Favorite company EVER

It pays to be nice.

Remember my post about our beach trip? It morphed into a post about our family’s extensive collection of Merrell shoes.  Quick recap – we are family of four with currently 10 pairs of Merrells among us.  My husband has transitioned to doing all his runs in his Road Gloves and wears his Tough Gloves to work. I’ve been adding a mile or so here and there in my Bare Access pair, run errands in my Pace Gloves and wear my sandals to church. Our kids love their new Merrells (claim they are speedier now).

When we had come to the realization that our collection was quite extensive, we snapped a picture for ourselves.

yup - 10 pairs of Merrells!

And then I had a quick thought to just sent it to Merrell themselves. To be a geek and show what fans we were.  Steve had a customer service email address from when they helped him with a flaw in one pair of his.  (Complete replacement – awesome customer service.)  I sent off the picture with just a short email saying how our family loves their products and that we might need some shoe addicts rehab or something.  I figured it would make people laugh at best. Be ignored more likely.

Well imagine my surprise when a few days later I got an email asking for my mailing address as they liked my picture and had something to mail me.  Wow.  I sent off the address and a link to my blog post about the shoes.  Independently, Steve and I both figured they might send us t-shirts or a bumper sticker or some nice Merrell trinket.  Our daughter figured they were mailing us all free shoes – which we explained was not going to happen.

Except she was pretty close to right.

Today in the mail we got the following letter and gift card.  WOW!  I was stunned. Not only are Merrell’s products comfy and well made. But they are clearly a company that cares about its customers and appreciates them.

Let me be clear – I didn’t ask for anything when I send off my email. I simply wanted to tell the company how much we like their products. I did joke about a loyalty program but that was it. They did not have to acknowledge my email never mind follow up with such a generous gift. But they did. And that is just old fashion “going above and beyond” business sense in my mind. And Merrell has gone up even more in my eyes.

The good retail companies understand that customers are the heart of what they do. And they care about what people think of their products AND the company as a whole.  Those are the ones who work hard to show that they stand behind their products and they work hard to make the customers happy. Simply put – Merrell has made me happy.

So what do I like about their shoes?

I love the lightweight feeling of the “barefoot” running shoes. In fact, after a few days of them, I went for a longer run in my usual running shoes and I felt like my feet were in blocks of cement.  Of course it could be that it was 85 degrees and 95% humidity too and it was just a lousy time to be out running in Florida weather.  But my feet are comfy in them, they feel more natural.  I like running errands in my Pace Gloves as they make me more aware of my feet and how I walk.

Will I transition to being an all “barefoot” runner?  I don’t know.  I’m not great yet at the mid foot strike so I’m not sure how well I’ll do on long distances. That and I’m a *ahem* slightly heavier curvaceous woman – so having some support might always be best for longer distances. When I get to be a thin, gazelle like runner that graces the covers of Runner’s World, I’ll let you know.  🙂  But I like that I think more about my posture even just walking around in them. But know that Merrell has a great deal of information on their site about barefoot running and an app to make it easier!  I’ve downloaded the app and watched the videos on it – very helpful!

However, you don’t need to just buy barefoot styles at Merrell. They have TONS of other shoes – hiking boots to water shoes and everything in-between.  Definitely check them out.  And you can tell them I sent you!

As for our gift card – it’s probably going to go to buy two more pairs of kid shoes. No matter how many bricks you put on their heads – darn kids just keep growing and growing – along with their feet. And they really love the fact that their Merrells earned them a lot of attention in school. Friends and even other teachers commented on them.  (Our daughter even went up to one teacher who was wearing Pace Gloves like mine and started a whole conversation about how great Merrells are. I think she’s angling for being a spokesperson for them!)

And me – once I start making more progress towards my goal – I’ll be adding more pairs to my Merrell wish list.

Now – go shop!  Or better yet – go RUN!  And if you have other companies that you want to rave about with regard to their customer attention and service – let me know your stories.

Toes in the beach

We were fortunate to get to go to the beach for a few days last week.

great place for a run!

