A Tale of Four Socks

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and it led to The Best Customer Service Experience Ever.

Let me ‘splain. No, there’s too much. Let me sum up.
Bonus Points to the first person – other than HCRP – who can name that movie reference without Googling. I hereby invoke The Official Online Interaction No-Googling Before Answering Clause/Oath.

Back to Socks.
It’s been a big week for me and socks.

Yesterday I got a by-name-mention on my favorite running blog. Which had to do with socks. (Click the link, I’ll wait for you to get back. Promise.)
See? Right here where I said I’d be.

Today my heavy weight Thorlo running socks (a link to which I can’t find) kept my feet warm standing around outside in 30 degree temperatures for four hours volunteering at a 5K/10K. Well those and my faux Uggs boots. But the socks were a pretty big factor too.

Then when we got home I had a package in the mail that made my day and restored my faith in corporate integrity and customer service.

In August 2012 I ordered a pair of orange Thorlo Experia running socks through an Amazon.com vendor. I specifically wanted a pair of orange because my BFF Lisa has MS and orange is The Official Color of MS Awareness. I decided not to wear them on training runs – I had a couple other pair of Thorlos for that – and to make them my Race Socks. Not that runners are superstitious about having a particular pair of socks for races or anything like that . . . I got the socks and wore them in maybe two races before I (was horrified when I) noticed a ‘run’ in one of them and a hole in the other. They were still wearable, but they weren’t in the pristine condition I’d insured they would be with meticulous care. And, not wanting them to fall completely apart, I ‘retired’ them.

Thorlo Experia socks are not inexpensive, therefore having this pair of ‘retired’, high dollar socks staring at me week after week really started grating on my nerves. So I did what anyone would do: I contacted the vendor from whom I’d purchased them.
Their reply was less than satisfactory.  Their name will remain undisclosed because I don’t need to have the socks sued off of me for libel.
Despite chronicling the meticulous care with which I had treated these socks down to the number of uses and laundering practices, they stated their ‘policy’ that after thirty days they are no longer responsible for replacement and wished me well and invited me to buy a new pair from their stock.
*blinks*
*blinks again*

Again, I did what any self-respecting consumer would do: I stashed the offending, apparently unrefundable, unreplaceable, $14.99 pair of socks deeper in the shelf where my winter weather running gear, bandanas, headbands, and other, in tact socks reside so as to escape their unraveling, orange, mocking stares and tried to forget about them.  Which worked for a couple months until one day when I was searching for a particular headband and they fell at my feet.

I’d recently bought a new pair and, for some inexplicable reason, still had the card they hang on racks by and there it was on my dresser with the mailing address for Thor-Lo, Inc. in Statesville, North Carolina right there on it. I tossed the traitor socks and the hanging-thing card in the bag I carry to work every day where they stayed for about a month.

Until the day I glanced down at the bag where the traitorous, ravelling socks were lying there mocking me and I decided to send them back from whence they came. But not alone. No, I sent them with an appeal to their maker to make good on what I knew to be the otherwise superior quality of their products by replacing this clearly inferior pair.
I shared my history with their fine products, including the touching tale of My First Thorlos and how they’d taken me from frightened, newbie runner to successful half-marathon finisher. I told them how I had successfully converted HCRP from being an “any sock will do” runner to wearing only their fine socks for both training runs and in races.
I used phrases like “otherwise fine quality of your products” and “absolutely do not represent your brand quality” in reference to Traitor Socks.
I sucked up.
Hard.
I wanted these socks replaced.  For free.  No other pair of this brand and style had ever come undone like this.  It was an aberration, an anomaly, a veritable anathema in the world of Thorlos!
And I didn’t want them replaced in any old color. I wanted orange.  Orange Thorlo Experia Running Socks. So I explained the significance of the orange socks and about Lisa and how wearing those socks reminds me that I’m also running for her (among many other friends whose mobility is limited by things they didn’t choose) in every race.  And I sent the socks and eloquently written letter off to Experia Land.  Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting a reply, let alone a replacement.  I was just tired of those mocking, orange stares but wasn’t about to throw away a pair of Thorlos!  I am not a monster, I am a human being!  (More movie reference bonus points.  No Googling Clause/Oath invoked.)

