The Base Layer Quest: Building a Runner’s Wardrobe

This week I realized why it’s worth it to buy *actual running clothes– you need them to be consistent in different weather and conditions.

I had to give up a run day yesterday because it was 29 degrees and I quickly learned that a thermal shirt underneath a hoodie, plus two pairs of leggings, was not going to cut it. The two biggest struggles I have are estimating distances on my runs and figuring out proper layering/running ensembles that don’t encumber me and slow me down.

Now I get it: cotton is bulky and does nothing to wick sweat or preserve body heat. It’s useless. I can deal with cold legs– that’s kind of invigorating. But I need warmth for my upper body, especially since I want to be able to run minimum five miles in the cold. What you’re paying for with official running gear is fabrics designed to layer easily together and for flexible performance if the weather changes during your runs.

So today I bought my first base layer top! And it works, I tested it later.Boom, on sale.

Until now, I’ve been operating with a cheap substitutes from Old Navy, sometimes sales at other stores with cute sportswear. That’s fine for summer and spring runs. But as I transition to a strict training schedule, these old ensembles are holding me back.

Today I learned that I’m becoming knowledgeable as a “serious runner.” I questioned staff in three different stores about what brands are best for winter, and how they really hold up– how cold would would they run in these products? What are their temp deal-breakers?

As I bargain-shopped in a general sporting goods store, I got generic, dismissive answers. They were eager to end the conversation and go back to whatever work they were doing. But can I blame them? How can you be an expert on every sport, or even your section, if you’re just randomly assigned to that area?

The difference in going to a running store is that the staff live and race in these products– they have educated opinions. The veteran staff can debate performance of several brands for your need. They ask intelligent questions about my goals and my running– and they are excited to hear it! Best of all, I have answers for them! Confident answers.

“You’re a distance runner, not a sprinter,” my favorite staff told me today. I had told her of my goals for the Rockdale Ramblin’ Run 10k (6.2 miles) and the Soldier Field 10 Miler.

And I felt proud. I AM a distance runner. It’s just taken me a long time to find the confidence and make time in my schedule to fully commit. I’ve always been a “Big Picture” sort of gal about important decisions.

This staff is short like me and has been running all her life. I asked her work schedule and will be returning to her in the future. I told her my plan– slow and steady. Start with the most essential basics. That I felt a base layer top was more important than tights for now.

She agreed. “You’re doing this the right way,” she said. We were geeking out!

And after I went home and changed into that base layer, and it worked! I knocked out my 3.25 mile run and I felt good.

It’s all coming together.

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Graveyard Run: Epic FAIL!

Not every run is a good ‘un, as I learned the hard way tonight!

I was excited to try this new running/game app, “Run, Zombies!” A co-worker told me about it and it sounded so novel and Halloweeny, I thought I’d be obsessed.

Even more, I thought the most fun way to test it out would be to make the setting appropriate: a local graveyard. No, I didn’t go at night– I don’t need any broken bones tripping over a headstone.

It was my fault for :

A.) Dressing too warmly, with a light hoodie.

B.) NOT applying the OFF! first.

Hilarious that I’ve successfully run several times through woodsy areas at several times of day/night without any bites– but tonight I was getting dive-bombed by those little blood-sucking fliers.

I just showed up at cemetery nearby and decided to park my car, then walk the the side and run the perimeter. I turned on the app/game and suddenly there was a British voice narrating in my ear. I didn’t select any music.

It was fun, but also a a bit boring. Once I heard there were “zoms”– slang for zombies– chasingbloo me, but nothing happened. I’m not sure if they got me or if they just backed off quickly, but it wasn’t the drama I had hoped to motivate me to run faster.

I did run through some of the graves.

Strangely, I came upon the headstone of the mother of a former friend, with whom I’ve lost touch for a few years now. All the time I knew her, I’d never been to see it. I recognized her father’s name first. I knelt down and said a little prayer to her, and for her daughter and family.

But I was a total wimp in other regards. I didn’t even last a full mile– I was about .75 when I checked.  I was too hot and didn’t have a t-shirt underneath.  The skeeters were awful.

I headed home.

I’ll try it again! But with better planning.

Not sure if this game will grow on me, or if it’s too confusing for me to enjoy.

This is absolutely the worst run I’ve had, and the first that I just got NOTHING out of!

Any advice for me? With all the reviews this app has gotten, I’m sure there are some devoted fans of “Zombies, Run!”

