The Green Girl Has A New iRiver iFP-795T

After the untimely death of my beloved iRiver iFP-390T, my boyfriend generously donated his Creative Zen Plus to me. The Zen Plus has a corporate logo imprint because it was a gift from a friend who works at Microsoft.

The iFP-390T was my very first MP3 player so it held a special place in my heart. I got it back in May of 2003.

I was grateful my boyfriend gave me his Zen Plus but I felt bad he no longer had a player of his own so I called my Microsoft friend to see if he might have a spare MP3 player sitting around. (Okay, I admit it, I am a very cheap Green Girl.)

Much to my surprise, he had a spare Zen Plus but he also had an iRiver iFP-795T! I love that he had 2 brand new MP3 players that were manufactured back in 2005 still in their original packages sitting in his closet.

So my boyfriend now has 2 Zen Plus devices and I have another iRiver. Whoo hoo!

The iFP-795T is almost identical to the iFP-390T except it has double the storage capacity. Yes, the Green Girl can now have up to 110 songs in her running mix!


The Green Girl Goes For A Night Run

This evening, I went out for a night run. It's been awhile since I ran in the dark.

I've been feeling a little bit under the weather so I figured a good run would help. For some reason, when I feel like I'm coming down with a cold, a good workout often makes me feel better.

When I did the Cool Running Couch-To-5k Running Plan, I did almost all my running at night. I was working full-time and attending graduate school at night. I would often run after my evening classes.

Since I live in the city, most of my running routes are well lit but as an added security precaution, I had gotten a pair of reflective armbands with flashing lights.

I started running in the spring so I never experienced cooler weather running until last winter. As an early Christmas present, my cousin, Ann, got me an ASICS Storm Shelter Microstretch Jacket. I love this jacket. It keeps me warm when I'm cold and the fabric side panels allow the jacket to breathe so I don't get overly sweaty (I sweat a lot!). It also ties easily around my waist when I warm up.

A couple of months ago, I ran across a reflective vest on clearance at Kmart for $6.00. I'm one Green Girl who can't resist a great bargain.

This week, I was at Tuesday Morning when I ran across a pair of children's stretch gloves for $2.99. I had been thinking about getting a pair of inexpensive gloves for my Saturday morning runs after Coach Gary Smith suggested wearing gloves to help retain body heat. The gloves worked out perfectly. On my run tonight, I was able to navigate Mr. Green Garmin's bezel without taking them off. I like how the palm side is rubberized, too.


The Green Girl Hits The Slopes

Whoo hoo! The Snow Gods have finally smiled down upon Southern California. Mt. High received between 18 to 28 inches of snow. And you know what that means - glorious, glorious powder!

I did what any unemployed Green Girl would do and headed straight for the mountains early this morning.

I was pleasantly surprised by the drive out to Mt. High. I assumed I would get stuck in the morning commute since I couldn't use the carpool lane but I was able to zip along in the fast lane the entire way. As I was driving northbound on Interstate 15 towards Highway 138, I caught my first glimpse of the beautiful, snow covered mountains. The sky became darker as I got closer to Highway 2. It made me feel like winter had finally arrived.

Today was an absolutely perfect day for snowboarding. The weather was beautiful. It was even cold enough for the snow machines to blow fresh flakes onto the slopes.

The powder was amazing. I was in heaven as my board soared over the soft snow. When the powder is really good, I feel like I'm floating on fluffy clouds in the sky.

I overhead quite a few snowboarders talking about how they had called in sick to work today. It made me smile inside. There's something magical about snowboarding. I've been snowboarding for 4 years now. I'm not an expert by any means but I truly enjoy it. Snowboarding holds a special place in my heart because it was my love for snowboarding that sparked my interest in other forms of exercise.

I shared a lift ride with this one snowboarder who told me he works his butt off every summer to save up enough money to do nothing but snowboard through the winter. The fact that he is able to do what he truly loves really resonated with me.

I purchased a 4 hour lift ticket because I'm usually fatigued after a few hours but I didn't feel tired at all today. I couldn't help but think all the exercise I've been doing has actually increased my energy level.

I did a lot of thinking today. About my life. About what I truly want. About what makes me happy.

As I drove home, I observed the sun descending into the horizon and the sky erupting into brilliant shades of blue, pink and purple. Cliché as it may be, it was the perfect ending to my perfect snowboarding day.


The Green Girl's Very First Trail Run

Before our usual training run yesterday, Coach Gary Smith held an hour long Chirunning lesson. I've attended multiple Chirunning sessions but I enjoy participating in the classes because I always learn something new.

