With all the gift guides and recommendations, I would like to redirect you to the Sunny Running Holiday Gift Guide. It’s advice is unassailable.

However, if you find that insufficient, I also have personal recommendations to make — for practically everything. Here is a complete list of all the gear I use, more or less. (Side note: None of this is sponsored. Some of it was at one point, long ago, that’s why I got it, but the sponsored stuff I didn’t like I’ve long since stopped using. And, I’ve bought plenty more. So, this is actually what I use regularly. Though I’d love to not have to spend so much money on it all.)


Suit: Jolyn – I almost exclusively wear the Brazil bottoms and the Uniform top. Two reasons: Easier to deck change and get in/out of, and it can pass for both a casual lounge suit and a lap suit. Efficient and lazy. Also, one time, these high school girls all went and bought the suits after complimenting mine, so that’s basically a win.

Goggles: I hate all my goggles currently. I have no goggle recommendations.

Wetsuit: Xterra Vortex (both the sleeveless and long sleeve) — The sleeveless suit I’m not nuts about — it feels high in the neck — but the long sleeve is my favorite, supple and smooth. Unfortunately, I tore it across the zipper this summer and had to get it patched back up. Totally worth the $40.

Paddles: Finis Agility Paddles — Since I switched to these, I swear I’ve gotten faster. Or, at least, less slow.


Bike: 2006 Cannondale Caad 8 — This Cannondale is the Camry of bikes. (OK, I actually have no idea if that’s true. I don’t know anything or care anything about cars. But, there was this Camry I used to drive around — which I consistently called a Chevy [same first and last letter, basically the same thing] — and it lasted through everything. No brakes, no headlights, no rolling down the windows, but it went. That thing was a beast.)

TT Bike: Specialized Shiv — It doesn’t get faster than this bike. End of discussion.

Wheels: Zipp 303 or the Specialized Rovals — Either work. Both are good. As long as they’re fast and don’t make me feel like I’m dragging a parachute behind me, then I am happy.

Power Meter/Computer: PowerTap — I actually use a really old wired one. But, I’m fine with that. I don’t want to be on Strava. I don’t care if my computer syncs with Bluetooth. I don’t want to put maps on it. All I want is the four things I want to know (HR, power, cadence, distance/time — ok, I guess that’s five). Sometimes, I use Steve’s Garmin head unit with his wireless PowerTap and it’s nice. You can do a lot more stuff with it. Clearly, I take full advantage of that.

Shoes: Shimano WT51 Tri Shoes — I was given these, but they’re great. I haven’t changed shoes in five years, though that may also be because I’m lazy.

Helmet: Giro Atmos (usually) and S-Works Evade (for races) — The Atmos is great, except for the small problem that it leaves two dents in my forehead. So, you know, whatever. And, I’ve been wearing the Evade for races, which I actually like a lot more than my old Giro TT helmet. It’s comfortable and airy, but still aero.

Clothes: Whatever team ones people give me for free, though you probably want to buy this jacket and these booties. And, don’t wear cycling shorts with really tight elastic bands at the bottom. It hurts at the end of the day. #protip


Shorts: Mysterious Nike Shorts — So, I love the Nike shorts I am wearing in these photos. But, you can’t find them anywhere anymore. They’re not quite the classic Nike Tempo shorts — slightly different cut and wider waistband — and I bought them for $8 at the Nike outlet store, so this may just be one of those mysteries that is never solved. We all know I have massive problems with shorts and I go through a lot of them, so I can attest that the mysterious Nike ones are the best. But, in a pinch, the classic Nike Tempos are ok and the new Nike Rival shorts are my second favorite. Oiselle’s Roga shorts are also fine, but tend to make my thighs look even more massive than usual.

Shirts: Under Armour Cotton T-Shirt — I’m currently on a plain workout shirt kick and these are my favorite. (Also, see Gap tank tops and long sleeve shirts.) They’re comfortable and no one asks you questions about the races on the front. Also, you can wear them with fancy yoga pants and go to a meeting before the gym. Lazy efficiency is a theme for me.

Jacket: Brooks Nightlife Essential Run Jacket — I don’t wear jackets to run in much, but sometimes I just wear this one to look cool.

Tights: Fabletics — I was surprised, because it’s a total grab bag scammy coupon thing, but the Cala Capri tights I got from Fabletics are excellent.

Sports Bra: Target Champion Seamless or Nike Pro Classic — I live in Target sports bras. They’re cheap; they come in lots of colors; and they’re comfortable. Lately, though, I’ve splurged a bit on the solid Nike sports bras, for when you want to run in just a sports bra.

Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 4 — I’ve been wearing lots of different shoes for the last two years, since the bone spur in my foot got all messed up. Most of them were decent, but when I needed to buy new shoes last month I decided to go back to the last shoes I was told actually fit my stride/foot/etc. It’s amazing how much better they feel. I still mix it up some and the Brooks PureFlow 2 are pretty good, and I always wear my Nike Frees for gym work (though I have an old model and I don’t really like the new ones that much).

Watch: Garmin 405 — This is the first GPS watch I’ve had and it’s fine. But, I broke the band early on and now it pops open almost all the time. It’s also almost three years old and can barely talk to satellites anymore — I guess they all learned new languages. So, I’ll probably be getting a new one, or just keep wearing my basic Timex and making up the other data.

Water Bottle: Amphipod Hydroform Handheld — I don’t usually carry anything on a run that I can’t stick in my sports bra. But, for long trail runs you kind of need some water/nutrition/pocket. I’ve tried running with vests and backpacks, but they always chafe. This is a light, easy handheld that you don’t even notice much.


(This is seriously pretty much all I eat for workouts, plus sometimes cookies.)

Vanilla Powerbar Gels — Because they taste like frosting and have a liquid enough consistency you don’t gag. I only eat vanilla and some of the fruit flavors. Rarely caffeinated.

Clif Bars and Chocolate Chip Clif Z-Bars — I’m basically just eating Chocolate Chip Mint Clif bars right now. For the longest time I exclusively ate Clif bars. Only the chocolate-chip, peanut butter, and blueberry crisp flavors. I’ve since expanded my arsenal to include the mint chocolate-chip and, in an emergency, white macadamia nut or double-chocolate. I’ll also eat Powerbar harvest bars and those double-crunch ones now, but I still primarily stick with Clif bars, Clif Z-Bars (soooooooo gooood) and Clif Builder bars (mint chocolate only). Why? Because they taste good and are not gross. Duh.

Clif Margarita Shot Blocks — I used to only eat Gu Chomps, but they stick in my teeth and tend to get really hard when it’s cold out. (Apparently, they’re all made at the same facility in Southern California, so the difference may just be in my head.)

Gu20, which they now call Gu Brew, or Gatorade — That’s pretty much it. Definitely will not drink Hammer or Heed.


In general, I also can’t say enough good things about KitKat Minis and Bud Light Platinum (the official beer of Sunny Running). For burritos, it’s all about Sonoma Taco Shop‘s super steak without sour cream. For sushi, I don’t think you can beat Sushi 69. And, for a nice cut of meat at a good restaurant I pretty much exclusively frequent Bel Campo. And, I think we all know that if I had my choice I would eat nothing but guacamole, Sabre pine nut hummus, and homemade chocolate-chip cookies.

So there are my recommendations for practically everything. I have more opinions of course, but this seemed like enough.

What stuff do you use? Is there anything I’ve missed?

I have this plan, see. My plan is to put in big training over the break, take advantage of the Marin riding and trails — we are, after all, the new secret trail running hotbed of the country — and then go into the very busy spring semester with a solid base, so that I can cut back on my volume and focus just on the intensity to prep for the L.A. Marathon and USAT Collegiate Nationals.

This is a super awesome plan. But, one of the key parts of the plan is not to overdo it too quickly this month, or the whole thing will be shot.


Steve wanted to run at Phoenix Lake before going to Nate’s Strength Class, but I wanted to run longer, so it seemed logical that I could run over our hill and meet him at Phoenix. However. I vastly underestimated how long it would take me to run there. It’s been a long time since I’ve done it and I thought it’d take about 35 to 40 minutes. About 15 minutes in, I realized it was going to take much, much longer. There’s nothing quite like running full speed down the street, cutting through downtown San Anselmo and dodging holiday shoppers. When I caught my breath after coming across the Ross Bridge, I did four more miles around the lake at ‘Steve speed.’

Then, we went to the strength class. Shockingly, I was kind of tired after all this.


Biked about 20 miles through China Camp just easy, just to get moving.

Some yoga and rolling. So tired.


I was not ready for a hard workout, but The Storm was coming, so what are you going to do. Ran about eight miles with four x [four minutes at “goal” 10K pace (6:20) – one minute rest – 30 second hill sprint]. I did the whole thing with two to two-and-a-half minutes rest between intervals, but when I got home I realized it was supposed to be three minutes rest. So. There.

Swam 2,200 moderately easy in the evening.


NOTHING WAS OPEN. Because #hellastorm. Did about 20 minutes of yoga and light core work.


Ran the four mile hilly trail loop from my house, followed by drills. I messed up my hamstring at some point this week and was doing a weird gimp run. Not good.

