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The way to a woman’s heart is through her running gear.

Maybe that’s an oversimplification, but it’s pretty darn close.

“I’m looking at racks and racks of running gear,” said the voice on the phone. “What do you need?”

My heart fluttered. After sixteen years of marriage, the spark is still alive.

My husband was calling from a huge, American-style shopping mall on one of the military installations a few hours from here. When you have lived in Germany for four years, you come to appreciate the very places you consider the bane of American culture.

Not only did my husband pick up three running outfits, the perfect hat, and the perfect socks; he also found the Oakleys I’ve had in my shopping cart for three weeks on Altrec.com. There was only one pair left in white–the shop clerk had to get them from the back.

I should make this clear: love cannot be purchased. Nor can it be returned with the receipt, even if in the original packaging.

Love is patient. Love is kind. But love is also a man who will buy coral-colored running shorts for his wife.

That is love in action.

I went for a six-mile run today geared up like a superstar. No doubt, the village children will soon be asking me to demonstrate my Nathan hydration pack. My landlady will nod in approval as she notes my “Supernova” running shirt (as Germans know Adidas is superior to Nike). I’ll look at all of them sweetly through my Oakley Flak Jacket XLJs and smile as I scrawl my autograph on a PowerBar Gel pack.

Or, maybe they’ll stare at me as if I should be institutionalized.

It matters not.

While the new running gear makes me feel like an elite athlete, rather than a middle-aged housewife, I am happier knowing my husband and children support this endeavor.

After all, if they weren’t behind me, I would trip over the starting line.

Stats:

Miles: Thursday 4, Friday 6

Miles forecast: 16 on Sunday, heaven help me.

Weather: rain. sun. rain. it’s still too cool to be summer.

Terrain: sometimes I do the treadmill to remind myself why I should run outside–rain or shine. Thursday t-mill inspired me to run outside today. I was rewarded with a parting of the clouds for my Roller Coaster Plus run. I even got to wear the Oakleys:)

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Getting ready for a run is like preparing for a deep-sea dive. I squeeze into my stretchy black suit, push my hair into a headband, attach the monitor around my chest, put my gear in the backpack, fasten the watch to my wrist, don the reflective vest, secure the backpack, adjust the water tube, pull on the correct socks, and finally, lace the shoes so they’re not too tight, not too loose.

At this point, I’m ready.

The great thing about running is you don’t actually need all that gear. You can run barefoot in jeans if you want. Ultra-marathoners and triathletes wear apparel resembling loin cloths snatched from jungle tribes. An experienced runner knows his or her body so well, the gear becomes superfluous.

Then there’s me: the intrepid scuba diver.

The GPS is handy when you’re running tractor trails, which are marked only by the occasional compost heap. Compost heaps are notoriously inaccurate for measuring distance.

Because I always think I’m working hard, the heart rate monitor shows I’m not actually in the throes of cardiac arrest.

The backpack holds my water, instant-energy gel packs, and cell phone. The cell phone is so the kids can contact me if the house is burning down, or so I can call someone if I fall into a tractor rut; in which case, I can suck down packets of  “magic juice” while waiting for the rescue helicopter.

A day may come when I am clothed in fig leaves and running like Jane after her Tarzan, but it won’t be until after my first marathon.

There is too much I need to learn about myself first.

Stats:

Miles: Thursday 5, Friday 3 (with Noah peddling his heart out next to me).

Overall feeling: I feel slow & lethargic. It’s frustrating because I want to be back to where I was before vacation. This has been a tough week. I loved vacation, and I love running, but I feel like a big, fat slug.

Weather: sunny & in the upper 40s low 50s. There was frost on the ground this week—thus the Supersuit was pulled from hibernation.

Gear:

The Supersuit: Kalenji brand cozy goodness leggings and top for cold mornings. It’s tight, black with turquoise swooshes, and makes me feel like a superhero.

The Shoes: Mizuno 12 Wave Rider size 12 narrow (eek). Silver/Gunmetal/Red (or pink, if you prefer). Feels like running on clouds.

The Phone: iPhone 3G. It’s kind of big for runs, but it’s all I have. On the bright side, I can take pictures and post to Facebook during the marathon, if I don’t have anything else to do, like survive.

The Watch: Garmin Forerunner 405 CX. This is the first device to overcome the technologically challenged area in which I live. The satellites managed to track my run through hill and dale, hither and yon with astounding accuracy. What’s next for my village? DSL? One can only dream.

The Garmin has a heart rate monitor that straps around my chest and is synchronized to the watch. All I have to do is run. This watch monitors everything except my attitude.

The criticisms of the Garmin are that the bevel is touchy and it’s hard to use during a run. I can see this theory. But if people would actually read all the instructions, they could learn how to set the watch so that it scrolls through vital information. Then you lock the bevel so it doesn’t flip out when it’s touched. It’s very easy to do. I LOVE this watch. Thanks, honey for my birthday/mother’s day/anniversary/Christmas gift!

The Fuel: PowerBar Refuel Gel (vanilla). 110 calories, 0 fat, 27 grams of carbo delight to give you a boost: much better than a Snickers bars (and gluten-free too).

The Backpack: Nathan HPL Series #008 Race Vest. 1.5 liter capacity. Ultra-lightweight. It is cool, breathable, and soft as a kitten. This is a vast improvement over sweating under Noah’s Camelbak.

The only drawback is that the cell phone pocket brushes against my arm. It might become a problem during runs over 10 miles.

I nearly took scissors to the ridiculously long water tube. It swoops down across your shoulder and dangles in front of you. However, there is a clip for it, and I noticed during the long runs, the length of the hose makes it fumble-resistant. This vest is MUCH better than the Borg belt with waterpods.