Friday, July 31, 2009

Official Race Results :-D

I just checked the official race results for the 5K on the 25th: My time was 26:28. That's 9 seconds better than my previous best! I had promised myself that when I broke my PR, I'd buy myself something like a CD or DVD that I've been wanting, as a little reward, so I'll have to put some thought into what I'm going to get!

Some thoughts about "Born to Run"

I first came across Christopher McDougall's Born to Run on the blog, View from the Park. I thought it looked interesting, so I checked to see if we had it at the library. We didn't, so I set the thought aside and forgot about the book until the next day, when I saw the order of new non-fiction books - with Born to Run on it. I placed my hold on it and had it in hand about a week later.

I didn't actually have very high expectations of the book. I thought it would be kind of technical and boring, but that perception changed with the very first pages describing a search for a loner in the middle of Mexico's Sierra Madre who would be the secret to finding information about the Tarahumara Indians, who call themselves the Raramuri: The Running People.

There seemed to be a lot of mystery about it all: The Tarhumara, who possess seemingly superhuman running abilities, wish to insulate themselves from outsiders, and the loner, who calls himself Caballo Blanco, is similarly almost impossible to find. But there isn't that much mystery when you come down to it: These people run and enjoy it. They use the human's body's natural abilities to their fullest and don't care about medals or Nike deals or losing weight. And although they race, the competition of racing against each other does not stand in the way of the enjoyment of running together.

The book follows the author as he helps Caballo organize a 50-mile race between the Tarahumara and the U.S.'s greatest ultra-runners. Almost every other chapter is a side note giving background information about past races, scientific studies, and personal training. It goes so many places with these chapters but is remarkably on track throughout. While reading, I would get interested in barefoot running, look it up on the internet, try it out myself, discover Vibram Five-Finger shoes, and then a few days later read about Barefoot Ted in the book and see that he wore Vibram Five Fingers himself. Ot I'd start doing Google searches for running biomechanics and man's evolutionary history and then a week later come to that chapter in the book, reading about the same scientists whose articles I had seen online. It was great to see it all brought together in one book with a story to tie it all up.

At times I felt as if the characters' quirks were overemphasized. Barefoot Ted and the "surfer kids" seemed like charicatures more than people, as if the author took over with a bit too much storytelling with them, although I grant that these ultrarunners are probably a unique brand of people who are more quirky than your average Joe. In any case, his own story of going from not being able to jog without extreme footpain and being told "The human body just isn't made for running" to completing a 50-mile race in a brutally hot environment with the greatest runners in the world is nothing short of inspiring. I think it did so much to my perception of what I am capable of. As I read this book, my long runs kept getting longer and longer. And I focused more on enjoying running. My last 5K was done for fun, without the need to achieve a certain time, and I ended up enjoying it more than any other race I've ever run, AND I beat my PR by 7 or 8 seconds. That says a lot.

If you like to run, I'd definitely recommend this book. That's coming from me as a librarian and a runner.

As for my running lately, I took two days off after Monday's long run. I waited until late after work yesterday to do what I wanted to be 4.5 miles, but I ended up cutting it down to 3.5 miles because I wasn't feeling well. I was feeling so rotten that if I had my cell phone, I probbaly would have called home and asked for someone to come and pick me up. I was actually contemplating what I would do if I couldn't make it home in time. Did I know anyone on that road well enough to ask to use their bathroom? Luckily I didn't have to. When I really didn't think that I could go further without being sick, I stopped running and walked for 3 or 4 minutes. When the cramps and all related GI goblins mysteriously vanished, I started running again - stronger and faster than before. It wasn't a very good run, but I should be clear of these types of problems for the 5K race next Thursday. Today I might go for an easy 5 miles on the road. tells me that the humidity is 92%, so it might not be a very comfortable run, but Ill probably give it a try if my tummy doesn't bother me too much.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