I thought of my friend Amanda, now passed. She WAS obsessed with zombies. She would have loved this game. She would have been the perfect person to call and describe this misadventure to.

Tonight I learned I need to pay more attention to weather or at least dress in layers, and NEVER underestimate the need for bug spray.

I want to take another stab at this app! Maybe in another graveyard.

Michael Sweet Threw a Bible, and I Caught It: My First Christian Rock Show!

I’ve been avoiding music shows lately– I’m tired of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll being championed.

The gold set list on my black leather jacket-- God and rock 'n roll!

The gold set list on my black leather jacket– God and rock ‘n roll!

Tired of hearing rants about how wasted they got on the way to the show, challenging the audience to do shots. I know it’s all part of the image and that partying is what the industry is built upon. But I don’t drink or do drugs and although I go for the music and have a great time, I get tired of being one of the only sober people in the room. Tired of being hit on.

Luckily, my friend Tammie had invited me to see STRYPER last night! And I felt totally at home.

Everyone from the bands to the road crew setting up seemed to be sober. Maybe a few weren’t– but it definitely changed the atmosphere for the better. They played Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill in Bolingbrook, IL.

People DRANK Coke, rather than bragging about doing it. I saw crosses, not cleavage, everywhere. Mostly, I saw a lot of respect. For the band, for the audience, for the venue.

The show was exactly what I needed after work, especially since a co-worker told me, “You look like a nun.”

She didn’t mean it as a compliment, although nuns ARE awesome. I ran home and dressed up for the first time in months, it seems. I wore a white shirt that I love with golden crosses all over it, and my favorite dangly heart earrings. I put on eye-liner and mascara and actually used hairspray! I searched frantically for the Stryper album I still have on CD, but couldn’t find it. My phone was nowhere to be found so I Facebooked my friend that I was leaving, Googled directions and wrote them down, and got to Tailgator’s within about 25 minutes.

My friend Tammie was waiting for me at the door, bless her. She’s always been a steadfast friend. Even better, she had bought our tickets in advance and we had a table RIGHT by the stage! In the left corner, where Michael Sweet would step out later on a few times.

The two opening bands were wonderful– Ignescent, and Signature. The first was definitely a Christian band, and I don’t think the second was, but I really enjoyed both! As always, I missed a lot that I couldn’t hear– but the musicianship and performances were great. I loved the fact that Ignescent front woman Jennifer Benson was a petite woman about my size. Seeing her up there rocking out– for the Lord!– was so inspiring. I loved that she still locked like a rocker, but modest as well. She had on a black dress, black shredded jeans, and a cute black skirt and black shoes. On the way to the bathroom, I met her! She talked to me for a few minutes and had the best smile. She was really sweet.

When I returned, Signature lead singer Sami Carava walked by me and gave me a sweaty kiss on the cheek, and I grinned.

And as set-up began for STRYPER, I saw the set list being duct-taped down, right in front of us! Black tape.

Bass player Tim Gaines was directly in front of us.

I asked Tammie to use her phone to look-up the verse on the banner behind the drum kit, Isiah 53:5. She had a Bible app! We scrolled down and found it, and I loved it.

Once the set began, I was transported.

Earlier, Tammie had posted a Facebook photo of a BIBLE Stryper had thrown into the crowd Friday night at an acoustic show at the same venue. This was the electric show. As soon as I saw that, I decided my goal would be to GET ONE myself! She also had a yellow guitar pick, given away for their 30th Anniversary tour– they began in 1984.

I saw the tiny hornet-yellow picks set up on each mic with an apparatus that had them lined up for the band members to toss to the crowd.

During, “Call and Respond,” Michael Sweet was throwing Bibles.

I JUMPED out of my chair and waved my hand without shame. “ME!! ME!!”

He looked at me, smiled and tossed one to me. I caught it!! It’s pocket-sized, perfect.

And suddenly, GOD is rock n’ roll. I am so excited to see a legendary band like Stryper endorsing the Bible. Plus, it’s the most genius gimmick ever. It’s the NIV, New Testament. It’s black, with a black band sticker.

They embodied the virtue of charity, throwing out several Bibles and guitar picks.

Sweet was riveting. I loved the Abalone squares on his guitar, and the fact that he wore nice black leather shoes, like a gentleman. Black jeans with yellow crosses down the leg and on his back pocket.

