Category Archives: Things That Work

It’s a material world, so they say. Well, if we’re going to tie up resources in material objects – and have to pay for the privilege – at least they should serve a purpose. Herein, some objects I’ve found that really do work.

Post-Locomotion Libations, or Things That Work, of the Liquid Variety

Spring is notorious for variable weather, and as the weather changes, the choice of post-race hydration may need to do the same. FWIW, herewith are three faves:

Cold weather often means starting out in lots of layers, stripping them off as you start to sweat, then staggering around steaming into the chill air as you cool down.   Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know exactly when to start putting those damp layers back on; way too easy to find oneself suddenly on the edge of hypothermic as the body furnace shuts down and  running clothes turn into cold compresses. Years ago a post-race exposition featured giant vats of hot soup being ladled out by residents of a nearby native American reservation (thank you, first residents), and boy did that hit the spot! Ever since, my cold weather apres is a cup of soup and the most convenient is Lipton Cup-a-Soup.


Yeah, it ain’t my Brooklyn Grandma’s recipe, but it’s hot and salty (electrolytes anyone?), with just enough fat and carbs to start recharging the ol’ blood stream. And all it takes is a packet, a cup and hot water. I’ve even made it up with hot tap water, in a pinch.  All the better when consumed while soaking in a toasty hot tub!

The onset of spring’s warmer weather though, can quickly send some of us to the fridge for a post-race beer instead. On the surface it seems like a great idea – water-based for hydration, loaded with carbohydrates, and that refrigerated chill helps cool an overheated core, if either the weather or your performance has been hot enough to make that an issue. However…a little research reveals that alcohol is a diuretic, so consuming it tends to make the body shed liquid, right when you need to re-hydrate. Solution? Non-alcoholic beer; and lucky for us, there are plenty on the market these days, including the prototypical O’Doul’s, copies from big brewers like Busch and Coors, along with smaller brands like Kaliber (from the makers of Guiness), Paulaner, St. Pauli and a host of craft breweries (a quick web search came up with over twenty varieties). My favorite so far is Heineken’s 0.0.



Properly chilled, I doubt I could till it from the regular variety (at least not until I’d consumed enough to feel the buzz, or lack thereof, that is). Drinking responsibly never tasted so good!

Neither of those float your boat? For the best all-round post-race toss-down, how about chocolate milk? Taken cold or hot, depending on the time of year, it’s got liquid for hydration, carbs to replenish what you’ve been burning and protein to get the muscles started on their exercise-induced regeneration. Ending your run at a remote trailhead, or a parking lot far from a refrigerator or convenience store? In our part of the country, Horizon sells these nifty single-serving cartons that do not need to be refrigerated until opened!


For above-freezing days in the winter, I park one of these in the shade beneath my car before a run, and it’s nicely chilled when I get back. Other times, toss one in a cooler with some ice (and maybe one of those Heinekens, just in case). If you’re feeling social, prep that cooler with several bevvies and set yourself up at the finish line or trailhead with two lawn chairs – some great post-run acquaintances have sprung up from no more effort than that.

Whatever post-run potation you prefer…drink up; you’ve earned it!

Colder Boulder Smolder

The Bolder Boulder is a marvelous Memorial Day event, with over 40,000 citizens running a densely-spectated 10K course around the town towards a hero finish that has them all entering the University of Colorado’s 53,000 seat Folsom Stadium via the team tunnel, to cheers and big-screen finish-line stardom. Not content with doing their splendid job of managing the logistics on that one, the BB crew also offer a December run, the Colder Boulder, with an unusual format.

For those who run the BB and then enter the same year’s CB, they sort you into starting waves of folks who finished within two-minutes of each other. That means you toe the line with a whole pack (there were 92 in my wave this year) of folks pre-selected to run at very near your pace – more or less the way it always is for those pesky elites at the front of nearly every other event. Now, nothing says you have to get all competitive about running the CB, but if you do happen to feel the urge, there’s a built-in pace group all around you.