Got to run on the beach.  The view was amazing….so amazing that I forgot to check what my hotel looked like. Yup – I got lost on the beach. I was really confused why the hotel was setting up tiki huts on the beach when I was sure that they had had blue umbrellas the day before.  Now, you might think – Gee, didn’t you just look at how far out you ran and then double that for the way back and find your hotel right where you left it?   And that was my plan – but apparently I can’t do math and run at the same time.  Steve laughed at me (a lot) when I called him on my iPhone from the beach.  And then he laughed again when I got up to the room.

I actually braved another run the next day after memorizing EXACTLY what our hotel looked like.  But this one was just one mile – I wanted to try “barefoot” running.  That is – not running without shoes….but with my Merrell pace gloves on.  I’ve been wearing my Merrells since Christmas – just for walking though as barefoot running takes some building up. I’m not sure I want to ultimately run in barefoot shoes exclusively. But I’ve found that the shoes have helped strengthen my feet a bit.  Not totally getting rid of the stupid plantar pain – but I find it does help.  And running in them turned out to be fun….and yes I found the hotel again.  Whew.

The barefoot run was partially inspired by the fact that I had ordered a new pair of Merrells – their new Bare Access Arc. I had tried them on at the Gasparilla expo and found them to be SO comfortable.  They look more like traditional running shoes but are so lightweight.  I was so tempted by them that I figured at some point I would order them and try to run in them a little.

A few days after we got back, the Merrells showed up – all 5 pairs!  Yes we are clearly an insane family.  Steve has taken to running in his Merrells. And he had gotten a pair of the leather ones for work. And he ordered more pairs of the leather ones as they are likely to be discontinued. And of course the kids have worn out their sneakers…..and I wanted a pair of comfy sandals too.  Since Thanksgiving time, we have acquired 10 pairs of Merrells for a family of four.

yup - 10 pairs of Merrells!

50% of them belong to Steve.  When he looked at this picture his comment was, “I have to stop now.”  (When I met him – I think he had 4 pairs of shoes total.  LOL)  I wonder if Merrell has a customer loyalty program.

For the record – the kids LOVE their Merrells. We all went for a quick run after we got our new shoes.  Both kids argued that they were now MUCH faster than they had been before. And I found mine to be very comfy to run in. I think I’ll like trying to incorporate short ‘barefoot’ runs in with my workouts….

And in other news….we shall not talk about the “project weight loss” right now….but I’m still sticking to it and hoping that more progress is around the corner….just gotta run after it!

Peaking and Tapering

Ah….Disney 1/2 in 10 days!!! OH MY!

When I started this blog, Disney was on my mind – my training leading up to it. But it was one of those things that seemed so far off that I couldn’t possibly conceive of actually doing it. Now it’s a scant 10 days away and I’m alternately psyched about it and scared out of my mind.

So this is my tapering period…..I peaked with an 11 mile run last Monday…..the training plan I was following (loosely) had me getting up to 14 miles before the race. However, the nagging issues of my plantar fascititis had me scale back on a few weeks. Nonetheless, my 11 felt great that day…finished it in 2 hours, 20 mins. Which meant that I was on pace for the finish I had predicted of 2 hours, 50 minutes. So it seemed do-able.

My whole long run I kept picturing running with my sister (and praying she’s not going to push me to a 10 min mile – yikes!) and crossing the finish line. But then I’d get weepy and start yelling at myself, “There’s no crying in running.” But I finished well and was excited about it.

Now I’ve been in tapering mode. Managed a some good short runs – including a 4 mile run on the morning of Christmas Eve when it was 86 degrees out. Who manages a small case of sunburn on Christmas Eve? This week I’ve done two runs already. The first on Monday was with my husband….we managed to get me to do 12 min miles for a 5K. And then today I did another 5K on my own and pushed to an 11:45 pace for the first mile. I think the freezing cold has something to do with it……We’re in Illinois and no chance of a sunburn here! In fact today I had to avoid some last remnants of snow here and there on the roads. (The snow on Tuesday was cool but thankfully brief and quite melt-y.) But maybe, just maybe, my body’s ready for this Disney dance. I plan to do another 5 or 6 on Friday and then two short runs next week. I pray they all go as well as these last handful.

