Because No One Wants Their Run To End Up As A Cautionary Tale: Tips For Exercising Safely Outdoors.

Spring has sprung, we all get to exercise outside (yippee!!), and I thought it might be a good idea to pass along some tips on how not to get hit by a car while you are exercising, as well as how not to hit someone who is exercising while you’re driving. Cheery topic, I know. Inspired by the close encounters I have experienced and witnessed over the years….sigh.

EXERCISING?

1. Wear bright colors. Those cycling jerseys aren’t blindingly bright for fashion’s sake (well…maybe a little bit. But only a little.). If you are exercising at dawn, dusk, in fog or under cover of darkness, also wear something reflective and LED lights. Seriously. Not the time to rock the monochromatic black look, as slimming as it might be. Feel free to run like a ninja, but please, please, don’t dress like one. I always make sure that I have on at least one bright article of clothing while running and cycling, and only buy jackets in obnoxiously bright colors with reflective piping. Every little bit helps.

2. Run on sidewalks if there any available. If not, the rules of the road dictate that you run AGAINST traffic. This makes sense, so you can see what is coming at you. The only times I break this rule are (1) when there is a wide shoulder on one side of the road and no shoulder on the other side- then I stick to the wide-shouldered side; and (2) when I am running a road with sharp curves – I find it safest to stick to the outside of a curve – too much diminished visibility on the inside. If you are cycling, you are considered a vehicle, and must ride WITH traffic.

3. Turn your headphones down. I love my tunes. Love my tunes. Rarely run without them. But I do keep the volume low enough that I can hear what is going on around me. This is so important. There are many things that can hit you – cars, cyclists, dogs, kids on scooters. You need to be aware of what is around you, and that is hard when you can’t hear anything. I would never feel comfortable wearing headphones while cycling, although I know many do it without issues.

4. Be careful running in packs. Or riding in packs. It is much harder to run or cycle safely on roads when you take up a lot of space – someone, inevitably, will always be pushed closer to traffic. It can also be distracting, since you are focusing on the group and not necessarily your own safety. I think big group rides and runs are best done early on weekend mornings, when traffic is light, or on closed roads or trails. Other times and other places, please be really, really careful and be prepared to thin out and travel single file as needed.

5. Remember that in any battle with a car, you will lose. Yes, you will, Katniss. Who had the right of way will mean little to you if you are seriously injured (or worse) in an accident. As my Driver’s Ed teacher used to say, “No one wants to be dead right.” Stick to the rules of the road, but be prepared to bend them – as well as stop on a dime or jump into a bush - when needed to avoid an accident. And always yield to a car, even if they are in the wrong.

6. Assume the worst. I’m not normally a glass half-empty person, but I generally assume the worst when coming upon a car while running. I assume they don’t see me unless they wave. I assume that they will pull out of the road or driveway without letting me cross unless they wave me past (and even then, I always cross behind the car if possible).

7. Same goes for cycling. I assume that a car will not let me pass before they pull out of their driveway, or go first at the four-way stop sign, even though it can be a pain to unclip. They usually do, but not always. Not interested in rolling the dice in this situation.

8. Keep in mind that a car pulling out of a driveway and taking a right may not look to the right before pulling out (they’ll look to the left to make sure a car isn’t coming, but may not look to the right until after they start to turn). Unfortunately, you will be coming at them from the right if you are running against traffic, perfectly timed to be hit by them unless you are prepared to stop. Slow down and let them turn. Better safe than sorry.

9. Be prepared to slow down and stop as necessary. Save the speedwork and fartleks for tracks, trails or long stretches of road without driveways and intersections. Lots of people use the roads in lots of different ways in nice weather and you may not be able to maintain the speeds you want. Accept it. You are not going to beat your Garmin on a crowded road. Adjust your running schedule and location if needed, but don’t be foolish and train in a way that compromises your safety.

10. Carry something that has your name and a contact number in case there is an emergency. I love my ROAD ID bracelet, which has room for several phone numbers and also lists my allergies.

DRIVING?

