6 Essentials for Marathon Training Dads
Nike+ Coach (free)
Since I rebooted my running career three years ago, I have logged almost every outing with the free Nike+ service. I started with the shoe pod, and have progressed to the Nike+ GPS app on my iPhone ($4.99). 3800 miles later, finally ready for a full marathon, I again turned to Nike+. Using the Coach feature on their website, I was able to access a detailed, customized and completely free training program that I then downloaded to my iCal and took with me everywhere I went. I followed the program religiously, and it helped me meet and surpass my goals. The program ramped my runs, but also included some interesting and challenging interval workouts. The Nike+ system has a reputation for being buggy and even losing data, but it has served me very well over the years. Friend me on the site — I’m DaddyClay there.
Audible Platinum Subscription ($22.95/mo)
When I run, I read, thanks to my subscription to Audible. For my monthly fee, I get two digital downloads of anything in Audible’s extensive catalog (1 per month is cheaper, but I needed 2 to cover marathon training miles). I’ve tried literary fiction, and non-fiction, science fiction, history, historical fiction, but my favorite running companion (and guilty pleasure) — thrillers and Noir-ish police procedurals. I actually awoke some mornings at 5am enthusiastically, anticipating the next few chapters of my book. For a busy dad, this is a twofer — reading and exercise. Music might have helped my split times, but the narrative got me out of bed in the mornings. (You can follow everything I’m reading over at Goodreads or on Facebook.) The audiobooks integrate seamlessly into the Nike+ app.
BRD Braces ($69.99-149.99)
I could not have returned from injuring my knee to train for and complete a marathon without these braces. Truly indispensable for me. These are not phenomenally expensive custom fitted things, yet with the cloth sleeve, it feels that way. I started out with a hinged G36 model, but as my knee got stronger (see TRX below) I was able to graduate to the G18. I ran the full 26.2 in that lighter brace and never felt the slightest discomfort, nor did I have to readjust the brace during my run — pretty amazing given my past experiences with other braces. I also now own their achilles brace, and I love that, too.
New Balance NBx Windblocker Gear ($89 each)
Although the weather in Austin is generally mild, marathon training season is the dead of winter and we get more than our share of cold and rainy mornings that test the resolve of even the most dedicated runner. Nothing that Austin could dish up could even seriously challenge New Balance NBx Windblocker half-zip top and tights. I was insulated from cold, wind and rain. During my training I traveled to colder climes and wondered if winter in Chicago, Detroit and Seattle might be capable of biting through the gear. My runs in these cities were fantastic — scenic and toasty warm. I appreciated the ergonomic fit and stink blocking of the NASA tech fabric that spared me from washing the gear after every run, cutting down on wear and tear. (One note: my 10-year-old daughter is not a fan of the tights. She nearly disowned me when I wore them to drive carpool one morning. Complete tween mortification.)
I have a Nathan hydration belt with a couple of bottles attached and a pocket big enough to stow the iPhone that I run with on an almost daily basis, but it’s too bulky for race day. For that I love my Spibelt. It’s simple and flexible — capable of just holding a gel and keys, or expanding to hold a phone and more. I really like being able to attach my number to the belt rather than to my shirt (race number “toggles” are an additional $2). It’s a simple thing, but now I consider it an essential. Also an Austin biz — which I love to support.
TRX Suspension Trainer (Pro Kit $199.95)
I am pretty convinced that, for guys my age (45), strength training is as important as road miles in training for longer races. Older runners have to develop core and lower body strength to avoid injury, simple as that. I’ve never been a fan of pumping macho iron in the gym, that’s one of the reasons I was really attracted to the TRX. These simple straps can be used creatively to work every major muscle group and to improve your balance and mobility. I travel with it. With the included door stop you can use it anywhere. I first started working on the TRX with a trainer, but there are tons of free workouts and info on the TRX site. I know a couple of hundred bucks seems pricey for a few yards of nylon webbing and a coupe of handles, but compare to most home gyms, a club membership of a personal trainer, this system is a bargain.
Disclosure: New Balance was a sponsor of Team DadLabs and provided us with a bunch of really amazing, cool gear free of charge.