9-mile long run

Distance: 9.2
Pace: 11:34

After my 8-miler, I couldn't wait to go for another long run, so I scheduled it for Monday after work. I probably should have waited a little though. I was tired and slightly stiff from the moment I woke up. I felt great after Saturday's race and jogged around the block on Sunday to loosen up, but I probably could have used more rest. Instead, I ran farther than I'd ever run before: 9 miles. I packed more Gatorade and ice than usual, since it was very hot and humid. I warmed up quickly on the trail instead of thoroughly at home, which may have been a mistake, but I was trying to save time so I wouldn't be stuck on the trail after sunset. I started out feeling pretty good. I passed a few cyclists and walkers who were also out enjoying the day, and I didn't worry too much about getting attacked by wild animals. That is, until a big, dark shape emerged from the path that ran down to the river. My first thought was "Bear!". When it registered that it was smaller than a bear and more dog-like, I thought "Coyote!". When I registered that it really was a dog -- a friendly domestic dog -- I was relieved. The owner said hello, and I made my way on another mile and a half to the turnaround point. I didn't actually know where the turnaround point was, but I had a general idea. When I map my runs on G-maps Pedometer, it's hard to find a landmark amongst lots of trees, so I had to try and look at the way the river and trail curved. Next time I'll run to the next road crossing, which is about 10 miles.
By the time I reached that half-way point, I felt good, although I kept the pace very slow. I was amazed at how far I had gone. When I reached the 6.2 mile mark, I remembered the first time I had run that distance, and how at that time I didn't think I could go any farther. This time, I felt great even though I still had 3 more miles to go. By the waterfall, there's a little hill along the trail that I like to take, and when I did, I was halfway up when I noticed that it was easy. I felt strong and fast without even consciously trying. I was pretty pleased with myself and kept going.
At mile 7, I was starting to feel tired. In fact, my right knee was hurting, so I took a short walk break. By mile 7.5, a muscle on the outside of my thigh/somewhere on my hip also hurt, and I took another walk break. By mile 8, I was afraid that I had made a mistake by not resting an extra day. Finally, when I had a half mile left to go, I lengthened my stride and quickened the pace. The change in stride was shocking. I hadn't realized that for several miles I had only really been shuffling along. The longer, faster strides used totally different muscles, and I instantly felt better. The twinge in my knee was gone, and I didn't even know where the pain had been in the thigh/hip region. It seemed as if my form was much better, because everything felt more powerful and flowed. I figured that I'd burn out quickly at that pace, but I told myself that I would keep it up as long as I could. I surprised myself to see that my breathing was easy - no hard wheezing or heavy gasps or anything. And my legs didn't tire. My feet were sore in places, so I didn't beat them up at the end with a sprint, but I think I could have pulled it off if I needed to. I felt that good. The change after what I had been feeling just 2 or 3 miles earlier was amazing. I went from feeling like a ticking time bomb for an injury to a fast, strong athlete. It just goes to show I'll have to be much more conscious of form in the future.

Ever on

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Woohoo! New PR!!

Distance: 5K
Time: 26:29 or 26:30
Pace: 8:31

Did I say that I wasn't going for a PR during Saturday's race? Wasn't I unsure if the race would even be timed? I am so excited because I ran it, enjoyed it, didn't expect anything out of it, and ended up breaking my personal record by 7 or 8 seconds! I honestly was shocked, and you know what? It was the most fun I've ever had in a race. I felt good and just enjoyed it, and I guess that's the big secret.

On Friday night, my dedicated support staff and I scouted out the course. The starting line was at the base of a steep hill, which I thought did not bode well for the rest of the course. It turned out to be the worst hill, but not the only one. Once it peaked, the road sloped down, tuned into the center of town, and then up another hill to make a loop around some back roads. It then headed down the hill, back into town, and down a gradual slope to the turnaround point. After turning around, it was back up that slope, then it turned onto Fox Hill Road (note "Hill" in the name) and off that road about a quarter or half mile toward the finish line. I saw all of those hills and decided that if I was going to treat this like a fun run, I would not be attacking those hills with any kind of intensity. So I didn't. When the race started, a wave of runners surged past me up the initial hill, and I took my sweet old time. I let myself pick up speed on the descents, but I did not push myself to any real discomfort. I ran, smiled, and sometimes just closed my eyes and felt the motions. When I got to the turnaround point, I knew that I had an uphill slope almost the entire way back, so I walked through the water stop there to catch my breath. There weren't any mile markers, so I couldn't figure out my pacing, but I guessed that I would probably finish about 2 minutes slower than I usually do. When I began running after the brief walk break, I looked ahead at the people I had let pass and saw that they weren't that far ahead of me. It wouldn't take too much to catch up with some of them. I went easy on the way back up the slope but kept those people within sight, and I was neck and neck with one of them by the time we turned off of Fox Hill Road. I passed her and knew that I was close to the end and had enough energy left to push hard. I looked at my watch and saw that my time was something after 24 minutes. I might even be able to break the PR! I picked up the pace and looked ahead at how I would maneuver around the other runners. I passed several and came out to an open section where I was pretty isolated. Up ahead, the local school mascot was dancing around pointing at the finish line. I picked up the speed some more over a little incline and gave the mascot a big thumbs up, and then I let out the kick. I sprinted to the finish knowing that I was going to pass everyone in front of me and that finally, after 7 months of trying, I was going to break that PR. I had a little competition from one woman who started sprinting with me, but I knew I had enough power to push faster than her. (I do hope that isn't rude, but it just wouldn't feel right for me if I didn't surge like that at the end.) I crossed the finish line first and made my way through the chute. After a few seconds, I remembered to stop my watch, which read 26:32. Even that was ahead of my best time!