1. Slow down. SLOW DOWN. For God’s sake, slow down. Just leave 5 minutes earlier so you don’t have to drive so fast.

2. Put your cell phone down. PUT YOUR CELL PHONE DOWN. Also put down your lipstick, your blackberry, your sandwich, your mascara, your purse, your iPod…

3. Maybe you aren’t a big fan of runners and hate cyclists. Maybe you’re annoyed that they are on the road to begin with, so you are not inclined to drive in a way that doesn’t intimidate. Yeah, you know who you are. Well, runners and riders aren’t the only recreational users of roads – kids, elderly, walkers, dogs – everyone likes to get out in nice weather. Hopefully you don’t hate all of them, too. And it just may be a freckle-faced 7 year old that you hit or scare into falling and hurting themselves. Be careful. And considerate.

4. If you are driving a Prius or other ultra-quiet car, be aware that people probably cannot hear you coming, especially kids on bikes or scooters. Give a wide berth. Colby, in particular, has had some close brushes with our eco-friendly drivers.

5. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN.

6. SLOW DOWN.

Happy Spring everyone. Be careful out there.

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Man, I’ve been MIA. My last post was about the snowshoe race, which seems like a lifetime ago. I came down with a nasty upper respiratory infection just after stepping up my work schedule a bit (coincidence? probably not) a few weeks ago, so for a few weeks, I wasn’t doing much running. Or much of anything worth writing about, for that matter.

But I DID do something worth writing about in mid-March! On March 13, I and 10 of my college friends took our Every-5-Year-Girls-Trip; this time, to Punta Cana. And what a trip it was. Five days of sun, fun & relaxation. Bliss. We have all been friends for over 25 years, and had a fabulous time reminiscing about old memories and making new ones.

My wonderful, amazing BC Friends!

My wonderful, amazing BC Friends!

It got me thinking about how important old friendships are. ALL friendships are important, of course, and there is always room for a new, dear friend. But there is something about someone who has known you – and loved you – through all the stages of your life that is really, really special. They knew you before you were someone’s wife, mother, boss, or employee. Before you had a mortgage and other obligations. Heck, before you really had any obligations. They knew the college boyfriend you didn’t marry, and you know the one they did. They remember that you like to run alone (yes, Karen, I still do). You remember that they like to run in groups so they can talk (sorry, Karen. No can do.) You remember their parent who has passed away, and no explanations are needed. You were there. You remember.

Being with those people from way back when restores your spirit in special way. You can access – for a little while, at least – that person you used to be. Feel young again. Unfettered. Open to all possibilities. I came back from my trip feeling 10 years younger.

The best is when you realize, as I did on our trip, that you still really like all of your longtime friends – not just who they were when you met them, but also who they are now. They have grown from kids you like to adults you like, and you know that if you got a “do-over,” you would choose them again as friends, in a heartbeat. Sure, we have our differences. Some like cervezas. Some prefer mojitos. Others lean toward margaritas. Still, we worked through our differing opinions like the adults that we are and at least settled on one common bond: we all like a good cocktail. And to laugh.

My takeaway from the trip is this – go to the reunion. Don’t even wait the five years for the next official one – make your own reunion. My BC crew is already planning a summer get-together, at least for the members of the group that live close enough to meet up. Keep in touch with longtime friends, even when you are busy. Especially when you are busy. One great thing about old friends is that you know they will be there for you in a time of crisis, but don’t wait for a crisis to see them. Make happy memories, too. It will round out the friendship and keep you growing together. It’s important to laugh with friends, too.

Colby and I (20+ years and counting!) have a group of longtime friends – high school friends for her; I met them all in my early 20’s – that gets together for lunch at least 4 times per year. We hope to see each other in between lunches, too, but at least we know that we will have our periodic lunches to reconnect when things are crazy. Everyone treats them as sacred, many hoops are jumped through so that we can all make it, and they are some of my favorite afternoons of the year. In fact, this Saturday is our next lunch (and in true, trying-to-coordinate-five-schedules fashion, our “lunch’ has been moved to 5 PM to accommodate some soccer tournaments). I’m already counting the days.