In other news – my foot pain is subsiding – or at least it’s manageable. I’ve been wearing a splint for a few hours at night (as long as I can stand it). And doing the ice bottles, rolling on golf balls, taping, etc. I even got a home visit by my friend’s dad who is a retired podiatrist. He basically pointed out some features of my feet and ankles that contribute to this…but that are just the way I was born. He wasn’t concerned and suggested some good work arounds to help cope and get my foot to a better place.

But the thing that really seems to be helping my foot is my Christmas present. My husband bought me a pair of Merrell’s pace glove. LOVE THEM! They have the Vibram soles but not the individual toes….so a mitten rather than a glove for your feet (which is actually as I think it should be….the five fingers look odd on some feet). I’m not about to start minimalist running with 10 days before a big race. But I am wearing them as everyday shoes.

Given the pain – I’ve been wearing my running shoes non-stop for weeks (yes even with church clothes!). But this is a nice light-weight solution to that…and man are they comfy. My feet really like them a lot. I’m thinking I need to add to my collection of them with some of the Mary Jane style ones to look a bit more “dressy”.

Steve has been wearing his trail gloves daily for awhile now. And he even got some of the leather dressy ones for work. He has incredibly narrow feet so they work really well for him. And he believes that the wear (no running in them) has strengthened his feet. (I believe he’ll do more “barefoot” runs after the Disney marathon.) Perhaps he’s right. All I know is that for the past 4 days of owning them – I love them. We’ll see about running – but for now, my feet are happy and my pain is much less. YES!

And with that – I look eagerly forward to updating you on my last few runs and then DISNEY!!!!!! Donald medal here I come!

“Go barefoot”

That was my husband’s comment in response to my story of a friend also having trouble with plantar fasciitis.

Ummm… I’m starting to wonder about the wisdom of checking out “Born to Run” from the library. My husband has started to run over to the “dark side”.  LOL.

Actually I tease. Yes, he’s putting his toes (unshod) into the waters of barefoot running. But is doing it according to a careful plan. Which seems the right way to go about it.

A few months back he had tried on a Merrell Trail Glove and found it rather comfortable. He later tried on the Vibram Five Fingers and they just simply looked funny on him and didn’t fit well.  He is tall and skinny with feet to match: long and very narrow. The Vibrams just didn’t seem ideal for his feet.

Just last week he finally ordered himself a pair of the Merrells. (I knew he’d been musing about the idea for awhile.) This past Saturday he tried them out. As per a training book he found, he ran 1/4 mile barefoot first. (His comment – “Not bad but things stick to the bottom of your foot and then they don’t come loose right away.”) Then he did 1/2 mile with the Merrells on. His time for that  – 3:30….that is – a 7 min mile (which is the fastest he’s ever done in recent history). Then he came back and put on his usual New Balance shoes and with the comment, “I’m back to being a shod runner,” he headed out for 7 miles.

I’m excited for his new shoes…I think the idea of zero-drop shoes is cool.  But as I’ve mentioned before the idea of truly running barefoot makes me cringe. But the minimalist shoes seem intriguing – although I’m not likely to try to mess with my stride or my training right now before my first 1/2. Steve’s been running much longer – and is a stronger runner than I. He’s also very thoughtful about how he approaches new tasks and challenges – that is – being very knowledgable from the outset. So I know he’ll tackle this change wisely. Not sure that he’ll be doing the Disney Marathon in the Merrells but I suspect some trail race is in their future.

On a funny side note, our son and daughter are very exposed to running – they have gotten bored in running stores, they have to endure Saturday morning cartoons while Mommy and Daddy take turns running, and they have started a small collection of their own race medals. But we didn’t realize that they are actually paying attention to the details of running. When Steve showed his new shoes to the kids, our son immediately said, “Hey, those are just like the ones with the toes.” Apparently minimalist footwear is easily identifiable in this household!