I handed in the tear-off slip from my race number and had another shock: when I asked where the water was, a volunteer said "We ran out." I was gasping for breath wanting nothing more than to drink some nice, cold, wet water, but there was nothing. I walked around thinking that maybe there was more water somewhere else. Nothing. Then, my beloved support staff emerged from the crowd with my Gatorade. (I know you're reading this, so, for the hundredth time, thank you soooo much -- not just for the Gatorade -- for coming to all of the races and being there for me! I don't expect it of you, but I do appreciate it so much.)

Unfortunately, there were no official times posted. We waited around for over an hour until the awards ceremony, but there were still no times for anyone except the winners, and I haven't been able to find anything posted online. So it was either 26:29 or 26:30. Either way, it was a really great run. I'm still excited about it!
*Edit: The official time was 26:28

Friday, July 17, 2009

Interesting runs this past week

This week was pretty unusual. It started off last Sunday kayaking instead of running, which was a lot of fun. I was kind of itching to run, but I couldn't fit it into the day. The paddling actually was a tough workout, and after three hours of it, I was in no shape to run. We had a great time, though. I'll have to do it again soon and take the support staff with me.

The next day I thought that I would do a few miles on the road and chose a 4.5-mile hilly loop. I was pretty disappointed because I was a lot slower than I had thought I would be. It was more of an effort than I was expecting, and at the end, my calves were so tight that I had to stop and walk at the 4-mile mark because I thought I would snap something if I didn't.

Tuesday was probably the most interesting of my runs this week. I've been reading all about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons and how they can run extensive distances in nothing but leather sandals, as well as about how running shoes are built for heel striking and how that running form leaves runners susceptible to injury, and I decided to give barefoot running a try. I had tried it on my treadmill a few times over the past few years (yes, at one time it helped me feel more Hobbit-ish), but on Tuesday I ventured barefoot onto the road. My first thought was "ouch". The soles of my feet were tender and I flinched when I stepped onto the asphalt of the driveway, which felt much rougher than I expected it to be. The impact was not as painful as I thought it would be, though. I didn't feel as if I was shocking my feet at all. The grit and stones on the road caused all of the discomfort I felt, so a few times I stepped onto the grass, and that felt wonderful. I could feel the unevenness of the ground under the grass, and I knew that if I had been wearing sneakers, I would risk turning an ankle. My bare feet though, felt like they molded to the contours of the ground. I also felt light and very nimble, as if I should be dribbling a soccer ball back and forth or darting lithely with quick, light steps. When I stepped back onto the road, I was struck by the sound. People usually call running "pounding the pavement" but there was no way you could consider this pounding; rather, it was more like padding. Again, I felt light, as if I was tip-toeing , but I was running. It was really an interesting experience. I don't think that I'm going to do much off-treadmill barefoot running, but I am seriously considering buying minimalist shoes for running in at least once a week. Vibram Five Fingers are ridiculous looking, so I'm not rushing to get them, but they may be an option if I can't find anything else.

After running barefoot, I was a little sore in places deep within my calves, but I was still up for a hill workout on Wednesday. I decided to do the workout on a hill in my backyard, which is shorter than the hill on the street on which I usually run repeats. It took about 20 repeats to make it to 5 minutes of uphill running, and was pretty tuckered out, but it was a good workout. It was a very different experience running on grass than on pavement.