The Ladies Who Lunch.

The Ladies Who Lunch (minus Sandy, who couldn’t make it this time).

Keeping up with people from your past doesn’t just bring you together with old friends – it brings you together with the old you, which is a gift that only an old friend can give. And that is worth every ticket purchased, every sitter hired, every schedule rearranged, every mile traveled, to be with them.

I Will Run.

I’m having a lazy Sunday. I’m still in bed, snuggled up in clean sheets, cup of coffee in hand, listening to the rain. My pups are snoring softly at my side. My Other Half hums quietly in the kitchen, fresh eggs crackling in a hot skillet. It even smells like Sunday.

Quiet.
Calm.
Perfect.

I’m in no rush to run. It’s pouring outside. And while I do love running in the rain, after yesterday’s 15 mile mess, I’m in no hurry to lace up. Some runs are effortless. Some runs are a chore. This was work. Unsatisfying, hard labor. It wasn’t fulfilling. My legs felt awful. My stride choppy and short. I felt “sticky” not fluid. It’s not the first crummy long run. And it won’t be the last.

I felt awful.

I know it is temporary. It’s just a bad run. One. Bad. Run. It doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t be able to run the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon at the end of May. I know I can. The body achieves what the mind believes. At least I keep telling myself that. It’s my mantra. I tell myself this every year at this time. Although this year, I will be singing a new tune. This video found me at the perfect time. I am re-inspired.

It’s been a long winter. And it’s starting to become an even longer spring. Spring may have sprung. But my legs haven’t.

Yet.

The Real Bullshit Meter.

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What’s legit?
Monika Allen.

What’s lame?
Self Magazine.

That’s the Real ‘BS Meter.’

Monika Allen ran last year’s LA Marathon dressed as Wonder Woman. Complete with tiara, tutu and jazzy knee socks. She ran with her tutu clad, supportive, superhero-friend Tara Baize. They ran as superheroes, since Monika was in the middle of her chemotherapy treatment for brain cancer. Monika channeled her inner superhero, slipped on that tutu and ran the LA Marathon. Like a boss. The friends made their tutus as part of the Glam Runner project they founded to support Girls on the Run San Diego. Those fabulous tutus have raised $5,600 for the girl empowerment running program.

I’d call that Legit.

SELF Magazine asked permission to use their tutu clad LA Marathon photo in an upcoming issue (April 2014). While I do not know Monika personally, I’ll go out on a limb and say that she was probably pretty stoked that a popular women’s magazine specializing in health, fitness, beauty, nutrition and happiness would publish her photo and possibly generate publicity for Glam Runner and Girls on the Run. Two wonderful, wonderful causes. Win-win. “Stoked” turned to “shocked” when she learned that her photo was used in the magazine’s April issue, in their “BS Meter” piece, mocking women running in tutus.

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That’s lame.

Actually. That’s bullshit.

Why are magazines that allegedly look to empower and encourage women to be their happiest, healthiest, best Self, tearing women down for running a marathon in a tutu in the goddamn first place? Really. That’s what’s lame? So I guess the “Die Tumor, Die!” written on her bib wasn’t a tip off that the two superhero-tutu-clad women running a marathon were running for an actual reason. I mean a reason other than a “What NOT to Wear While Running a Marathon with a Supportive Friend Who Has Brain Cancer” list. Heaven forbid a women battling brain cancer should don a tutu and summon her inner superhero to power her way through chemo AND a marathon. Monika is a Superhero. She’s exactly the person a women’ s health magazine should profile. She is a person all women should embrace. A runner. A survivor. A philanthropist. Christ. An inspiration. Can we please just stop the bashing, shaming, tearing down and judging once and for all? Like I’ve said. It’s fucking exhausting.

Here’s our next challenge: Support Glam Runner, Girls on the Run and Strong Women Everywhere by being Positive. Yup. That’s it. BE. POSITIVE. Screw magazines that Tear Down. Instead, surround yourself with friends, family and messages that Build Up. Call it the Anti-BS Meter.