 

This afternoon when we got home there was a small plastic mailing pouch with something squishy inside from a return address I didn’t remember ordering anything from. I did a quick mental run-through of recent Amazon purchases and nothing came back that fit “squishy thing in small plastic mailing pouch”.
So I opened it.
And lo and behold I saw this:
IMG_0960I’d like to draw your attention to two little details on the ‘invoice’ that accompanied those neon orange socks.  And I have no clue why the second image is sideways OR how to fix that.  Sorry.

No. Charge.

No. Charge.

This was their message to me: Enjoy!

This was their message to me: Enjoy!

Now that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what I call Customer Service with a big ol’ heapin’ spoonful of integrity and standing behind one’s product.

Dear Thor-Lo, Inc.:
I may have mentioned my Running Blog in my letter requesting a replacement for that rogue, raveling pair of traitorous socks. I have literally several followers who hang on my every word about running and running paraphernalia. Especially bras and socks.
Please know that henceforth and forevermore your Thorlo Experia Running Socks will be The Official Running Socks of my little corner of the World Wide Web, and of my feet in every mile I run.
Sincerely,
One Very Happy, Vocal, Blogging Customer

STILL Still not running . . .

. . . but I am better.

Had my second follow-up appointment with The Surgeon and things seem to be progressing/healing well enough that he wants to use me as one of his Before/After ‘poster kids’.  He asked if I could come back in three months to have the final ‘After’ picture taken since at the moment the healing incisions/scars aren’t exactly ‘After’ picture worthy, and I’m good with that. (I’m still doing some *internal work* on that whole ‘having scars’ thing – I’ll get back with you on that)
ALL that aside, I am apparently healing nicely.  No complications.

Which means! It is basically up to “When I think it won’t hurt to do it” to determine when I’ll be running again.  At present I’m using the ‘If it still causes a twinge to go over a speed bump, I’m not ready yet’ school of thought/measure-of-readiness.

HCRP is currently out of town on a work related trip.  He’ll be back a week from tomorrow.
Which gives us that Saturday morning to do two things:
1) Go to one of our local Running Stores to get me a good, supportive, new-sized running bra; and
2) Switch our gym membership to the one that offers better cross-training options.  (Not the least of which is an indoor,heated pool and an indoor track. So we’ll have that going for us! 

Of course I will be ‘running’ at more of a jog until I’m comfortable that nothing’s going to be literally, physically ‘left on the track’..

so miss running!!
You have no idea how much you love it until it is taken away from you!
2013 is going to be My Best Running Year Ever!

Jillian Michaels: Pace Buster!

Wherein our intrepid heroine chooses an audiobook by her favorite motivational celebriwriter instead of her tried and true Running Pace Playlist and learns a thing or two . . .

HCRP and I have been really bad runners the past couple weeks.
We haven’t really been getting our miles in.

We haven’t really been very consistent with our runs.
This is pretty risky behavior for two people who are only about seven weeks out from a half marathon.
Oh sure, we just finished one last month but those are hardly laurels one can rest on for 13.1 miles two and a half months later.

HCRP, for his part, has been having some tightness in his sartorius muscle.
I know this not because of my extensive studies of human anatomy or my secret, night school medical diploma.  I know this because today he saw The Exorcist.  She made famous by the equally famous Terri Lee in her groundbreaking blog about running, a dog, a cat, and life in general.
Anyway, he has had a reasonable reason to cut back on his running.  In fact, he was grounded from running by Le Exorciste.  Which is what led to yours truly – the aforementioned Intrepid Heroine – running sans the RP portion of HCRP.

For whatever crazy reason I decided to run listening to one of my many audiobooks.  I say “crazy reason” because I rely on my running play list to keep me on my trusty 12:00 min/mile running pace.
Yes, I said “rely” and I do.  I’m weak.
And a huge fan of music on my runs.
One of these days I’ll become one of Those Runners who just lace up their Asics, head out the door, and pound out the miles.  But for now there’s this whole ‘gearing up’ thing I go through with the industrial strength running bra, strap pads (see previous link), water belt, and since I’ve done All That why not go ahead and take the iPhone and ear buds?  Because really, what’s a run without technology?  (And there’s that whole Safety Issue to having one’s phone with one on a run in case one falls and can’t get up…)  However, I digress…

Crap!
Where was I?
iPhone for safety…
running bra/strap pads…
Those Runners…
Oh!  Now I remember!  Running with Jillian Michaels!