As for my friends and their aches and pains – I’m not sure that barefoot (or minimalist) is for everyone. So I’ll offer my tips and tricks and save my husband’s advice for the more adventurous runners.

 

Ahhh…the newness of it all

Soft and cushiony like a cloud!  I love love love my new Asics!  Not a great run this am – in that I wish I had gone farther and faster. However, when you hit snooze too many times your window for running can close fast – and get hot. But I did get almost 2.5 miles in and I really liked the new shoes.

The funny thing was that my feet were rather grumpy about getting going. Seriously – they balked at the idea of putting on running shoes. I think they’re having bad blister flashbacks. I could just feel the dread in my toes. But it only took about 1/4 mile before all seemed right with the world.

Tomorrow morning school starts for our two munchkins. 1st grade and 2nd grade. I can hardly believe that. So we’re praying that we don’t hit the snooze button too many times in the morning. I’m looking forward to getting into a groove – back to a morning routine and earlier bedtimes. And different running times. Getting the kids out the door is going to have to take priority some mornings.

I always loved the start of school – as a kid and even as a college and grad student. I think it’s the new supplies – the notebooks ripe for possibilities (notes as well as doodles)…the pencils that haven’t been used yet….the newness of everything. New can be energizing and refreshing.

But you have to hang onto that….as sometime during the semester what was new becomes “same old boring routine” and you sort of stumble through the weeks praying that Christmas break comes a few weeks sooner than usual.  As a college instructor – I always know that window in the semester when the students all catch colds, they all look weary and I can’t stand to look at the stack of papers in my bag. Maybe this semester I can hang on to the newness of it all for just a little longer…..or I’ll just push the papers aside and go for a run….cause for now that still seems nice and new to me…

Happy feet!

I haven’t run since Monday…when I got to run with my sister. No – she didn’t wear me out that badly. I fell the victim of the blister that ate my foot.  The worn out running shoes were replaced with the slightly worn out cross trainers.  End result – hours after the run there was the most disgusting blister on the heel of my foot. Wanna see?  Here you go:

My blister has blisters

I know – gross, right?

So there was much doctoring to the foot and a lot of bandages for a few days. Running took a back seat to fun at the beach and pool with the family. And my foot thanked me for the chance to heal properly…

Today we finally made it out to the mall where Fit2Run is. Yea!  New running shoes.

Now I’m not much up on the latest and greatest shoes….I did a little searching on Runner’s World online and such. But truth be told – I’m not that knowledgeable to know what all the differences are between the minutiae that goes into running shoes. I just want to put my feet in them and go by “feel” so to speak. All the reviews just kinda confused me. My plan was to get some good guidance and then just let my feet be the judge.

I brought my worn out pair in hopes that would help them figure out what is wrong with my stride. Actually the guy told me that the wear pattern was rather typical and nothing really out of the ordinary. I guess that’s good…but it did tell him about my foot and my stride.

Next, I had to take off my sandals and stand barefoot to see how my feet fall. Note to myself for next time – do take the time to remove all the old nail polish before getting new shoes. The smudge of purple on my big toe that I was too lazy to remove led to an embarrassing exchange.

“So beyond the blisters, any other problems?”

“Nope – just an on and off case of plantar fasciitis.”

“What about your toenails?  Isn’t that one about to fall off?”

*blush* “Umm…no…I’m just overdue for a pedicure….”

“Oh…looks like you were going to lose that toenail….”

Oops….

Anyway – I had previously worn a pair of Sauconys which I liked but wasn’t wedded to. I just wanted the best pair for me. I tried on a pair of Brooks, Saucony, and Asics. While we were away, I tried on a couple of pairs at a local sporting good store and found the Asics were really comfy. So no real surprise that I really liked the comfort level in this higher-end pair of them. The Brooks were just okay and the Sauconys felt good – but I really liked the “cloud” like feel of the Asics. So – here are my new Asics – the Gel Kayno 17.