Swam 3,000-ish yards at the YMCA. Why “ish?” Because the Y is ridiculous.


Biked the Alpine Dam loop. It’s one of the best Marin bike routes, even though there’s a decent amount of stopping as you come and go through town, which I typically try to avoid. It was even better on Saturday, though, because Ridgecrest Road (where plenty of commercials are filmed due to the awesome-ness of the road) was closed to cars thanks to #hellastorm. Even the gate at Pantoll, where it connects to Highway 1, was closed. People were picnicking, hiking down the middle of the road, enjoying the emptiness. It was fantastic.


Christmas Relays.

I ran the 4.55 miles in 28:58. That’s pretty much the fastest I’ve done it — maybe I did it a few seconds faster two years ago. But, last time, I felt great. I was just rolling on people and enjoying myself. This time, I felt miserable and my messed up hamstring was sharply painful. I wanted to quit, but that’s hard to do in a relay. So, I slowed down and then hung on. And, then, oh look, I guess I didn’t run that slow after all. Not too bad.

TOTAL: 12:00

Look at that. I’m coming along. The Plan is working.

The Christmas Relays are miserable. Everyone knows it. And, yet, everyone still does them every year. I raced the relays again this past weekend, for probably the fourth or fifth time.

It’s hard to explain why it’s so miserable. It’s supposed to be a fun holiday relay race, but there’s something about it that’s slow and long and uphill both ways and it’s mid-December, so everyone’s out of shape in mid-December. It just hurts. Steve did the race for the first time this year — we did it with another couple — and I tried to explain why it sucks. “It’s only 4.5 miles,” he asked, “What’s so bad about that?” Yeah, but it’s a mysteriously slow, terrible 4.55 miles.

After he finished, he basically had to admit that it is mysteriously awful.

Still. It’s the only $18 race where the field will be evenly split between people in costume and Olympic hopefuls. It’s a classic. You have to do it at least once.


The Expo and Goodies

This is a running race classic. That means you better not expect the same kind of scene as at the super-fancy big marathons. There was a brunch truck this year that you could buy food from. And, there are always a few Gatorade containers with water in them. The big new perk in 2014 was the beer tent: everyone got two free beers from 21st Amendment. (I even got three. Don’t ask.) And, they were good beers. Since you have all this time to kill while you wait for the other runners in your relay to finish their 4.55-mile leg, the beer was a nice touch. Who cares that it’s 9:30 a.m.?

The other cool feature is that you can opt to pay less and not get a t-shirt with your entry — which is a nice option if you have too many t-shirts. Winners get mugs.

The Course

The course is what makes the race so miserable. Allegedly, all you have to do is a run a 4.55-mile loop around Lake Merced, but there’s something about that loop that is all uphill.

Actually, it starts out slightly downhill, so you go too fast and blow up. Everyone does. It can not be avoided. Then, it’s all false flat up — just a small enough incline that you don’t notice it; all you notice is that you’re going a lot slower and it’s a lot harder. And, the run is all on sidewalk around the lake, which can get sort of annoying, especially as you dodge dogwalkers and Sunday morning joggers.

The first year I did it, we all wore costumes (see above) and I went out hard — really hard. Within a couple minutes I was overheating and wheezing. Since I was the last runner in our foursome and the field gets really spread out over the full 18 miles, there weren’t many runners around me. I was sprinting down a sidewalk by myself, in a very non-breathable leotard, weaving through walkers, and I looked over at the cars driving down the busy road next to the park and realized that this whole thing must look ridiculous to the drivers.

The Organizational Details

It’s a four-person relay, with each person running one 4.55-mile lap around the lake. Being the Bay Area, there will be lots of disgustingly fast relays. There will be one women’s relay made up of Olympians and future Olympians. Then, there will be another ten women’s relays that all still average under six minute mile pace. Be prepared for this.

Also, be prepared for spending a lot of time hanging out. It’s usually cold and it’s often raining, so two hours standing around in a parking lot may not sound like the most fun idea ever. (This is why the beer tent was such a nice addition this year.) If you go first or second, then you’ll be done and can hang out — extra bonus: if you go first or second, then you’ll probably have more people around you to run with too.

Grade: B-/C+

A Rainy Day

December 11, 2014 — Leave a comment

Since all I’m doing is sitting inside with Tupac the Cat today and trying to finish my coding project.

The storm about to hit the Bay Area, according to the weather people.

The storm about to hit the Bay Area, according to the weather people.


#Stormaggedon is coming. Tomorrow.