So I fire up Jillian’s (I call her ‘Jillian’ because we’re tight like that me and Jillian) Unlimited and get to running!
And everything feels great from Step One!  I’m talkin’ Tony The Tiger on a Saturday Morning commercial in the middle of Scooby Doo They’re Grrrrrrrrrreat!” great!
After the first five minute running interval The Endomondo Lady pipes up and says “Two Minutes – Low Intensity” so I slow to a brisk walk, take a sip of water, and wait (a little more impatiently than usual) for her to say “Five Minutes.  Medium Intensity”.
Somewhere along the way it registers in my brain that rather than getting to the “Two Minutes.  Low Intensity” interval before the half mile marker on the trail, I got to that interval after the half mile marker which can only mean one thing: I must be running quicker than my regular pace.  And it felt Tony The Tiger Grrrrrrrrrreat!
Endomondo Lady pipes back up, we run for five minutes – just me, Jillian, and Endomondo lady – and again are past the one mile marker before reaching the next “Two Minutes.    Low Intensity” cue.  This really can mean only one thing: I really am running – comfortably and completely on my own – faster than a twelve minute mile!  FOR an entire mile!

And this isn’t one of those Jillian Michaels Biggest Loser Screaming Trainer type books I’m listening to.  She is, dare I say, downright sedate and soothing in (most of) her delivery in Unlimited.  It’s a “Love your life and live a life you love” book, not a “Get off your fat ass (sorry mom) and run until you vomit!” book.  And (we now pause for a word from our non-sponsor) it’s really a good book.  At least I think so.  So does my “I’m not a fan of Jillian” friend/running buddy-mentor Tonia.

At the end of the run I did 4.40 miles in 50:42 and averaged 11:32 min/mile.
Which can mean only one thing, two things really:
#1: I can reduce my time and run faster!
#2: I really need to listen to Jillian Michaels when I’m running in races!

This is what I wanted to say here

One of my favorite Fan Pages on Facebook is I ❤ to run. They post great inspirational pictures, quotes, and in general great running related stuff.

Earlier this week they posted this picture

with the following text that had me in tears by the end.
Hey, Fat Girl.

Yes, you. The one feigning to not see me when we cross paths on the running track. The one not even wearing sports gear, breathing heavy. You’re slow, you breathe hard and your efforts at moving forward make you cringe.

You cling shyly to the furthest corridor, sometimes making larger loops on the gravel ring by the track just so you’re not on it. You sweat so much that your hair is all wet. You rarely stay for more than 20 minutes at a time, and you look exhausted when you leave to go back home. You never talk to anyone. I’ve got something I’d like to say to you.

You are awesome. If you’d look me in the eye only for an instant, you would notice the reverence and respect I have for you. The adventure you have started is tremendous; it leads to a better health, to renewed confidence and to a brand new kind of freedom. The gifts you will receive from running will far exceed the gigantic effort it takes you to show up here, to face your fears and to bravely set yourself in motion, in front of others.

You have already begun your transformation. You no longer accept this physical state of numbness and passivity. You have taken a difficult decision, but one that holds so much promise. Every hard breath you take is actually a tad easier than the one before, and every step is ever so slightly lighter. Each push forward leaves the former person you were in your wake, creating room for an improved version, one that is stronger, healthier and forward-looking, one who knows that anything is possible.

You’re a hero to me. And, if you’d take off the blaring headphones and put your head up for more than a second or two, you would notice that the other runners you cross, the ones that probably make you feel so inadequate, stare in awe at your determination. They, of all people, know best where you are coming from. They heard the resolutions of so many others, who vowed to pick up running and improve their health, “starting next week”. Yet, it is YOU who runs alongside, who digs from deep inside to find the strength to come here, and to come back again.

You are a runner, and no one can take that away from you. You are relentlessly moving forward. You are stronger than even you think, and you are about to be amazed by what you can do. One day, very soon, maybe tomorrow, you’ll step outside and marvel at your capabilities. You will not believe your own body, you will realize that you can do this. And a new horizon will open up for you. You are a true inspiration.

I bow to you.

Once I stopped blubbering, I “Shared” it and added the following comment of my own:
Totally worth it to read ALL the words and not just get pissed off and stop at the first three.