And it was so clearly about the MUSIC, the Lord, and the fans. He talked to us. But unlike every other front man I’ve ever seen, he wasn’t leering or gyrating. He was there to praise, not seduce. To commune with the fans, not challenge them to get wasted. He asked for a show of hands of fans who had been to past shows– smiled in recognition at some of them.

I realized why MUSIC is the booming business it is. It’s healing, on a soul level. And how much pressure Christian bands must face to conform– the gigs they lose and the money the pass up, to adhere to their faith. The pressure they all face to sexualize themselves to sell more albums.

I’m going to look for more Christian bands. Not so say I’m abandoning secular music– but I love the atmosphere of a Christian show and I’ll take the challenge to find more!

During a set break, Tammie showed me the Rosary she had made with rose petals from her mother’s funeral, 15 years ago. I was so happy she let me hold it, it was the most intricate Rosary I’ve ever seen. I’m Catholic and she’s Non-Denominational Christian, but we focus on what we have in common. Earlier this week, we’d talked about attempting to learn to pray the Rosary together. I love that she wants to share that with me, even though she’s not Catholic. What an extraordinary display of friendship.

Whenever I have doubts about this blog, Tammie is there reassure me I should keep going. She’s been a subscriber since she learned about it.

I felt Christ’s presence in that room. Maybe that’s a bold thing to say, but I’m alright with that.

I’ve been looking frantically for His presence– I only thought I could find it in Mass. I’ve been anxious because when my work schedule changes, I won’t likely be able to go to Mass as often, or maybe at all. But now I know you really don’t need to go to a church to find Him.

God, Christ, whoever you identify with– He’s all around us. If you only have the courage to look.

Seek the GOOD– and you will find it.

And I was reassured that I’m not alone in my faith walk. I never wondered what denomination anyone was– it didn’t matter. I felt united under God’s rock concert. We’re all struggling. We’re all trudging forward, best we can.

A man at the table to my immediate left held up two fingers in a cross sign. I saw people closing their eyes, being still- seemingly in prayer.

I loved when he said the band was going to “stop trying to be modern,” (If I heard that right!) and just go back to their roots. This was their last American tour stop before heading out to Brazil. What are the odds that I got to see them!? God’s brought me there for a reason.

I’m an old-fashioned gal, who doesn’t often feel at home in this newfangled world. Hear, hear! I was bummed that earlier I couldn’t find the CD of theirs I had bought in 2005, which still have! I wanted to show it to them, maybe try and get it signed. But look what I got instead!

God’s abundance. Thanks for reading this far– I know I’m a verbose lady!

They closed with an encore performance– “To HELL with the Devil!” That’s the only song I previously knew, and it was absolutely perfect. I was AWED that Sweet’s voice really IS as operatic as it sounded every time I played it in my car.

I bought my first and only Stryper CD in 2005, when I was living in Freeport and working as a news reporter. I interviewed a woman who was selling a bunch of random things in her home– and I snatched up that album.

Now I write on my own terms– with this blog.

The best moment of the night was after they closed with their encore performance, “To Hell with the Devil,” of course!! FINALLY, the audience all got to their feet. I had thought they were a little TOO respectful, all sitting down the whole time.

But it was also just like any other rock show– there were still drunk women lunging at the stage.

Last night was I reminded I’m right where I need to be for me, right now.

Especially when as the road crew packed up, a man HANDED ME the set list with a smile! I screamed and taped it on the back of my leather jacket. I didn’t worry about anyone stealing it, and no one did.

Tammie was so happy for me, too.

Robert Sweet fist-bumped me, and Ox Fox shook my hand as they exited the stage. They were so gracious.

We stopped at the merch table on the way out, and I decided to buy myself a birthday present: I’ll be 34 next month. I don’t have anything planned as of yet. I’ve gotten down on myself in the past for not having the markers of “adulthood” yet– not being settled down with a family and mortage.

I’m still renting and I’m single.

But God gave me this FREEDOM for a reason. And I’m grateful. I’ll enjoy it as long as I’ve got it!

I spied a hoodie with– what else?– To hell With the Devil– on the back, in yellow script lettering. I asked if there any smalls?

ONE left.

Most of my money these days goes toward basic expenses: food, bills, gas. Books. I rarely buy clothes.

But I decided I deserved this. And I gave myself permission to splurge and get it. Now I’ve got a perfect new hoodie for fall, and I can’t wait for Stryper fans to stop me and talk to me about it!

I’m sure that’ll inspire some conversations about religion and God, with all sorts of people.

I can’t wait.