Remember: You are fanfuckingtastic.

And even more so in a tutu.

Race Recap – Peak Snowshoe 10K (Yes, This is What Qualifies as Fun for Us. Feel Free to Judge.)

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On Saturday morning, Colby, I and 3 other novice, yet intrepid, snowshoers (Andie, Diva Cindi and Heather) took on the Peak Races 10K Snowshoe Race in Pittsfield, Vermont. This race was one for the books.

I included the quote above because this race was most definitely an “it’s the journey, not the destination” experience for me. I went in with no expectations other than to finish. This was my 5th time on snowshoes, if there is a way to train for a snowshoe race, I don’t know it and didn’t do it, it was a difficult course and it was freaking cold. No Garmin, no stopwatch, heck – no watch at all. I didn’t even note my time when I crossed the finish line, as I was too focused on attending to some blisters and getting some soup. And let me tell ya, I know I won’t do it for every race, but when I am able to stop focusing on the destination, the journey definitely becomes really fun. Interestingly, the last race that felt this way for me was the Spartan Sprint Fenway – also put on by the Peak Race guys. They obviously know how to get me out of my zone, and I’m grateful.

The day starts early when you have to leave by 5:30 AM for a race. It was pitch black and freezing. By pitch black, I mean Vermont pitch black, which is as dark as you can get if there isn’t a lot of star cover. (If you live near a city, you may not even know this kind of black. It is overwhelming and beautiful. It also has a tendency to make you want to go back to bed). By freezing, I mean Minus-6 Degrees Fahrenheit. Minus 6. It cannot be said enough. Minus 6. Still, with plenty of nervous laughter and a warmed-up car, we got ready and headed up to the Green Mountain Trails for the race. Our entertainment on the ride was watching the temperature fluctuate between Minus 6, Minus 4 and Minus 2.

Exciting!

And unsettling.

The thermometer had bounced back down to minus 6 when we arrived at Riverside Farm for check in. We tried to console ourselves with the fact that some racers had begun the previous morning at 8 AM – racing through the dark and freezing night – in the 100 mile race, and were still going. Those were the real crazy people – not us! (Though many would beg to differ, including every person we ever told that we were doing this race).

Andie, Diva Cindi, Colby & Heather- Checked in and Ready to Go!!

Andie, Diva Cindi, Colby & Heather- Checked in and Ready to Go!!

Check in was painful. Literally, not figuratively. My toes were numb by the time I got my packet & snowshoes (yes! We got free snowshoes with our race registration!! Yippee!). The race volunteers were AWESOME – quick, exceptionally friendly and helpful, but even just the few minutes I spent moving through the line chilled me to the bone. Cue more nervous laughter. Lots.

After heading back to the car for a few to sit in the heat and sort out our layers, it was time to head up to the start. Temps had warmed up to just under zero by then. Oh joy.

Waiting for the start. I couldn't even bear to pull my balaclava off for a pic. Lowering it was the best I could do.

Waiting for the start. I couldn’t even bear to pull my balaclava off for a pic. Lowering it was the best I could do.

8 AM, and we were off! What a start. From the get-go, this race was no joke. The first mile was pretty much completely up hill. And by uphill, I mean the Matterhorn, not Blueberry. It was a straight-up climb, single track. Only a few speedy speedy racers were able to head off the side and zoom ahead of the groups. I personally was fine staying in the single track and absorbing the body heat of the people around me.

It wasn’t until after the first mile and a half that the groups started to spread out. Even throughout the remainder of the course, there were plenty of sections where you would come up behind groups and follow the leader through a single track. Since this was a “journey, not destination” race for me, it bothered me not at all. I generally only passed people if they were very out of pace or wanted me to. Otherwise, it was kind of nice to be in a pack and get to visit with people. It also made the several stretches where I was by myself – and could barely even see anyone else on the course – that much cooler.