After the Chirunning lesson, we broke up into the full and half marathon groups to start the run. Since I was diagnosed with runner's knee, I haven't been keeping up with my Surf City USA Half Marathon training schedule. I've been being really careful with my knee and after going a full week without any significant pain, I decided I was ready to push myself. Instead of joining the half marathoners, I went with the full marathon group. I had attached my patellar strap to my hydration belt in case my knee started to hurt while I was out on the run.

We all set our watches to beep after 55 minutes to indicate the time to turn around and head back. We were given small, handwritten maps to help guide us on our run. I folded the map up, stuck it in my pocket, started Mr. Green Garmin and headed out. My plan was to really take it easy but try to run the entire time.

Coach Steve Mackel passed by and suggested I increase my lean. I was grateful for his advice and concentrated on doing that. I could feel myself getting faster.

Since I'm a really slow runner, I started out with the group but soon I was running all by myself. I pulled the map out of my pocket and tried to figure out where I was supposed to be going but I got really confused. The note in the middle of the map, 'If you get lost it's okay ☺,' made me laugh. I was definitely lost.

I kept running until I reached a dead end. About a block after my turnaround, I saw some runners returning from a side street so I headed over there as quickly as I could. As I neared the end of that street, I realized there was an unpaved path ahead. I took a deep breath, stepped onto the dirt, and continued running. The path headed towards the ocean and then curved to the right. At this point, a cliff overlooking the ocean bordered the left side of the path. The view was breathtaking but the ground was uneven so I slowed down to a jog and concentrated on my footing.

I wasn't able to run the entire time because some of the inclines were too steep for me and I was terrified of slipping on loose rocks.

On the way back, the sun was shining through the clouds in a way that appeared almost divine. It was absolutely beautiful.

Coach Gary ran by and asked me if I was going to take a picture and blog about it and I assured him I would.

According to Mr. Green Garmin, I did 6.92 miles in 01:47:12. At the steepest part of the hill, I was going down at about a speed of one mile per hour!


The Green Girl Learns About Sun Protection

When I run in the sun, I always cover myself from head to toe with sunscreen and throw on a baseball cap to keep the sun out of my eyes and the sweat off my face. I tried wearing sunglasses but it was really uncomfortable. I felt like there wasn't enough room for the hat to fit properly when I had sunglasses on. I figured as long as I pulled the cap down as low as possible, I was protecting my eyes and face from the sun's harmful rays.

A television news segment warning consumers of the dangers of ineffective and potentially toxic sunblocks and sunscreens prompted me to start looking into sun protection options. In my research, I discovered dermatologists recommend wearing both a hat and sunglasses.

After reading this, I started searching for some inexpensive sunglasses with UV protection that would fit comfortably with my running hat. I discovered many frames are much too large for my head. Finally, at Target, I managed to find a pair of Ironman Foster Grant TL2-HVC Triathlon sunglasses. They fit well and I love how the frame is made of a flexible and lightweight rubber material. I tried them on runs both with and without the hat and was pleased with the results.

When it comes to sun protection, you want a product with broad spectrum protection that offers protection from both Ultraviolet-A (UVA) and Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are known to cause long-term problems such as wrinkles and some cancers. UVB rays, which cause suntans and sunburns, are known to cause most skin cancers.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of a product tells how long you may stay in the sun while wearing the sun protection product as opposed to not wearing any sun protection product. SPF essentially measures “time to burn.”

Here's how to interpret SPF:
  • Take the time you would normally burn in the sun without protection. 20 minutes would normally produce redness on a light skinned individual.
  • Multiply that number by the SPF factor of your product. Example: with an SPF 15 times 20 minutes of sunburn time = 15 x 20 = 300 tells how many minutes you may stay in the sun without burning. 300 minutes divided by a 1 hour of 60 minutes = 5 hours of sun protection without sunburn.

I discovered there is a difference between sunblock and sunscreen:
  • Sunblock - an opaque formulation which absorbs, reflects and scatters up to 99% of both UV and visible light
  • Sunscreen - synthetic chemicals that either absorb or deflect damaging ultraviolet rays (specific wavelengths - range of 200-400 nm)
From "Chemical Sunscreens - When Are We Safe?" by Virginia Culler, here are some common sunblock and sunscreen ingredients:

An ideal sunblock would be free of synthetic chemicals, parabens, PABA and nano particles. Synthetic chemicals are man made and do not occur naturally. Parabens are synthetic chemicals used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. PABA is an organic compound that was once widely used as a UV filter. It has been determined that PABA increases the formation of a particular DNA defect in human cells, thus increasing the risk of skin cancer. Nano particles are smaller than anything humans have ever put into commercial products before - a nanometer is a billionth of a meter. The process to break down a substance into a nano particle size significantly changes the characteristics. Sunscreens use nano particles to make them more transparent. Some manufacturers erroneously claim their "micronized" particles are not nanoparticles.