The next day I jogged easy for a mile on the road, and then Friday was my long run. I love long runs! I never thought I would, but pushing farther forward every week is so confidence-building that I really look forward to completing each one. Friday's run was a hot and sticky 8 miles. I prepared for the more humid weather by keeping a slower pace and putting ice in my Gatorade and covering the bottle with a foam can sleeve to keep it cool longer. (Because everyone knows that there is nothing less thirst-quenching than warm Gatorade.) I was actually pretty comfortable the whole time and was able to pick up the pace at the very end. I won't be running another long one next week, because I have a 5K on Saturday and I don't want to overdo it. I'm also due for a mileage scale-down this week, but I'm looking forward to the following week's long run. As the for 5K next Saturday, I'm not sure if it's a fun run or if it's timed. If it's not timed, I'll bring my stopwatch and enjoy the run. I'll do my best, but I'm not obsessed with breaking the PR for this one. (I'd like to, of course, but it's not my priority with this race.) The one on August 4th is on a course that I'm familiar with, and which is actually where I set my PR the first time, so I'd like to go for the PR there.

I spent all of yesterday at the beach, so I didn't have a chance to go for a run, but today I was home, and the weather was beautiful -- perfect for being outdoors. Instead of running, though, I took the Trek out to the trail for a bike ride. I took my time and really enjoyed the beautiful day. Here's a little sample of what I saw:

This was on one of the bridges crossing the river. On my way down the trail, I actually had to stop and pull my bike over to the edge of the bridge because a horse was coming by -- pulling a cart behind it with two people! It wasn't an old-fashioned buggy, but the premise was the same. The horse looked like it belonged in Central Park driving tourists around. I wanted a picture of the whole set-up, but the horse was trotting quickly, and before I would have been able to get the camera ready, it was gone. It definitely made for an interesting sight, though!

Total miles for week: 17.5 (I'd like to get it consistently between 20 and 25 - almost there!)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A little speedwork

Miles: 3.5
Pace: too fast

I wanted to do some speedwork this afternoon, but instead of going to the track, I decided to do a mile fast on the treadmill and then do a fast timed mile on the road. For whatever reason, I attempted to do this without eating lunch, which obviously wasn't a great idea, so I didn't perform spectacularly well. I had been busy washing my car for most of the morning/early afternoon (it's extra shiny now, in addition to being salt-free), and I just wasn't that hungry, so I drank some fruit juice for quick energy and hopped on the treadmill. The fast mile on the treadmill went fairly well, although not quite as fast as the last time I had run it. Unfortunately, it sapped all of my energy. I sat down and rested as fully as I could before drinking a little more and setting out for the second mile. I started out fast -- as it turns out, much too fast. I thought I was going at a normal pace that felt fast because I was tired; however, I was probably doing a sub 7-minute pace, since after about half a mile I slowed to a shuffle and still managed to finish it in 8:44. It figures that right after I began my shuffle, one of my support staff's friends drove by (which is very unusual, since he lives 45-60 minutes away. I thought that road was in the middle of nowhere, but this is the second time this month that someone I know has randomly passed me while I was running on it...come to think about it, it was at the same spot that the library director passed me...

Anyway, I've learned my lesson and will properly fuel and hydrate before running from now on. I've also decided to wait until the winter to give blood. I've been getting so excited about increasing my mileage that I'd be very disappointed if every day ended up like today: having no energy and being forced to slow down when I know I have it in me to go farther and faster. Instead of giving blood tomorrow morning, I'm going to go kayaking with my dad, which I'm really excited about, since I haven't been out on the lake at all this year.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

To give or not to give: that is the question

Miles: 2.25
Pace: ??
Strength training: Arms and abs

It was a beautiful, low-humidity day, so after dinner I went for a light jog without the stopwatch. No scary animal encounter this time, luckily. When I got back home, I figured that it would be good to do some strength training, so I did a few ab exercises and push ups, as well as bicep, tricep, and shoulder/back exercises with some light weights.

