill them with custard and bake them!

Clothing: Generally, I like being able to pull out my fall/winter wardrobe. However, the need to add increasingly heavy layers of running insulation is not high on my list of likes! I’m still fully committed to running outside all winter, regardless of the weather, but that doesn’t mean I need to like the extra work involved. Gone are the days when I could be ready and out the door in 5 minutes!

Time & Mileage: I’m now tapering for my 50-miler at the end of the month, so my weekly mileage is decreasing quite a bit. Although I plan to do a 50K in November, I’ll still be pulling back some over the winter. I would like to keep my base high enough that I can move right into the spring race season, but I’m still going to have a bit more time on my hands, especially on the weekends. This is probably a good thing if I’m going to write a dissertation this winter though 🙂

Daylight: The combination of shorter days and evening runs means I’m going to be spending more and more time running in the dark. I’ll be prepared with my reflective materials and headlamps, but the cold chill of the dark is never as enjoyable when you are trying to crank out 10 or 12 miles, is it?

Extra House Work: I’m convinced that our home is a magnet for every leaf on every tree in the neighborhood! There are many ways to get a good upper-body workout, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting my workout with a rake in hand for the next two months! Does anyone want to come jump in a big pile of leaves?

Endless piles…if only we could sell them!

A “century” of learning…in the saddle!

H.G. Wells has nothing on me. I flew threw a century in less than a day! Like any long span of time, there were a number of ups and downs. There were moments that left me in awe of my own accomplishments and moments where I really had no interest in going on. I met some new people, got to know some friends better, ate some delicious food, and learned more than I anticipated about myself in a span of merely 9 hours (merely…hah!).

As I had previously posted, this week is RAGBRAI 2012. Although I had talked to plenty of people about the experience, heard some great stories, read blogs and looked at pictures, I still really had no idea what I was in for when I signed up. I only knew that it was an experience I hadn’t had yet, and I wanted to have it!

We trekked up to Sioux Center, IA on Saturday morning, by way of Lincoln, NE to pick up our SAG driver for the week (a friend’s daughter). We camped at a friend’s house on Saturday night, but I didn’t get much sleep. Between the rain and the anticipation, I was doomed to insomnia. We woke up at 5AM to pack up our gear and we were on the road by 6:10AM. It was a beautiful ride of town, and we had plenty of time for the mere 62 miles that the day had in store. Ironically, my previous long ride was only 55 miles, so even the shorter rides this week were long for me! The day went fairly well, and I enjoyed the stops in small towns along the way. I really had no idea how big of a deal it was for RAGBRAI to go through town until I saw everything the towns came out and did for the riders. Clearly, with 15,000 hungry and thirsty riders coming through, there is at least a small economic incentive as well 🙂 We arrived in Cherokee, IA around 11AM, and had plenty of time to get set up with our host for the night. We had the luxury of staying indoors with AC, which was vital considering the 100 degree temperatures!

Departing from Sioux Center, IA for Day 1 of RAGBRAI

The second day saw another 5AM wake-up call, and we were again on the road by 6AM. Monday proved to be a great day. I traveled with a group of friends who I mostly consider much faster and more skilled than myself, so I had no aspirations of keeping up with them during the rides, but figured I’d enjoy the company of strangers and experience everything. However, I got going on Day 2 and it was as if my legs decided to +1, because I was feeling good and rolling right along. We stopped several times, for some great cinnamon rolls and the classic slice of pie (who can say no to homemade pie served by little old ladies at a church in a small town?!). We rolled in to the state park we were staying at, 67 miles under our belt (another PR for distance), and I had averaged closed to 19 mph along the way, which was a complete shock but it certainly brought a smile to my face!

Homemade Apricot pie- yes, please!

Now, we had been leaving early to try and beat some of the heat, as the highs reached around 100 degrees each day. However, camping outside in a state park (granted, it was quite beautiful and situated right on a lake in Lakeview, IA) meant still sleeping outside and enduring the heat. I don’t do well in heat, and I slept pretty poorly. In addition, the next day was a 100 mile (century) ride, so we woke up at 4AM to be on the road by 5AM. Needless to say, getting starting on Tuesday morning was a struggle.

Nonetheless, I pushed myself out and up on the bike, and I had plenty of adrenaline flowing. Riding a century meant surpassing my previous high distance from the day before by 30 miles, and really riding twice as long as I had trained for this year. I was feeling good, and my confidence carried me for about the first 30 miles. Then my back started spasming- feeling like someone is branding your lower back with a hot iron isn’t exactly motivational when it comes to cycling. Still, I pushed through it. The route itself was only 77 miles, but there is an optional “Karrass Loop” (named after the founder of RAGBRAI) which adds 23 miles and gives you the full century. In retrospect, I should have known I might be biting off more than I could chew, but I’m rather internally competitive so I went for it! Mother Nature had other ideas.

Dunking my head in a pool of ice cold water after the Karras Loop!

Clearly I have offended her quite a bit in the past, because I found myself riding into a 21 mph headwind, which meant I was topping out at about 9 mph on the straightaways. Then came the hills! There were two GIANT hills in and out of the river valley during the loop that were both larger than anything I’d ever gone down or up. Flying down them at 40 mph was AMAZING but painfully putting one foot in front of the other on the way up left much to be desired. Still, I made it through, and finished out the route with two more giant hills and plenty of headwind. The strawberry rhubarb pie and homemade peach ice cream definitely eased my pain (especially because I hadn’t eaten enough and was a tad dizzy at one point), but the damage was done. I finished out the century with a friend (it was both of our firsts), pedaling on shear determination and will, but running on fumes. By the time we got to our meeting location, my bike computer read 108 miles (my phone had died at 91 miles).

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt, but there was still a wonderful sense of accomplishment tied up in riding that far. RAGBRAI recommends riding  1000 miles as preparation for the week, and I had done 450. On day three, that lack of training caught up to me. By the time I got home, my whole body ached, I was sunburned, badly chafed, and my back was still hurting. In the end, I had to make the tough call to bow out gracefully from the remainder of the week of RABGRAI. I had ridden a total of 240 miles in three days, made some wonderful memories with new and old friends, and learned a lot about not pushing myself TOO far. I enjoy cycling, but I enjoy running even more and the last thing I wanted to do was injury myself and inhibit my ability to reach my running goals this fall.


I have a lot of great memories ahead of me, and I couldn’t be happier to have these to add to the list. Thank you to great friends for a wonderful RAGBRAI experience!

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