With my new found knowledge, I scrutinized the ingredients of all the sun protection products I own. I discovered I didn't own any sunblock and all my sunscreens contained oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is an organic compound that is commonly used in sunscreens (obviously my collection supports this fact). This ingredient absorbs UVA rays but also has been shown to penetrate into the skin where it acts as a photosensitizer. In othe words, oxybenzone increases photosensitivity of an organism and actually makes your skin more sensitive to the sun's rays. This makes this substance a likely photocarcinogen.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested nearly 1,000 name-brand sunscreens to gauge their stated UVA protection, potential health hazards and stability in sunlight. They posted their results here.

It took me about a month to find a suitable sunblock replacement for all my ineffective sunscreens. Based on my research, I knew I wanted something that was free of parabens, PABA and nano particles, was at least SPF 30 and contained at least 7% titanium or zinc oxide.

I went to multiple Kmart and Target stores and every single product they sold contained oxybenzone. Countless drug stores had a few products that contained 3% titanium or zinc oxide but I couldn't find anything with at least 7%.

The only store that carried sunblocks that came close to meeting my requirements was Whole Foods. They carried a number of EWG's top 10 sunblocks. They also all had a price tag over $20. I have yet to find a sunblock that does not contain micronized titanium or zinc oxide. I understand the reason why they want smaller particles is so that the product doesn't leave a heavy white residue and can be more sheer but what about consumer safety?

I wish my sun protection post had a perfect fairy tale ending but for now, I'm not willing to pay that much for my sunblock. Instead, I settled for Trader Joe's $3.99 house brand sunscreen lotion SPF 30+ which contains 7.5% octinoxate, 5% octisalate, 2.5% oxybenzone and 10% micronized zinc oxide. Yes, micronized. This sunscreen was reviewed by the EWG. My logic is that the 10% zinc oxide will block the UV rays before they can get to the oxybenzone and start creating cancer. It's not too greasy and has virtually no scent. I'm going to email Trader Joe's and ask them to consider making an oxybenzone free product with a non-micronized oxide.

Oh, I'm also going to try to eat plenty of dark green, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables, to keep my skin healthy and less prone to skin damage.


Green Girl Running Update

I want to congratulate Kitzzy on her very first half marathon. I am so proud of you, girl! Whoo hoo!

My right knee is doing really well. I've been carefully keeping my feet really straight when I'm running and wearing a patellar strap on the weekend when I do my longer runs. And by longer, I mean slightly over a 5k. I guess I've been overcompensating for my bad knee and my left calf has been getting extremely tight. I don't want to push through the pain so I walk when it hurts.

Today, I was able to do about 50 minutes without any discomfort. When my left calf started hurting, I immediately stopped and walked the rest of the way back.

I'm really behind on my training schedule and I haven't done any interval or tempo training. The Surf City USA Half Marathon is on February 1, 2009. I have less than 2 months left to train but I don't want to push myself too hard and cause more injuries.

One thing Mr. Green Garmin has taught me is that I start out really, really slow. When I begin a run, I'm averaging a 15-16 minute mile. As I warm up, I increase my speed. When I'm in the "zone" I am usually just under a 12 minute mile. When I get tired, I tend to do a 13 - 14 minute mile. Before all I could do was divide time by distance so I never realized how much my speed varied.


Garmin Forerunner 405 with Heart Rate Monitor Review

Before I get into my review of the Garmin Forerunner 405, I must admit I had a hard time deciding between the older Forerunner 305 model and the newer 405.

I knew I wanted either the 305 or 405 because I wanted the heart rate monitor (HRM). Yes, I will openly admit that the fair superior color options of the 405 did make it more attractive in the cosmetic sense, but the Green Girl is also a fairly practical girl and I wanted a device that would be easy to use while running, accurate and reliable. I also want to mention if cost was a factor, I would have gone with the 305 without hesitation.

The most common complaint about the 405 was the fact that the bezel is rendered useless when it gets wet. There were quite a few negative reviews on Amazon mentioning this problem. The Marathon Mama actually contacted Garmin about this issue and posted an amusing blog entry about the ordeal. I had already purchased Drylyte Wristbands to wear underneath my future Forerunner because my skin not only sweats like crazy but is also extremely sensitive. Like I mentioned in my watch review, I can only wear fabric bands. Since I went for a really short run today and it wasn't raining, my Forerunner remained dry and functional. I'll update this review when it actually gets wet because I'm hesitant to dunk it in my sink just for testing purposes.

I had to plug my Forerunner in and let it charge for 3 hours before I could start playing with it. You charge the Forerunner using with this clip with 2 metal pins that make contact with 2 metal prongs in the back of the watch. The display lets you know if it's charging or not and when it's complete so there's no guesswork involved. Devices that communicate with me make me happy.