CB is also a much smaller event (it’s December, it’s 5200’ above sea level, it’s Colorado, so, yeah there is that…) but still has the same Bolder Boulder vibe. Pre-race milling-about is inside the cavernous Folsom Fieldhouse (right next to the stadium) and you get to use the same restrooms the football teams do, troughs and all (sorry ‘bout that part). It’s warm inside, with coffee and stuff, and the waves are really well organized so you can choose just how much or how little time to spend warming-up out-in-the-cold (Dog never said being a runner makes sense). Once your wave goes off, the course weaves around the picturesque CU campus and if you can raise your head from watching the footing and navigating the pack, there’re glimpses of the fabulous the Flatirons only a few blocks away. Temperature this past year was in the low 30’s, but dry and calm, so great conditions for running hard in a singlet and gloves, as long as you managed that warm-up wisely. (That’s the smolder part in the title; with good planning, this  could be your fastest 5K of the year)

Don’t get to use the stadium for this one, but you do get to run through a wide opening into the end of the field house and sprint down a chute with spectators on both sides, so still a pretty rewarding finish. Followed by refreshments, gear pick up for those winter layers and a chance to watch the next wave come in while you cool-down without having to worry about getting cold.

So if you’re within tripping range of Boulder, try it out, and if you’re a race director somewhere else, consider the Colder Boulder format as a fun variation to keep your runners energized between the big events.

Thank you Bolder Boulder crew!

Compress That, Buddy!

In a recent on-line article about compression gear, the author cited a bunch of studies on elite runners and concluded– wait for it… that there was no conclusion. No scientific consensus on whether compression has benefits or not.   Well, this never-been-elite-and-never-gonna-be is ready to disagree!

Back in 2013 I had pretty much ignored the ads for compression clothing, figuring they were just another sexy way for manufacturers to part runners from their money. It seemed obvious to my innocent mind that having to stretch that heavy fabric every time my legs bent or straightened would bleed-off precious energy which was better applied between my feet and the ground.

But…I was also on the verge of quitting marathons. Not because my times weren’t progressing (they were, though only very gradually and not consistently), but because running 26.2 just felt plain wrong. Despite having followed a ramp-up training plan to build strength and endurance, every marathon left me feeling more mangled than majestic. Gutting out those final miles on legs that refused to respond, then staggering around for several days like a stiff-legged zombie, I figured I was simply not cut out for it. Until the horrific Boston bombings happened; after which my entire cardiovascular system wanted desperately to line up in Hopkinton the next year and join the hordes of other runners and spectators to show the world that those two impotent losers had not accomplished a damned thing.

Knowing I’d need all the help I could get, I scrunched up my tight little fists and sprung for a pair of CW-X ¾ length compression tights, after which – drum roll please….

What I did not experience was any sensation of resistance or wasting energy. My mental image now is that, just as much as your motion in one part of a stride stretches the fabric, the springy stuff acts to snap your leg back in the other, so fifty-fifty.

What I did experience was a big difference in how my legs felt in the later stages of long runs. Where before the heavy muscles around the thighs had been flapping and flopping like to tear themselves from the bones, now they were solidly in place, and because of that they maintained more strength longer. Day-after was the real kicker though, with noticeably-less leg fatigue and stiffness after running in compression than without.

Third conclusion? A couple of months after getting those tights, I wore them for an official marathon – and PR’d by over 15 minutes! I’m not saying that was all the compression tights (it was a downhill course, after all), but could I have kept up that pace in the last 6.2 if my legs were feeling flayed from the bones like I’d learned to expect? Not on your Lycra.

Since then I’ve worn compression tights for pretty much every event over half marathon distance. (But not for training; training is about applying stress to induce growth, so I save the stress-reducing super-gear for actual events.)

Thus sayeth the Follow-dog: get yourself a pair and see how they work for you. I’m already sold.

P. S. – Compression socks? Haven’t tried ‘em for running (I’m hooked on wool socks by Darn-Tough or Smartwool) but do use them after a big effort, for comfort and quicker recovery. Compression sleeves? Sleeves are a great layering option for warmth in marginal weather, have never tried compression up there. Compression shirts? Not with my mid-section, thank you very much!