Ready to run

My husband’s uncle had told both of us that we should only wear Asics – hopefully Uncle Bob is proud of my choice then. And my sister had told me to buy two pairs – but the funds weren’t there for that to happen just now – although the salesman tried very hard to get me to buy both the Sauconys and the Asics.

Given the soft, comfy nature of this new pair….I couldn’t help but start thinking about how some runners would see me as doing it “all wrong”….

While we visited family, I had a lot of time to catch up on my reading. In the string of books I finished were two books on running – one by Pam Reed, the ultra runner, and Born to Run – a fascinating look at a hidden running culture (the Tarahumara Indians who live in Mexico’s Copper Canyons). I don’t honestly remember Pam Reed‘s take on shoes (if she had one)….and I’m still not sure about the sanity of the ultra runners….but it was an interesting read.

Christopher McDougall’s book fascinated me and at the same time confused me. Part of the book is the heart of the debate about barefoot (and minimalist) running. Humans are made to run….and McDougall points out studies and scientists who make points against the modern running shoe. Apparently the modern running shoe is the bane of our current running existence. Now I don’t doubt the scientists he talks about – but he’s not a science writer per se – he clearly chose people with one point of view. So I’d be interested to hear what others on the other side of the debate say. But it’s clear that many of the barefoot/minimalist advocates would spit at my choice of a cozy, comfy, gonna-make-me-injured-cause-I-should-be-barefoot type of shoe.

Frankly – I like to walk around barefoot. And running in the grass barefoot with the kids is fun. But a) I’m a klutz – I’d certainly injure myself on a rock or stick long before my feet got toughened up, b) I did actually step on a piece of metal as a kid running barefoot….that trip to the ER flashes through my head whenever barefoot running is mentioned, and c) I run in the suburbs….do you know what sorts of things live on the sidewalks and streets in the suburbs? I’m not actually willing to take sides in the barefoot debate….after all, I’m intrigued by the Tarahumara.  But I’m not likely to lace up my huaraches soon. I’m sticking to my new Asics…

Hopefully will get a run in tomorrow to put them to the test….

 

Just a little patience….

We are now in North Carolina visiting my parents. So I’ve added running in Illinois and North Carolina in the last week. And a short hike in TN as we took the kids through the Great Smoky Mountains.  (Our 1/2 mile hike up to Clingman’s Dome made it clear to me that Leadville and Western States are never in my future!)

My runs as of late have resulted in some major blisters on my right foot – and I’m clearly pushing the limits of what my little cross-trainers can accomplish. I’m counting the days till we get home and I can hit Fit2Run for a new pair of running shoes. But in the meantime, I’m willing to risk a few blisters to keep up my runs. I’m not really pushing for any long runs – I’ve learned the limits of my moleskin and band-aid fixes – but I’ve managed to work on my pace a bit and keep the legs working.

As I was running this morning – I was considering how impatient I am for new shoes….and for more weight loss….and for my official training plan to start….and for my pace to improve…and for my long runs to get longer….and for the Disney weekend…..and and….you get the picture.

Yet about 1/2 a mile later – I realized how many good things come with a bit of patience and time.  I know I know – old cliche. But so true. Here I am just about 6 months from when I started Couch to 5K and I’m powering through nasty blisters to make sure I get in 3 miles this morning.  Really?  When did that happen?  Well – not overnight that’s for sure. It has taken lots of miles – and sweat and patience – to get to this point. And the same is true for the next steps….I want them to come fast – but the reality is that it takes time.

So as I made it towards home, I considered all the ways that I’ve come pretty far since I’ve been running…..the fact that I feel more fit (even if the scale disagrees) and that my clothes fit better (mostly) and that I have more stamina and energy.  My mental focus has improved so much in the last few months. Not necessarily gaining IQ points – but certainly slowing the loss of neurons!