When you turn it on for the first time, it immediately goes through an initial setup. The nice thing about the startup "wizard" is that you get a quick tutorial on how to use the device. You also set preferences like time zone and whether or not there is a HRM present. The Forerunner detected the presence of the HRM right away and the ♥ appeared on the display. The instruction manual says you need to wet the HRM's contact points before it will work but I did not find that to be the case. I strapped it just below my sports bra line and worked just fine. It also acquired the satellite signals almost immediately.

I had expected the Forerunner to ship with a detailed manual but instead it comes with a fairly thin, CD-ROM sleeve-sized booklet.

It took me a couple of hours to really master the bezel. At first, I thought you had to touch and rotate from the 3 o'clock position back to 12 to move up one item and from 12 to 9 o'clock to move down but then I realized you could touch and rotate anywhere on the bezel. It's simply the notches clockwise or counterclockwise that drive the menu. I changed the "sensitivity" level to low because at the default medium setting, I kept accidentally doing things I didn't want to do.

The menus are really intuitive and it's easy to get the hang out of once you scroll through them a few times.

I also learned really quickly that it's a good idea to lock the bezel by clicking the 2 buttons on the right simultaneously so you don't accidentally tap it. I kept putting it down on the bed to read the manual and it was scrolling through menus and making changes all by itself.

The backlight is amazing. When lit, the display is crisp and easy to read. I'm looking forward to taking it out for a night or early morning run.

I downloaded and installed the Garmin Training Center and inserted the USB ANT stick into my computer. The ANT Agent immediately detected my Forerunner and displayed a unique number and asked me if I wanted to pair. I selected "Yes" and then my Forerunner displayed the same number and I clicked "Yes" to complete the process. Unfortunately, after that initial agreement, they stopped communicating with each other. I rebooted my computer several times and even reset the Forerunner to factory defaults and the same thing kept happening. The computer would detect the Forerunner as soon as I reset it but then it would time out. Finally, I uninstalled the software and it worked flawlessly.

One thing to note about the Forerunner 405 is that it does not have an off/on button (the 305 does). It simply goes into a power save mode and functions like a normal watch. To take it out of this mode, you can click the side button.

One feature I'm really excited about is "Auto Pause" because it pauses the clock when you stop moving. This is going to be great when I run in the city and have to wait for traffic lights. This morning, when I was out on my run, I stopped to take a picture and Auto Pause kicked in. When I put away my camera and continued my run, it started the clock again.

It was easy to use when I was out on my run. As I started jogging, I tapped the side button to take it out of sleep mode and then my finger on the 'Training' portion of the bezel and then hit the "Start/Stop" button to start the timer. I was pleased to see how effortless it was to get it going.

I had set the Forerunner to Auto Scroll so as I ran, it toggled between the main screen with my distance, speed and time and the heart rate screen. You can personalize the screens to display the data that is most important to you. There are 35 data fields to choose from and you can have a total of 9 fields displayed across the 3 screens.

When I got home, I powered on my laptop and the ANT+Sport technology transferred the data as soon as Windows booted up. I was really impressed by how easy it was.

As far as battery life, I played with it non-stop since I got it yesterday and it was down to 10% battery life when I got home this afternoon. When it's less of a novelty, I'll be interested to see how long it lasts.

If you are considering the 405 but not sure about the HRM, you can purchase the HRM strap at a later date and it will work with the basic model.

I'll do a review of the Virtual Training Partner when I figure out how to use it.

Update 12.14.08:
  • There was light rain pretty much the entire time I was out on my run yesterday (about 2 hours). I locked the bezel to avoid any problems and it seemed to work just fine. I did wipe the rain drops off it from time to time.
Update 01.11.08:
  • I like the Virtual Training Partner so far. The little digital figure actually encourages me to maintain my pace.


Marathoning For Mortals

I breezed through 'Marathoning for Mortals' over Thanksgiving weekend.

I had the pleasure of hearing John "the Penguin" Bingham speak at the Team In Training pre-race pasta party the night before my very first marathon - the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. Bingham is a great motivational speaker who knows exactly what to say to assuage the fears of first time marathoners. He also offered practical advice in the form of amusing anecdotes.

Much like his speech, this book's target audience is first time full or half marathoners or anyone who is remotely interested in completing a race. The book really emphasizes the fact that anyone can complete a full or half marathon. I highly recommend this book if you fall into these categories.

If you've already completed a marathon, this is probably not the book for you. It does offer quite a bit of practical advice but I would recommend it as more of a motivational tool rather than an instructional manual.

I applaud Bingham for publicizing his 'anyone can do this if I can' approach to running. I love that the "You might be a penguin if..." section on his website is full of stuff only slow runners would understand.
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