Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review: The Summit Seeker, by Vanessa Runs

summitseeker

Vanessa Rodriguez doesn’t look like your typical 100-mile ultra marathon runner. She isn’t wiry-thin and excitable. She is quiet and diminutive, with dark Central-American skin, muscular legs and black hair that falls lazily into several small, still-kinky dreadlocks. Sometimes she runs 100 miles in a week, sometimes maybe twelve, and sometimes she walks her dog Ginger or does yoga instead. She doesn’t use training plans. She doesn’t monitor her heart rate or record her running splits. Vanessa does not run with the front of the pack. Often, she doesn’t even know for sure how far she ran or how long it took her to finish. For these and many other reasons, Vanessa is not only a dear friend of mine, she is also my favorite ultra runner of all time.

The Summit Seeker is a story about this incredible runner. It is comprised of several snippets that, when bound together, open a wide window on the life, love, pain, joy, grit and heart of this woman who has grown from a lonely, introverted child into an inspiration for all those who cross her path. Its title is derived from the nickname she has given to the home she now shares with her boyfriend Shacky, a punchy little Rialta RV. It is also a rather tidy definition of Vanessa’s mantra for life: always seeking the highest point, always looking up and traveling toward a better, wider and more beautiful view on things from above. A view that one can only enjoy after overcoming the most difficult of climbs.

The best thing about this book is that it is so frank in its storytelling, so raw in its honesty that you will undoubtedly find yourself somewhere in its pages. Maybe it’s the neglected grade school aged girl charged with feeding and caring for her younger siblings, or the young woman whose first months living on her own found her lost in an unexpectedly stifling marriage. You might see yourself running all the many miles it took her to gain enough distance from her own inner darkness so that she could finally see the light of change. The story of The Summit Seeker is in all of us, and that is why it will inspire you, challenge you and perhaps even change you, as much as it did for me.

You don’t have to be an ultra runner, or even a runner at all, to gain something from Vanessa’s story. But who knows? You might just want to become one when you’re done reading.

The Summit Seeker by Vanessa Rodriguez is currently available from Amazon.com in several formats: Paperback Edition Kindle Edition, for Kindle/Kindle App or Smashwords version for Nook and other eReaders. You can also request a digital signed copy from Authorgraph.com.

What are you waiting for? Pick up your copy today and help support Vanessa Runs as she takes on her next adventure!

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Review: Your New Favorite Running Accessories

Running bloggers write a lot of reviews on running shoes. I do too. Trail shoes, road shoes, minimalist shoes, sandals, et cetera. Shoes are great tools for running, but shoes are just one of the tools in the toolbox.

So I thought I’d do a little compilation review to show my appreciation for some of the more useful non-shoe running items that I’ve come across recently. I’d like to do one of these reviews every so often, because I’m always looking to discover great new running gear.

Injinji Performance Toe Socks

Injinjis aren’t news for most minimalist runners; I’ve been wearing them for years now (when, that is, I wear socks running). But I’ve always bought the same kind, the regular performance micro-crew sock. I have about seven pairs (all permanently trail-stained, might I add). Recently I noticed on their site that they have a few newer styles that I hadn’t seen before, so I snagged a few samples. My favorite of them were the Performance Mid-weight No-Show sock, and the Performance Ultra-thin Lightweight No-Show sock.

The mid-weight sock was interesting because it’s kind of a wonder of design. To be honest, I’ve never really paid much attention to how socks are made until I had to review these. They seem to be made of different materials at once: a super-stretchy top and slightly cushy at the bottom. The slight thickness of the material is very useful if you get hot feet like me. These guys soak up sweat like a pro, and I like to wear mine on long runs. I dig the no-show tops too, they are actually no-show, as opposed to the other socks I’ve bought in this style that end up being way too long and are more like “extra-show.” The sizing is always pretty good for me with Injinji.