I was just having this conversation with a younger, more experienced, and better-than-me runner on Saturday (Monday, it was Monday). When I first started running I assumed that more experienced, better-than-me runners resented my fat ass being out there on ‘their’ trail taking up space and giving them an obstacle to avoid. Right up until the day that I ‘jokingly’ commented something to that effect to one of those more experienced, better-than-me runners who looked me dead in the face and in all seriousness said “Actually, Julianne, I admire you for doing what you are doing in beginning running and getting out here and putting in the miles!”

That, ladies and gentlemen, was one of my life’s great “Aha”moments.
I felt inferior not because of them, but because I chose to. And I short-changed other people in the process.

Whether your “thing” is running or whatever it is – there will always be someone who is more experienced and ‘better-than-you’. But realize one thing: The only one seeing that “betterness” is generally you. What they are seeing is your effort and that you are Doing It.

And that, my friends, is the truth of the best thing about running.
It’s the community.
It’s having people ask “Hey, where are you running today? Can I join you?”
It’s having those ‘better’, more experienced runners tell you that they are inspired by you.
It’s running into people on the trail and not just getting “The Runner’s Wave” but getting the “Hey! I know you, we’ve run/volunteered at races/coached together” Wave!
It is, to be honest, being one of The Cool Kids at races. The people who Know Each Other.
It’s walking into the local running store and knowing (within 10 – 20 miles) how many miles are on your current pair of shoes and being able to discuss the reasons you suspect it’s time to get a new pair.

Speaking of shoes.
That pair you see up there at the top of these posts aren’t my current running shoes. They’re not even my most recently replaced pair of running shoes. They are, as of last Sunday, two pairs back. They’re my ‘knock around’ shoes. And I’ll probably always keep them at the top of this blog, even if I end up donating them to the shoe recycling program at our local running store, because those were the shoes that were on my feet when I crossed my first Finish Line as A Runner.

These are my new shoes (the ones on the left) alongside my most recently replaced pair. You have to love a sport that gives you a reason to buy new shoes every few hundred miles!

The heel/sole wear is the reason for the replacement.
You learn a lot about shoes when you run!

I have another post to write about my last Long Run in preparation for next weekend’s Half Marathon, but that one’s still percolating in my brain.  It was an ugly, ugly run and I know precisely why.  You’ll just have to come back to find out!

Product Review/Demi-Rant

DISCLAIMER:
Guys, feel free to skip this one altogether. It’s about running bras.
There are no anatomically correct illustrations.
Sorry!
/END DISCLAIMER:


I am A Runner.
I am also a relatively well-endowed female. (No pictures. Just take my word for it.)
Buying bras has been a nightmare for me for well over thirty-five years (I’ll be forty-seven in eighteen days – do the math) and that nightmare has only got worse since taking up running.

I tell women friends who are interested in taking up running that there are two things you don’t ‘cheap out’ on: Running Shoes and Sports Bras. Doing so in either case will lead to short-term pain and long-term damage that simply can’t be undone.

I’ve gone through a progression of four different running bras since I started running. The Exercise Bras I had when I first started got me through about the first two weeks, but the minute I my run/walk intervals surpassed the “run three minutes/walk two minutes” mark they just weren’t getting it and that short-term pain thing became more than apparent. If you’re a woman and you’ve ever been pregnant or breastfed and had that swollen, glutted, thing that happens?  Yeah, THAT is the kind of pain I’m talking about! Not fun.

After months of trial and error I’ve narrowed my ‘collection’ down to three that I am willing to “endorse” (because really, isn’t the entire world waiting to see which bra I use?!) with caveats/warnings for each one.

The Enell

My First Favorite Running Bra!

My only reason for seeking a replacement for it was that I lost enough weight that it fit too loose through the shoulders and had therefore lost some of its ‘support factor’. Otherwise, I would just about wear this bra 365/24/7.
I love the wide shoulder straps.
I love the fabric.
I love the feel of the thing.

I do not love the raw spot/sore it rubbed at the bottom center where the last hook-and-eye and my skin met repeatedly once I started running more than about two miles at a stretch. I actually wore it to run a 5K and ‘fixed’ it by affixing a piece of moleskin over the bottom of the bra where it closes. I don’t think I should have to make modifications like that to a $64 bra.