This Little Piggy Got…Stormsocks

So you’ve got great running shoes that fit just-right with the type and weight of socks you like to wear, and along comes cold or wet or wind – or some nasty combination of the three.  Do you spend a hundred-exty bucks for a new pair of shoes sized-up to fit a couple pair of heavy socks?  Or maybe even more for ones with a Gore-tex interlayer that makes them (somewhat) waterproof?  Tough it out with wet cold toes?  Or just hang it up until the weather clears?


Another alternative, and one I think is the best of the bunch, is these Hyperlite Stormsocks, by Seirus.  They’re thin enough to fit in your regular shoes, over your regular socks, and as far as I’ve found they’re totally effective at keeping out water, snow and wind.  In fact, it’s kind of interesting to step in a frigid puddle with ‘em, ‘cause for a second you think your feet are getting soaked, then a moment later you realize they’re totally dry – it was just the rapid heat loss due to water being more dense than air, which goes away as soon as you’re no longer stepping in it and the normal bending motions of running squeeze most of the moisture out of the fabric and padding of your shoes.

And the best part?  Unlike a water-proof shoe, Stormsocks are tall enough to protect your ankles as well, and prevent gaper-gap with running tights (I put the socks on first, then pull tights on over them to keep it all sleek and make sure any water that rains or splashes onto my legs will run down outside the Stormsocks, not in.  Though they’re not insulated, that extra layer adds warmth too – I’ve run in very thin low-top socks plus these, in shoes that have really-open mesh uppers for summer ventilation, and been comfortable on icy roads in temps down in the twenties.  Only below about twenty five do I switch to a pair of calf-high wool-blend socks (Seirus makes those too, as do SmartWool and others) with the Stormsocks on top to cut the wind.  If it’s too harsh outside for that combo, it’s time to take up mushing.

They say in life, it’s the little things that count; so if you want to keep on runnin’ when the weather gets sloppy, I suggest you get your little piggies to market and pick up some Stormsocks, pronto.

Salomon XT Wings Pack

When I started doing longer training runs I worked my way thru a couple of different hydration belts. Still use them sometimes too, but when the going keeps on coming, I find my insides seem to swell up, and a belt that’s tight enough not to bounce around or fall down can be more than uncomfortable – it can be downright nauseating.

For long unsupported runs (especially on trails, or remote country roads), nothing beats a running-specific backpack.   Just large enough for hydration, fuel and an emergency layer; cut to allow full motion; a good pack can extend your comfortable range, all by itself.

Salomon XT Wings crop

Most that I see in stores or catalogs use an internal bladder, but I love this model from Salomon because it carries two separate bottles right outside, where you can conveniently grab and replace them without breaking stride (it also accommodates a bladder, but I’ve never bothered). I prefer the bottles because I can fill one with electrolyte drink, and the other with plain water (especially necessary to wash down gooey jells and snacks, and much better for pouring over the old scalp than energy drinks…).

On trail runs, one of those bottles is a Katadyn, (see separate ‘Things That Work’ posting) that filters water from any source, another reason I prefer bottles over a bladder. And on a recent ‘minimally-supported’ event (aid stations three to seven miles apart; too far for me to go dry in between) it was a lot quicker to refill my bottles from their jugs than a bladder would have been.

My only gripes (and they’re small ones):  this pack does not quite adjust down to my torso (I’m just shy of  5’-4” on a good day) and there are supposed to be snap-in holders available to carry a gel flask on the front of each shoulder strap, but I’ve never been able to find them for purchase.  As you can see, I ended up jury-rigging two Amphipod Velcro pockets to do the job (sort of), but I’d still love to get the proper accessories (any Salomon reps. out there reading this?).

Other than that though, I’m sold on this pack which has a couple hundred miles on it  by now, and I expect will have a lot more before I bother looking at any other.

Katadyn Filter Bottle

Long trail runs demand plenty of hydration – but who wants to lug a ton of water up a mountain?