The lightweight sock was also great (mine were black so I couldn’t get them to photograph well – thus the stock image above), it was very, very thin so it fit comfortably with my most snug-fitting shoes, unlike the mid-weight pair. Some have said the really lightweight socks get damp too quickly and allow blisters to form, but I didn’t seem to have that problem. If you’re a chronic sock-wearer, they are a great option on a hot day.

So if you’re a distance runner and you’ve never tried Injinji toe socks (I’m thinking of a few friends of mine), I suggest you try them. Having a sock with toe pockets to buffer every surface of skin on your feet is an excellent way to keep away blistering for a long time. Also you never have to worry about your socks twisting inside your shoe, or that annoying seem-on-the-toe issue that always bothered me about wearing traditional socks.

AYG All Year Gear – Women’s Brief and Crewneck

If you’re a reader of Jason Robillard’s running blog, you may have read his thoughts on thermo-regulation and moisture-wicking fabrics. I did too, and it really got me thinking about the role that fabrics play in my running here in SoCal. I hail from a very humid, cool climate where overheating and dehydration is almost a non-issue throughout most of the year. But here, I can’t do things like wear two layers of t-shirt or don any kind of heavy wicking fabric.

I was impressed by the samples I got from this company called All Year Gear (AYG). They specialize in performance underwear for women and men, out of this exceptionally-stretchy, mostly cotton fabric (they call it XTRdry cotton), but they offer t-shirts and other items as well. It’s the most amazing fabric. The first time I went running in the briefs and crewneck tee was pretty hot and dry outside. I came back with a damp shirt. And this is an excellent thing because when the fabric is slightly damp, it’s cooling me off. Most moisture-wicking shirts pull moisture away from your skin and dry immediately, which is excellent in a humid climate but can help you to overheat in a dry one, because sweat is your body’s only cooling mechanism.

Why not just wear cotton then, you ask? Well, I don’t like how cotton feels when I’m running. I find it absorbs too much moisture, gets heavy and feels sort of gross. The AYG cotton is much lighter than your typical t-shirt cotton, and the stretch in the fabric ensures that it’ll keep its shape after miles of sweaty running.

As for the undies (there will be no live photos of those, thanks), I don’t typically wear underwear when I’m running. I don’t like the extra layer. But there are a couple of down sides to going commando, one of them is having to wash your bottoms between each use. That can get annoying and seem wasteful over time, so I like that I have the option of wearing these bikini briefs to stretch out the wears of my favorite running clothes. And the fabric is lightweight enough to not feel like much of an extra layer.

Buff Headwear

I love Buffs! I only wish I discovered them earlier than this. My friend Vanessa wears these things all the time, and I recently inquired as to where she got them. When I looked into the company I loved the whole idea. Way more than just a sweatband, the Buff is an ingenius, multi-use fat band of fabric (they make them in everything from lightweight stretchy cotton to Polartec fleece) that can be worn in dozens of different ways.

I like to wear my Buff as a wide headband for running and for whenever (i.e. lazy bad-hair day). I have a small head so I have a lot of trouble finding a headband that won’t slide off in five minutes. The Buff has a lot of fabric so it doesn’t move around much, especially if I wear it with pigtails – then it won’t move at all. I absolutely hate the idea of wearing a hat while running, so the Buff is a good alternative for keeping the sun off my head (especially my part, which is particularly prone to sunburn), and for keeping sweat out of my eyes. I also find it works well when there’s a bite of cold in the air – I slide the Buff down over my ears a bit and it’s pretty toasty warm.

You can wear your buff like I do or you can wear it in dozens of different ways. Check out this video on their site where they show you how to wear it like a scarf, a beeny hat, and various other fashions.

Here is one way you should not wear your buff:

This is my friend Shacky. He didn’t get the memo.

That’s what I have for now…as always, thanks for reading! Hope this helps you discover something new for your running toolbox. Do you have a favorite non-shoe running accessory that totally rocks? I’d love to hear about it.

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