Dear Enell People:
Great bra! Fix that little bit at the bottom and you have a fan for life!
Signed,
Me in Memphis


The Vero

I. Love. This. Bra!

This was “Contestant Number Two” recommended by and purchased at my local running store after The Enell wore a hole in my hide.
Well constructed, good support.
Love the “encapsulation” aspect.

Two Problems:
#1 The Vero has ‘convertible straps’ which means it can function as a “regular” bra with the straight over the shoulder straps, or you can criss-cross them to work with racerback tanks, etc.
Nice feature.
In theory.
In practice that same ‘removable hook’ that makes the straps convertible works its way loose while you’re running and the next thing you know one of The Girls is … shall we say … “free to move about the cabin”. If you happen to be running with your loving spouse or a good friend you have an assistant handy to help get things back under control. If not, you have to hope you can get another runner to stop along the course – wasting precious time – and re-hook you up. That or you finish your run holding one boob in your hand like you’ve had some sort of unfortunate implant incident. Not fun.  And frankly kills your run time.

#2 The straps themselves are narrow enough that the first time I wore this bra on a run longer than a couple miles I ended up with raw spots rubbed across the tops of my shoulders that were nearly cuts. There is a relatively inexpensive solution to this: Braza Cush-eez Bra Strap Cushions with Silicone Pads. Arguably one of the best ten dollars I’ve spent in a long time. However, there is that part of me that says “I spent forty dollars on this bra and I have to buy ‘accessories’ to keep it from causing injuries?”

Neither of these keeps me from wearing this particular bra, but I reserve it for distances of three miles or less and most definitely won’t be wearing it in any road races ‘just in case’.


Last, but certainly not least . . .
The Juno

If I love the Vero, I am in love with the Juno!

Comfort: Check.
Support: Check.
Stability: Check.
Ease of Putting On/Taking Off: Could be easier, but if it were it wouldn’t doo that voodoo that it doo so well so I can totally live with the struggle. I consider it part of my pre- and post-run upper body stretch.
To date I’ve worn this bra on as long as an eight mile run with almost no complaints.

Once gain there was strap rub at the collarbone (yes, even with Glide liberally applied) that bordered on being open wounds. So my handy-dandy little $10 investment buddies up there came in both handy and dandy. I’m getting (mostly) over my whole “After spending $XX on a bra why should I have to modify/accessorize it to prevent injuries?!” outrage.

BUT!
The biggest problem came from something as simple as the tag on the back. After last night’s run I am now the less-than-gracious hostess to a lovely, 1/4″ in diameter open wound in the middle of my back directly under where the manufacturer’s tag was on the bra.
Yes, I most likely “should have” thought to cut it off before wearing it. I didn’t.
Should I be injured because of an oversight? I think not.

So this morning I did what any other red-blooded, product-injured American would do. (Not “Hire an attorney”.) I contacted the manufacturer via their website:
“I recently purchased a Moving Comfort Juno exercise bra. I am a fairly large-busted woman, I am also a runner (currently training for a half-marathon). I have run the gamut of running bras and have to say I absolutely LOVE the Juno. It provides the support I need and is – as running bras go – exceptionally comfortable. Great product!

However, I have a couple design suggestions.
1) Pad the straps at the point where they cross the collarbone. I spent $52 on this bra only to have to spend an additional $10 for bra strap pads after my first run in the Juno left me with open sores rubbed on my collarbones. Yes, I applied Glide.

2) Get RID of the tag on the back where the hooks are!! After last night’s five mile run I now have a fairly significant open sore rubbed in the middle of my back where the tag was. I’ve removed it, but honestly after spending $52 on a single bra I don’t believe I ought to be forced to make modifications.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my requests. I am a Moving Comfort Girl where my running bras are concerned, I recommend them to everyone I know that works out. But I do warn them about these two problem areas.
Thanks!
Julianne T”

And within a couple hours received a very courteous reply from an actual person (my new friend Tegan at Moving Comfort) indicating that they had received my feedback and would be getting it to the ‘appropriate party’. In this day and age when I get obviously automated responses from my Congressman and Senator, I was pretty impressed by that.


So there you have it.
My low down on the up top of women’s running equipment.
Hope it was helpful!