Everybody's Shufflin'

Everybody’s Shufflin’

I am a newbie snowshoer, but I really could feel the benefits of my endurance running while climbing this insane mountain. I was tired, but not desperately so. I never felt that I needed to stop and though I could definitely feel my leg muscles working their hardest, I wasn’t uncomfortable. I tossed up a silent thanks for my love of distance running – it definitely helped.

Once we got to the top of the Matterhorn, we were rewarded with a cute stone cabin and an amazing view of the valley and the other mountains surrounding it. It was simply breathtaking, and I was so glad that this was a “journey, not destination” race for me, because I had no problem stopping to take it all in. I earned that view! And enjoyed it immensely.

snowshoecabin

Shortly after passing the peak, we were treated even further to the “Labyrinth” section of the course – a heavily wooded area full of pine trees. It was gorgeous and magical. Sunlight peeked through the trees and shadows danced on the snow. It felt vast and cozy at the same time. The paths criss-crossed through the trees, so you felt like you were playing some sort of game. And maybe you were.

Of course, Peak Races’ tagline isn’t “Go Beyond Your Limits” for nothin’, so after the Labyrinth, it was not all smooth sailing. There were plenty more uphill sections of the course (just when you would think the hills had to be behind you, another would pop up!) and some incredibly steep downhill sections, which can be just as difficult to navigate, albeit in a different way. I personally loved the downhill sections, but then again, I also love to roll down hills in the snow without a sled, so maybe it is just me. I couldn’t resist throwing out a “Wheeee” everytime I slip-slided down one of those suckers. Some people decided just to slide down the hill on their backsides, which looked like fun. I did not have waterproof pants on, so opted out of that. Wet pants in zero degree weather didn’t seem quite as fun.

After a lot of ups and downs, periods of sensory deprivation (miles of looking at a snow-covered ground will do that to you), and beating up my quads, calves and hamstrings, I smelled the bonfires and knew I was getting close. Turned a corner, down a hill and there it was – the finish line! And Colby! And a fire! And soup! Blessed warmth!

The Happy Finishers!

The Happy Finishers!

Truth be told, I was actually pretty warm throughout most of the race, and shed a lot of layers. But I’ve been around the skiing block enough to know that I would be freezing my butt off within 10 minutes of stopping, however, so was extremely grateful for the fire. And the soup.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I failed to mention that Colby finished 8th and I finished 10th overall for women in the race. I think we’re both pretty happy with our finish places! This race was HARD.

The race organizers at the end were just as friendly and wonderful as the people who checked us in earlier that morning. I gotta say, this race had one of the best atmospheres of any races I have done. Maybe it was the extreme weather, maybe it was the fact that many people were newish to snowshoeing so people weren’t taking themselves too seriously, or maybe it is just that snowshoers are nice people. Whatever it was, I talked to great people before the race, during the race and after the race. And of course, I rode home with some of the best people in the world.

I snowshoed a 6.5 mile loop with 1900’ of vertical climb in sub zero temps and can honestly say that it was a great way to spend a Saturday. I wish that they were holding the same race this weekend , so I could do it all again.
Now that is saying something.

30 for 30. Drop It Like A Squat.

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Anyone up for a Challenge?!?!
Anyone?
Anyone?!
Bueller?!?!

Our friends over at Reebok Spartan Race threw down the gauntlet. The Challenge: 30 squats a day for 30 consecutive days. No fancy schmancy gym membership required here. No sir. Just you, your body and a boat load of determination. We hopped right on this challenge because: A.) By the time this is over it will hopefully be Spring, and the words “Polar Vortex” will be a distant, God forsaken memory. B.) Our quads BEGGED us to and C.) We LOVE a Challenge.

What the Hell am I doing?

Body weight squats. According to Those Crazy Spartans, here’s how to properly complete a body weight squat in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Stand with a narrow stance and feet flared at 45 degrees. You can either keep your arms straight or folded behind your head.

Step 2: Relax your knees and let your hips drop lower to the ground while keeping your weight balanced over your heels and your chest straight.

Step 3: Rise to a standing position while keeping your entire body under complete control.