One answer that works for me is to carry two bottles, both filled before I start. One is a standard water bottle, the other is a Katadyn bottle with built-in filter. I drink from that one first, and whenever I pass a creek or pond, unscrew the cap and pull it off, bringing the filter with it. Dunk the bottle far enough to fill it to the line, screw in the filter and cap, and I’m re-supplied in seconds. According to its website, Katadyn is the only EPA approved filter-in-a-bottle, and it removes viruses, bacteria, cysts and chemicals. I’ve been doing this for several years, drinking from streams and lakes in mountains, desert and ranchland (un-cooked cows are not hygienic…) and never a trace of any untoward reaction.

That other bottle of tap water from home? I keep it in reserve, in case I empty the filter bottle before finding a new source. Doesn’t happen very often, but it’s reassuring to always have a full bottle available, even when you’re miles and hours away from the trailhead.

Another bonus – if you refill from a cold mountain stream, you get to drink refreshingly cold water. Try that with a bladder that’s been on your back for twelve miles in the sunshine!

My Katadyn (pictured)


is an older model; check out the website for the latest:



Nike + Sportwatch

One of the great things about running is the low entry cost – even a really good pair of shoes cost nothing compared to a decent road-bike. Maybe that’s why I waited years before trying out a GPS – that and the clunky look of early GPS watches – like something Darth Vader would strap to your wrist so he could monitor your actions and deactivate you if you misbehaved.

The Nike+ Sportwatch caught my eye for its (relatively) sleek styling, decent price (again, all things are relative), and claims of simple operation, which turn out to be true. One touch of a button sets it searching for satellites, and once it has connected with them, just one more touch starts it timing and tracking. One final touch at the end of a run and your route, time, distance, elevation and pace are all recorded, to be downloaded automatically when plugged into a USB port with internet access.

Nike +

You can interact more if you wish – scrolling thru functions is easy enough even with sweaty or gloved fingers – but you may not have to, since you get to choose which function is displayed in extra-large easy-to–read numerals (I like to see my pace, a moment-by-moment coach which has turned out to be very instructive), plus a second in smaller numerals.

I haven’t tried any other GPS watches to compare, but then again, I haven’t felt any desire to. My Nike+ is a faithful tool and I never run without it!


Quibbles to be aware of: I find the pace displayed while I’m running is often faster than what shows up in the permanent record on the website. Perhaps there is some accuracy-correction going on in the home-ware, but it’s disappointing to see a 6:06 pace on your wrist (cruising down a very steep hill mind you….) and then find the recorded profile shows you were really barely breaking 7 minutes. Elevation can be similarly squirrely, with one beachfront-run registering 95 ft above sea level when I could hardly credit 40’, given I was in sight of the waves across a hundred yards of not very steep sand.

The website is a bit cryptic in its instructions, but I’ve found Nike’s technical assistance very helpful.

Be aware also, that if you let the rechargeable battery go to zero, the watch will re-set to some years-ago date when charged-up again. If you don’t re-set the time and date before your next run, it will get recorded in 2005 or something. All is not lost though, you can e-mail tech. service and they will put you back into the present day.

I-Pod Shuffle

One thing that really works for this MPR, is Apple’s I-Pod Shuffle. Tiny and practically weightless, it livens up long runs with an absolute minimum of complication.

I wear mine clipped onto a terry-cloth wristband (which is there primarily to blot up whatever needs blotting up as the miles accumulate). That lets me raise it up in front of my face when I want to adjust the volume or skip a song, but keeps it out of the way the other 99.9% of the time.

The original ear buds never felt right in my ears, so I use a pair of inexpensive Panasonic’s I found at a discount store, that stay in place through anything, and have the additional benefit of being a cool blue color.

I Pod Shuffle 1

Run the headphone cord up your arm – under the innermost layer of clothing so it stays put during the after-warm-up strip-down – then out the collar, and you’ve got a no-fuss mini-sound system that turns any run into the staircase scene from Rocky.