So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Bag

About two years ago, I wrote an article for the Pensacola Runners Association's newsletter, The Rundown, about clothing needs for road racers, especially during the Gulf Coast's winter months. The article was much a piece of advice as it was a tongue-in-cheek observation of the runners and attire I witnessed during PRA's first race each calendar year, a 5K/10K/half-marathon on Pensacola Beach.

Naturally, the well-worn joke holds true, especially along the Gulf Coast: If you are happy with the weather conditions, chances are good it will worsen. If you are not happy with the weather conditions, chances are good it will worsen.

During the years I've participated in the run, and in the photographic evidence from other years, most participants are dressed for standing on the side of the road and watching a race rather than for running. They didn't consider a human body exerting energy was going to put off a certain amount of heat through either perspiration or water vapor. Those sweatshirts, sweatpants and parkas over the course of 30-to-60 minutes appear very uncomfortable, especially at the last minutes when they weigh more than when they started. Chalk it up to inexperience, I guess.

It also amazed me, especially while watching female runners, how many of them seemed self-conscious about the view from behind. So, I mentioned a few pithy words of counsel in the article, namely: Arm warmers, running skirts, and the concept of "less is more."

As I've "grown up" in running I've begun to think more about what happens after the run as much as during the event. Freeze your behind off in low-20-degree temperatures after a race like 2010's Jackson Day 9K and you'll learn quickly. Comfort and the ability to enjoy the social aspects of running have become as important as performance and comfort on the run.

Our Wednesday evening run group on Pensacola Beach is as much about the socializing after as the run is before. Naturally, after four-to-eight miles in 90-plus-degree weather during the summer can make even the most "cool" runner a little moist on the edges. On the other hand, thermal tights which seem perfect for that chilly winter run in the dark shows a little more curvature than some folks are comfortable with "revealing" during the following social hour (Personally, I'm not all that concerned. If you're worried it's because you're focusing too closely on me.). So, a few seasoned runners, by their example, taught me the benefits of clean, dry clothing and travel-sized personal care items.

Late last autumn, my wife and I began to run and socialize with a group of runners who enjoy running along trails - the term "trail" was expanded to its limits and usually included water of varying quality and depth, and brush of a thickness rarely seen outside of a Humphrey Bogart movie - and drinking beer every couple of weekends. Even the most tame run provides my dog, Rubin, a smorgasbord of scent he never experienced after our long training runs.

At that point, it was high time for me to develop "the bag."

I'm not the first one to think of it, by any means. My coach used to carry a plastic milk crate with a couple of extra towels, a dry pair of shorts and a t-shirt in the back of his SUV, in case we decided to do breakfast after a track workout. My wife often recommended we do something like that in ours, but it always seemed like too much trouble to refresh the "emergency storage." Now, my bag sits in the kitchen near the washer/dryer; the grungy items go from there to the wash, the cleaned, dry items return to the bag from whence they came. I also keep my whistle and a plastic mug in there; I'm never without a way to get a drink after a run. The folks who run trails with me know the whistle's significance.

The late, great running philosopher Dr. George Sheehan alluded to the necessary items for a ditty bag in his seminal work "Running and Being." I like Sheehan's definitive words for "the bag:" Perennial and universal. Since we live in an area of the country where the weather changes on little-to-no notice, it's always good to err on the side of sartorial caution. Besides, you never know when a wardrobe malfunction might require you to have a little "more" coverage than you initially preferred.

Sheehan recommended shoelaces, tape, Vaseline, a handkerchief, clothespins, nail clipper, folding money, nasal spray, antacid tablets, aspirin, a ballpoint pen and paper, ski mask, gloves, turtleneck sweater, extra sugar cubes and a can of soda. I'm in agreement with Sheehan on most of these, but I'd adapt a little here and there...

My bag also includes at least one running hat, visor or baseball cap, (cheap!) sunglasses, a short-sleeved or long-sleeved t-shirt, a pair of shorts or wind pants, two pairs of socks, and a pair of shoes for kicking around or running in, just in case I leave the house without the ones in which I planned to race.

Often, a friend from outside of the area will recommend lunch or another beer, or both, at a dining establishment after the post-race festivities are concluded. So, travel-sized personal care items, such as underarm deodorant, a small towel and liquid soap or shampoo can be carried. If you prefer to go more simple than that, a small container of baby wipes will do the trick.

I guess the operating strategy for "the bag" is K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid. If the items get to be too much, or too hard to refresh after a race, then it might need a little simplification. Figure out what works best for you; your environment, and your own sense of style. Because sometimes it's not what happens during the run which is memorable, but around the run.


carlos said...

Don't forget the viking helmet

Michael Bowen said...

If I added the Viking helmet I'd have to leave something out. Like a kilt. ;)