Stay at it. And focus on quality. Gaining mobility may take some gentle stretching and a bit of warming up. Never fear. You have 30 Days to Drop it Like a Squat. You’ll master it.

Remember. It’s not speed. It’s quality. No timing. If 30 become a snap, push yourself! Or, let us push you! Like us on Facebook!

We promise to motivate and inspire you (or minimally make you chuckle). We’ll be with you every squat of the way. Pinkie swear. Oh and by the way, Spartans aren’t paying us. We just happen to be obsessed with all things Spartan and really like their crazy, sadistic style. :-) Good stuff.

Let’s do this! AROO!

What a Difference a Day (or Two) Makes

A view from one of the snowshoe trails at Mt. Snow

A view from one of the snowshoe trails at Mt. Snow

There’s an old saying that goes, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute.”

Two days ago, I snowshoed up Mt. Snow in Vermont under a gently, but steadily, falling snow.

Snowshoeing under a steady snow...

Snowshoeing under a steady snow…

Yesterday, I took the same snowshoe route up the mountain under clouds and mild air, only to snowshoe back down and find myself in slush and a freezing rain.

A mere 24 hours later and snow has stopped...layers are being ditched by the minute...and although I don't know it yet, it will be raining by the time I get back to the base of the mountain.

A mere 24 hours later and snow has stopped…layers are being ditched by the minute…and although I don’t know it yet, it will be raining by the time I get back to the base of the mountain.

Today, back in my corner of Connecticut, I went for a run under sunny skies with temps in the mid-50’s. Shorts. T-shirt. Sunglasses. Sunscreen. Sure, I still ran alongside massive snowbanks (those suckers aren’t melting any time soon), but…but…Shorts! T-Shirt! Sunglasses! SUNSCREEN!

New England, you are one crazy, temperamental bitch.

No wonder I love you so much.

Is Anyone Ever The Biggest Winner?

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The Big Reveal. Last night a Winner was crowned on The Biggest Loser. I happened to catch the exact moment Rachel Frederickson confidently strode onstage last night to a combination of applause and stunned looks of shock from the two trainer’s. She asked The Host if she could take her shoes off before The Final Weigh In. She hopped on the scale, crossed her exceptionally thin arms across her exceptionally thin frame and hoped….

Her starting weight was 260lbs.
She weighed in last night on live TV at 105 lbs.
She lost 155 lbs.
She won the competition by losing 60% of her body weight.
In 5 months.

Honey, I think it’s safe to say the shoes really wouldn’t have mattered.

The Twitter-verse erupted with disgust. Skeletal! Gross! Shock! Gasp! Waaaay too thin! Even Jillian and Bob looked a little salty. While I am not in the business of diagnosing eating disorders from the comfort of my living room couch, I will say that 5″4 and 105 lbs puts her BMI at 18. Which, love BMIs or hate BMIs, puts her “Underweight.” In the history of The Biggest Loser, not a single contestant has lost that percentage of their body weight. Ever.

So I ask…

Is anyone really that stunned that an extreme weight loss competition resulted in EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS? Frederickson played the game. She was in it, to win it. And she did. Losing 60% of your body weight in 5 months doesn’t sound like healthy sustainable weight loss, in my humble, pajama clad opinion. But. The one who loses the most, wins in this forum. And win she did.

Wasn’t that what The Biggest Loser viewing public wanted to see?

No?
Too much?
Too little?
Then what.
Because “Just right” is for fairy tales.
Who really wins?
Ever.
I mean honestly.

I’m fucking exhausted.

Over-weight. Obese. Healthy. Fit. Skinny. Skeletal.
What? What is it? How should I be?

Can’t I just be me and be proud of who I am? Who I have become? Can’t I just honor my body, live with intention and be a kind human being?