Tomorrow is my rest day, and I'd like to do some speedwork on Saturday. I was going to give blood with my support staff on Sunday, but I just googled "run after giving blood", and it looks as if it will have a major impact on my running, especially if I want to increase my distances. If I give blood on Sunday, I won't be able to replenish the red blood cells in time for August 6th, when I want to try to break my 5K PR. In fact, I'd probably just recover in time for the 10K in September, but I wouldn't be able to train properly ahead of time for it. Now I'm feeling guilty, because I don't want to sacrifice my aerobic capacity, but what if a pint of blood from me could save a life? I guess I'll use my rest day tomorrow to think about it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coyotes and bears, oh my!

Miles: 7
Pace: 10:45?
Total miles: 7.5

I knew when I got up this morning that I wanted to go for a long run. I had to attend a Friends of the Library meeting tonight, so I was working the late shift and had all morning to myself. I decided to run on the trail, although it was a difficult decision for me. My mom told me that she saw a coyote in the backyard at 5:30 PM yesterday. I was kind of freaked out that it was out in the daylight, and I didn't really want to run around my house. Then again, it would probably make more sense to run on the road in a residential area than on a trail in the middle of the woods. But, the sun was strong, and I preferred the idea of running in the shade of the trail, and the surface was softer and flatter, so I went for the trail. As I was debating all of this, it occurred to me that it would be great if I had someone to run with. My usual running buddy (who just ran her first half-marathon on June 20th), is recuperating from a foot injury that she got during her training, and she'll be resting for at least the next month. The thought occurred to me then to start a local running club. I don't know if I will pursue it, but it was a thought. It would be so nice to have a group of people I could call for company (and protection) on a run.

It figures that, once I did get on the trail (at least, a mile and a half down it), what did I come across, but a bear crossing the path. I actually saw two walkers ahead of me stop and pull out their cameras, so I knew something was up, and then I noticed the black shape ambling across the path into the brush on the right. It looked small to me, and I was afraid of coming across its mother, but one of the walkers said that it looked at least a year old and that there probably wasn't a mother taking care of it, so I cautiously continued. It's been a long time since I came across a bear on the trail, and I ended up talking to myself for the rest of the run as a way of announcing myself to any creatures that I might meet.

My bear encounter reminded me of the Eowyn Challenge's Walk to Rivendell: when I first began the Walk, I likened the bears to Black Riders. Black, scary things lurking in the woods... The Walk was also what got me into running longer distances. I would go for long walks on the weekends at college, and after a few miles, my legs would just start itching to go faster and break into a run. I finally got into a schedule where I'd walk a mile and a half to a bike path, run four miles on the path, and then walk a mile and a half back, for a grand total of seven -- which is what I did today.

It's been exciting and confidence-building to run longer and longer distances. The point of the Eowyn Challenge was to break free of the cages imposed on us by weight, health, and/or self-esteem, and my journey has definitely helped me to do that. I never thought that I could run 7 miles without walking, but today I did, and next week I'll go even further. I plan on running in some more 5Ks this year, with the hopes of breaking my PR, and I'm going to sign up for a 10K in September, to try something new. I don't want to get stuck in the mindset that I can't do something.

"What do you fear, lady?" he asked. "A cage," she said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire." -J.R.R Tolkien's Return of the King

