Not that long ago, relative to my 20+ year ultrarunning career, I had a mental block against wearing compression while running. I was fully on board for compression used for recovery and compression to help with traveler’s edema. But to wear knee high compression socks while running long distances, I was a firm no.
My doctor describes my propensity to sweat buckets as an efficient cooling system. So, with my efficient cooling system, I opt to minimize clothing as the temperature rises. In my mind, my legs, the muscles working the hardest to keep me moving forward, need to breathe. Why would I cover precious square inches of surface area that could be dumping sweat and bringing down my body temperature?
When approached by Lily Trotters to be an ambassador I thought I was clear on what I would use these well thought out, beautifully designed and eye-catching compression socks for. Post run, standing at awards ceremonies and sitting long flights home.
Two key points that stood out to me were first the ease that I could get a 15-20mmHG compression over my size ten foot and on to my leg. How many times has my hamstring cramped trying to pull on a compression sock?? Not with Lily Trotters! Their proprietary weave and quality yarns apply the compression without constriction. Second, the functionally cute scalloped finish touch around the top was not only feminine, (total bonus in the gear world, a product that appeals to a more feminine audience first!) the edge didn’t dig or cut into that sensitive area around my knee. I knew I would gain the recovery benefits through a more enjoyable product. I had no idea my thoughts on training and racing were about to be turned around.
It didn’t all happen at once. Conversations about joining the Lily Trotters team started in summer of 2017 triggered by dear friends who loved the product and raved about them on every run. Due to crazy fall travels including clinics and speaking engagements I finally connected with the ambassador coordinator in November and (I still have the email) shared that I would try to run in the socks over the winter because I run too hot to cover that much skin in the summer.
That winter turned into and exception training period. Through my footwear sponsor I received the opportunity to run a 100 mile race in Tenchong, China in the first International edition of a UTMB race. Gaoligong 165km by UTMB would be March 2018. The timing rough as this demanded long training runs during the darkest, coldest and wettest months, the least desirable time of the year for a Washington state resident.
As the first female champion of the original Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in 2003, the invite to participate in their 2018 inaugural international event was daunting for multiple reasons, two notable ones; to perform 15 years later, and to train through the dreary PNW winter. Motivated by the opportunity to race as a masters runner (now 40 years old) and see what my body was capable of I wrote a training plan that carried me through the five short months before the March race. This timeline also paralleled the production of my beloved Chuckanut 50k for which I’d been the race director for 15 years at that point and my on-going coaching business. Alongside a failing relationship that I was struggling to keep alive, all stress systems were firing.
(Gaoligong Story written and shared in the UpHill Athlete.)
Needing every benefit available to me during some particularly cold (high 30s), wet (downpour), long (6-8 hours) runs I turned to an age-old saying – there is no bad weather, only bad gear – and dialed in a kit that carried me through long adventure runs through the Chuckanuts, the foothills surrounding Bellingham and adventure runs connecting the local mountains from my condo in Fairhaven to my childhood home in Bow.
It didn’t all happen at once, but over the course of the longer miles I realized my perfect training kit gravitated towards the “recovery” socks. Covering every inch of my skin was key in these brutal conditions and the Lily Trotters multiple times went on with ease and protected my lower legs whether on their own combined with capris, or under waterproof rain pants. But the real benefit, the aha moment (thanks Oprah!), was peeling the socks off my frigid body and looking down in the shower as my skin turned pink from the spikes of the hot water penetrating my chilled skin – I can see the tendons in my feet! From too many times after long training runs and races I’d become accustomed to swollen, sometimes unidentifiable, appendages attached to the bottom of my legs. But, now on more than one occasion my feet looked like my feet! Fancy polish from a recent pedicure and all!
It takes a weary runner brain a couple of times to make the connection, so this aha moment may have been over the course of a month of post run showers, but I did get there. Wearing the Lily Trotters compression while running was helping to improve my recovery time. Yes, wearing after also has its important benefits, but my big lesson was wearing during the run keeps the build up of edema minimized and I do not have to recover from as much swelling. Think proactive instead of reactive.
Aha turned to Ahhh. Better feeling legs and body post training run. Learning through experience, aka the hard way, to appreciate a now ongoing love of compression, Lily Trotters compression.
P.S. I won the race and placed top ten overall.