Since this is the biggest storm we’ve had in five years — ignoring the fact that we’ve mostly been in a drought for the last two years — people are freaking out a little bit. If it’s as bad as they’re saying, then we could get four to six inches of rain, 20 to 30 mph winds, mudslides, flooding, power outages, and worse. (It is not clear yet what “worse” is.) We’ll probably get some of that, but it’s hard to believe we’ll get all of that as bad as people think, since people seem to think this is The Big One, the one that’s going to wipe us out — and I always sort of felt like The Big One probably wouldn’t come with enough warning for every store in Marin to sell out of sandbags.

But, when the weather gets bad, it can throw training up in the air. Yes, you don’t want to bail at the first sign of a drizzle. And, we’ve all done that, been the person sitting inside arguing with ourselves that ‘I dunno, it looks like it might be cold out.’ But, I’d also argue that athlete-people too frequently try to tough it out, thinking that it’ll toughen them up. It might. Or, it could slowly wear them down and break them.

Besides the last two years, every winter I’ve trained in the Bay Area has involved a lot of riding in the rain. Because of this, I go out of my way to not ride in the rain. I will get enough toughening up on accident or when it can’t be avoided. I do NOT deliberately bike in the rain. When we were at training camp back in the spring and everyone wanted to ride, even though it was raining, I was like, “Nope, sorry, I get rained on too much to ride in the rain in Arizona.” Seriously. No.

While biking in bad weather is incredibly terrible — risks include hypothermia, possible major injury, or death — running isn’t that bad. (I mean it’s not enjoyable, but it’s do-able.) I’ve run in some pretty insane rain. However, that wasn’t always a great idea actually. In retrospect. Sometimes, you really should know when to not be stupid.

Tomorrow, I am trying to not be stupid.

#Stormaggedon has already prompted school closures. (I know. Weird.) The usual flood spots are barricaded, hopefully. People have bought out all the bottled water and flashlight batteries. Most of the gyms are closed for the morning. Social events are cancelled. Everyone is just going to batten down the hatches and sit inside, apparently. Given that, it seemed like a bad idea to get in my hard run in the midst of a mini-hurricane.

That’s why you’ve got to get creative and be flexible with your training sometimes. This is one of the best things about being your own coach. If you trust yourself, then you’re probably the person who knows best what you can and should do.

So, today, I did my hard run workout, even though my legs weren’t exactly ready for a hard run after massively underestimating on Monday how long it would take me to run to meet Steve and having to go full-out for 20 minutes to make it. But, I had to do the hard run today, so oh well.

The only problem is I was going to swim tomorrow (since I’d already be wet), but now all the pools are closed — even the indoor ones. Guess I’ll take it easy tomorrow with some yoga at home, wait and see if it stops raining by Friday to ride, and figure it all out as I go.

Here’s what I do when I’m trying to figure out my training in bad weather:

  • Evaluate how bad it really is.
  • Do not start a ride in actual rain, if it can not be avoided.
  • Re-arrange your schedule as best as possible to get your rides in before or after the storming.
  • Stop being so rigid. Good rule for life too.
  • Try not to do hard workouts in crazy weather; it’s just not going to go well.
  • Know that any workouts in the rain or snow or a storm are going to take more out of you. It simply is more stressful.
  • Dress appropriately. That especially means gloves. (I know, duh. But, some of the worst rides I’ve ever had were because I was stupidly under-dressed and refused to go back for more clothes.)
  • If things get bad bad — like you need to help with flood control, pitch in at neighbors’ house, or clean up the streets — then do that! Training is still just training.

Do you train in the crazy bad weather?

Training Week 5: Dec. 1-7

December 9, 2014 — 6 Comments

This was the last week in Los Angeles before finishing up the semester, so I had a lot of projects due and life. I gave myself a bit of a break on the workout front, then, especially considering that I knew when I got back to the Bay Area I was going to go nuts. Still, I got some solid work in and am ready for five really solid weeks in Marin. The biggest problem is going to be not overdoing it — which I’m already having trouble with.


I messed something up in my neck/shoulder swimming the day before. It meant that I only managed to swim 700 yards before I had to get out. Eh.


Ran on a treadmill, a treadmill. And, I ran a hard workout on the treadmill. This is shocking. The amount I hate treadmills can not be overstated. If I had to run on treadmills regularly, I’d never get off the couch. They are the worst. But, I slept through my planned wake-up in the morning and then it turned out it was pouring anyway. So, the only way to actually get the hard workout I needed in was to do it on a treadmill. You do what you got to do. Ran six miles with 30 minutes as [10 minutes at 6:55, 10 minutes at 7:15, 10 minutes at 6:55]. It was hard and I was dripping sweat. But, done.


Strength work at the USC gym: TRX, box jumps, some deadlifts, and basic physical therapy.