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer running

Miles: 3.2
Pace: 10:55

The weather has been warm and dry for a while now, and I'm enjoying it so much! It was perfect beach weather this weekend. I even went boogie-boarding in the ocean for the first time. I had been sitting on the beach under an umbrella reading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run (more about how much I like the book in another post), and the umbrella kept blowing away. I got so frustrated with it that I took it down, and I didn't want to sit and bake in the sun, so I figured that my other option was to get wet. I waded out into the numbing water while my favorite support staff took to the waves with a boogie board. After a while, he asked if I wanted to try, so I did, and I had a great time. I liked being out farther in the water and rolling over the waves, and then being swept along toward the shore with them when they were just right. I'll have to work on my skills for next time, but I definitely enjoyed myself and I am happy that I tried something new.
I went for a run on Friday evening after getting to the shore house and ran a route I had run two years ago, which was about 3.2 miles. I pressed the wrong button on the stopwatch, so I don't have a time for that, but it was a great run because of all of the people I got to see. I seemed to have been out at the universal dog-walking time, so everyone was out and about with their puppies, big and small. One dog was huge and white, and I'm not entirely sure that it wasn't a polar bear. I came back from the run to a full house: more people had arrived for the 4th of July festivities, bringing the total to about 15, and I was introduced to some whom I had never met before. Unfortunately, they will always remember me as the girl who apologized for being sweaty and gross.
On Saturday, the support staff and I went for a bike ride, which was approximately 3.5 miles, although I can hardly consider that a workout. The bike trail I usually ride on is flat, but it seems hardcore in comparison to the level roads by the beach.
We had to come home yesterday - much to my disappointment - although I stocked up on fudge and clam chowder to ease the pain of parting, and I'm enjoying summer at home now, too. Tonight I went for a run on the road before it got too dark, and I found it very peaceful and relaxing. I took a route I've never taken before, and it had a great view over the valley and to the ridge beyond. The route took me by an old dairy farm which still has some cows, horses, and chickens, and the scenery was just perfect. I was a little afraid that I wasn't visible enough to cars, since the road curved in several places and did not have a shoulder, but I made it through safely and feeling very well. Some of he hills were tough, but I feel that they gave enough of a challenge to make it a very good run. I didn't know how far I was running, and it turns out that it was 3.2 miles. I guess that distance is getting to be my standard easy run now. I think that I am becoming acclimated to the weather, and I look forward to doing a lot of summer running this season.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A look back at June, a coincidence, and a new swim suit

Miles: 4.1
Pace: 9:51
Total miles for today: 4.6

I ran today, after having done a short run on Monday and yesterday, partly because I don't think that I'm logging enough miles. I know that mileage goals must be reached gradually in order to prevent injury, so instead of taking days of full rest in between long and/or hard runs, I'll do an easy mile or two. When I get used to that, I can then increase the distance of the long runs. I'm thinking about this because I looked at my June stats and saw that on days when I was supposed to bike, I didn't do anything (mainly because of rainy weather). In fact, I only biked 5 miles during the entire month of June, and almost every week in May and June, I only ran 3 days a week. Rest is good, but I can probably handle more work, and I think I will need to if I ever want to move beyond the plateau I've reached in the 5K.

My run today was a little hot and humid, but the sun wasn't very strong by the time I ran, so it wasn't bad. I wanted to do a distance that was somewhat substantial because I'll be busy this weekend and might not be able to run that much. It turned out to be just over 4 miles and felt a bit easier than yesterday's run. Yesterday's run was a little more interesting, though. I had the late shift at the reference desk, so I ran in the morning, at around 9:30. It was a short, sweet 2-mile jog on the back roads by my house. On my way home, a car passed me, and I thought that it really looked just like the library director's car, although I knew it couldn't be because he lived about a half-hour away and had no reason to be driving around back roads in the middle of nowhere. When I got into work, there was a party being held for him, because he is retiring and yesterday was his last day. I popped into his office to congratulate him and wish him well, and he asked if it was me that he had driven past that morning. He had been driving from one library branch to another to say goodbye and thank you to the staff, and he happened to take a very scenic route to do so. ("Very scenic" meaning "totally out of the way" - I guess you're entitled to that when you're the boss and it's your last day.) I know I was gross and sweaty, and I just I hope I wasn't also flailing my arms around too much or bouncing ridiculously on my toes, as I have been told I used to do. Oh well. It was interesting. I wonder who I'll come across next in my travels...

Speaking of travels, the next place I'll be running is ... the beach! On Friday morning, my support staff and I will be making our annual trek to his friend's shore house for some 4th of July festivities. We'll stay there until Sunday, so I hope to get a run in at some point during the weekend. Luckily I have a new bathing suit to wear this year. I was feeling woefully inadequate in my last bathing suit, since I lost a lot of weight since I bought it, and the top is too big now. (Some people drown in rip currents -- I would have drowned in my tankini.) I stopped at Kohl's on Sunday and was so happy to find one that I feel completely comfortable in. It's somewhat sporty (Nike Swimwear) but also very cute and modest, too.

If I'm feeling confident, I also have a new not-so-modest suit, but the few inches of pudge that won't budge off my belly might prevent me from breaking it out this weekend. I feel so much better about my appearance than I did at this time last year, but I don't know if my confidence is that high yet. I bought the suit, which is a step. I'll be sure to get lots of use out of the Nike one, and hopefully I will get some use out of my Nike sneakers as well!