You sometimes have to sit back and take a long view of what you’ve done….and where you’ve come from. And so far – it seems like I’m definitely on a good path.  So I need to keep in mind one of my favorite quotes to put on my syllabi for my college students:

A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard.    — Randy Pausch 

Quick run by…

We’re still visiting family…and still working runs in here and there. I’ve ditched the worn out running shoes (well – saving them to bring to our favorite running store to discuss the issue) and am attempting some mileage in my old cross-trainers. Guess what – same wear pattern.  And now I’ve had several blisters come and go this week. Ouch. Clearly there is a flaw in my right foot. Ha!  I might just have to become a barefoot runner.

I did go to a local sports good store and looked at shoes. Found a pair of Asics that I loved…but I really want to get a good pair and I really trust the staff at Fit2Run – so I’m suffering for a few more runs before we get home….just so I can get a good foot analysis. Meanwhile I’m just going to suck it up so I get at least some miles under my belt. Cause I’ve discovered that I hate not running!  Pretty cool!

Birthday and blisters

So yesterday was my birthday – 41 feels better than 40 did.  For some reason….oh wait yes that’s right – cause I’m more active than I was at 40!

Family gave me Galloway’s 1/2 marathon book and a Nathan fuel belt.  Now that is not what I would have predicted a year ago!  🙂

And of course I started the new year with a morning birthday run. Got to run with my husband….and he was very sweet to slow his pace to stay with me for the whole 3.1 miles.  We’re in his hometown visiting his family and he has run these streets before so he has a better sense of distance than I do. But I was touched that he slowed down for me….and cheered me the whole way. I’m very very blessed – to have a birthday to celebrate with an awesome husband and wonderful kids and family.

Today I planned a 6 mile run – testing out the new belt.  Well the belt works but my temporary fix for my shoe blow out was a bust. I’m not sure why my one heel wore out so quickly and so badly. But my fix with moleskin and some padding on my foot did not work. I was doing so well today – had shaved 20 seconds off my first mile. I was so excited…apparently the run with Steve had inspired my legs.

But at about 1.5 miles I realized my foot was hurting in not a good way. I kept going for another .5 mile but it only got worse. All the padding I had stuck in there was wiggling up and down with my foot falls – and a good blister was forming.  (It hadn’t bothered me yesterday – which was good….) So I finally had to admit defeat otherwise risk a really bad blister. I loosened the shoe and hobbled home about 1.5 miles as well as I could.

Honestly I nearly cried. I had been feeling good and going strong.  (I had tried to measure my cadence as per Galloway’s book and I was getting a bit faster with each trial.) But I really didn’t want to injure my foot unnecessarily. So off to hunt for new running shoes….not many running stores here in my husband’s hometown. But there are a few options….cause NOT running is NOT an option.  🙂  And how incredible that is from where I was a year ago…

 

Ugh…worn out shoe…

I’ve had a major blister on the back of my right foot for two days. I wanted to shake my finger at June and the group run I did on Saturday. They worked me to a blistered state!

But nope – just a case of my running shoe being worn out in the back of the shoe….so worn out that there is actually a hole. And a piece of plastic is poking out.  Hmm…might be the source of the pain.

Not happy about how quickly these shoes (or at least the right shoe) gave out.  I’ve put 166 miles on them according to Nike+….although I ran in them for a few weeks before that…and I’ve occasionally worn them to the gym and grocery store. So probably closer to 200?  220?  Not sure…

I’m a bit confused how I wore out one shoe and not the other….but no time for confusion. We are packing for our trip to visit both sets of grandparents over the next 2 weeks. (We have it backwards in our family – it’s supposed to be the grandparents who live in Florida and you go there to visit them….not us. We leave Florida to go visit them. Hm…) I’ve packed all the running gear and clothes…and I’m going to have to make these shoes work. Packed some moleskin which should help – I hope. (Learned about moleskin from a friend who was a ballerina.)  I’d prefer to not have to find a running store and new shoes while we’re visiting family….

Anyway – here’s hoping I can get miles and blog posts in while gone…..with few blisters as a result!