Swam about 3,800 yards with The Kids. We did a 3,200 yard workout of 200s and 100s at steady state. Then, we did silly relays.


After failing to get my bike to work, I decided to just do my easy run instead. Ran 5 miles slow, with drills and strides. Followed up by some basic yoga moves.


Rode the 11-12 miles to school (and then again back from school). Did not swim.

Did run the Beer Mile later in the day with The Kids. That totally counts as a workout, even though it didn’t so much work out my legs as much as other things.


Rode about 45 miles with Justin, partially up Mt. Baldy. It was a pretty solid ride with him and another one of the kids.



TOTAL: 9:40

My plan is to put in a month of solid, big base before heading back to school (with a very full schedule) in early January. Then, I’ll just be focused on more speed and building anyway, so this is totally, 100 percent going to work out. Really.

Somehow, recently, I slipped back into training ‘for serious.’ I’m still sort of messing around, but my fitness is coming back so nicely (and I have a month now to build up a big base), that it’s hard not to imagine what could happen if I had a whole year without any major injuries, accidents, or other disasters.

But, the difference between serious and not serious is so thin. It’s all in your head.

The other day I had one of those one-thing-after-another afternoons that used to happen all the time when I was training a lot. Because when you’re training a lot, there’s always something that doesn’t work right, so there’s going to be a lot of ‘When You Give a Mouse a Cookie’ days. Thursday, I needed to change the tires on my bike, but it was really hard to get one of the new tires on and I cut my hand. Blood and grease everywhere. Then, I finally got them on and couldn’t get the wheel to fit into the bike. So, I let some brake cable out to loosen the brakes, but it still wouldn’t fit. Finally, after lots of finagling and yelling, I decided the tire must be too thick for the frame. Took it off, put the old tire back on, re-aligned the brakes. And, by then, it was too late to go for a ride. (I also dropped a drawer on my foot, and tripped and fell into a door frame during all this.)

This would never have happened when I didn’t give a shit. I would have just given up much earlier in the process. That’s one of the major differences between serious training and just working out. These are some of the other things I do distinctly differently when I’m serious:

  • Actual workouts on the treadmill
  • Rain riding
  • Bothering to make sure my equipment works
  • Writing schedules
  • Swimming

Things I have not yet started to do, but will mark when I am really serious:

  • Stop eating all the desserts

Workouts can be convenient, social, or good for your training. Never all three. Pick two.

Something Steve always tells me. And, it’s true. Tonight, I went to swim practice with The Kids, because it was on campus and I was on campus, and we did silly relays for 45 minutes at the end. It was convenient and fun, but ideal training? Yesterday, I ran my hard tempo workout on a treadmill because it was convenient (ugh, rain) and important for my training, but it was incredibly not fun. And, when Justin will ride with me or Ilyce will do hard runs with me, I’m totally willing to drive to get a good workout in. Always two of the three.

This past week was pretty close to as ideal as I could get it. The only thing I could have not screwed up better is if I actually swam more. I’m building my volume back up and easing in to bigger training. I got out on Marin trails and a few Marin rides, without too much rain. Now I just need to make sure I don’t overdo it too quickly.


Swam 2,000 yards easy with some drills and band swimming. (It was supposed to be more, but it wasn’t.)


Ran about two-and-a-half miles with drills and strides. A series of unfortunate circumstances stopped me from swimming — which is such a shame — so I just did light core and physical therapy instead.


Biked about 28 miles out to Nicasio and back on the time trial bike, just because I was so excited to be back in Marin.


Turkey Trot!


Biked the 63-mile Marshall Loop with Steve. This ride used to take me well over four hours. I’d call it a four-hour ride, but it was always closer to 4:30. This is the second time I’ve ridden it with Steve in under 3:50. Good times.


RAIN! I am not working out in the heavy rain yet. Also, I was tired.


Swam 3,200 yards at Masters in the rainy morning. People say swimming in the rain isn’t bad, because you’re already wet. These people are wrong. It was also the longest I’ve swum in months. And, the ugliest. It was not an amazing morning.

But, the rain cleared up, so headed out for a trail run at the watershed with Steve and Ilyce and Pete, because Marin. We did a bit under 10 miles in pretty much perfect running weather on pretty much perfect running trails. But, by the end, my legs were dragging and my left Achilles hurt and my neck hurt from swimming and I just wanted to sleep.

TOTAL: 10:35

This is the start of a more building base period — if that makes sense. It makes sense to me.

I’m working on a story about the National Pro Grid League. And, it’s so fascinating. Kind of like if you just invented a sport with your buddies and made it super crazy.