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
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Strong is the new skinny.
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Extremes. You can’t be “thin” you need to have a “thigh gap”. Or a “bikini bridge”, whatever the hell that is. You can’t be fit. You need to be jacked. You have to have a 12-pack and a body fat of 3%. This kind of one-up-man ship is terrifying. Can’t I be healthy? Is anyone hashtagging #healthy? Oh but it’s Thinspiration! Jesus Christ. Meanwhile hashtagging #thinspiration next to an Instagrammed super model with a #thighgap is promoting unrealistic expectations about body image, perpetuating the myth that you are never, ever good enough and, instead of being inspiring, is actually demoralizing. The same holds true for the motivation memes of the uber-fit.

Self confidence? What self confidence? (#gone)

I want to start a new campaign.
I am ME. And I’m Fan-fucking-tastic.
Just trying things out here.

Oh how the body image pendulum swings. And it’s making me nauseous.

No Rest for the Weary

There is one commandment that regularly shows up on lists of “10 Commandments for Runners” and that is:

“Remember to Keep Holy The Rest Day.”

Amen.

Well, find me a confessional, for I have sinned. It has been 29 Days since I signed up for the Spartan 30 Day Challenge of running (or walking) at least one mile per day for 30 days. I have kept to the challenge. I have run in snow. I have run on ice. I have run in the bitter cold. I have (reluctantly) run on the treadmill. I have even run in snowshoes. I have chosen to run instead of walk all but 1 day, when I had a root canal repaired (yes, that is as horrible as it sounds). On almost all of the days, I have run more than the required one mile or have combined the mile with a spin session on my bike.

I have stretched. I have slept well. I have eaten (pretty) well. I have taken my vitamins. And I still feel like a broken down jalopy. Aches, pains, creaks, tightness? Check, check, check check. I feel like an 80 year old woman when I get out of bed in the morning. It ain’t pretty.

If I didn’t believe in rest days before, well, consider me converted. My mileage has not been terribly high – nothing like the mileage I was running last summer and fall. The main difference in my training this past month has been the lack of rest days. And what an impact it has had on my body. Despite my tendencies to overdo just about everything, I have always been pretty good about taking rest days, at least until this 30-day challenge. I always knew I felt better after a rest day, but never envisioned how poorly I would feel without them . Until now. Ouch.

After this challenge wraps up tomorrow, I’ll be back to regular rest days, for sure.

I’ve done the reading; I’ve done the research. Rest days are good for all sorts of things, such as prevention of injuries, joint recovery, glycogen restoration and avoidance of mental burnout.

But no amount of research can drive the point home more than feeling like hell does.

Consider this a warning, couch: we have a lengthy date on Thursday.

Le Snowshoe – Part Deux

Approximately 2 minutes after posting about My Disastrous Snowshoe Debut on Friday, I decided to bite the bullet and give it another go.

Of course I did.

I’m happy to report that Friday’s snowshoe jaunt was uneventful and pleasant. I still don’t know how the hell I’m going to snowshoe for an entire race, but that is a problem for another day. Specifically, for March 1.

I learned a few things on my second expedition, and am here to share my wisdom:

It is hard to snowshoe when there isn’t much snow. I guess this is kind of obvious. I went on some trails in a state park down by the beach, and there were sections where the wind had blown off much of the snow layer. It is really awkward to try and snowshoe on a thin layer of snow over dirt, grass, sand, leaves, tree stumps, whatever. Hopefully Killington will have a nice base for the race.

There is a massive difference in “real feel” between 8 degrees and 18 degrees. When I snowshoed on Wednesday, it was 8 degrees plus wind chill. It was painfully cold. Friday was 18 degrees plus wind chill. It was manageable. To anyone in a warm weather climate, there must seem to be little difference between 8 and 18. Not so. For me, it was the difference between cursing because I was freezing and cursing because I had to unzip my jacket with double-gloved hands.

• My tennis sneakers work much better than my running sneakers for snowshoeing. I get that they still are probably highly inappropriate footwear, but they were stiffer, warmer (leather) and worked pretty well. Plus, I think I quit tennis about 3 weeks after my husband bought them for me, so it makes me feel good to use them for something.

Toewarmers in the shoe make a big difference when you wear inappropriate shoes for snowshoeing.

It is really difficult to run – or even walk fast – in a ski jacket. I felt like I was trying to run in a Staypuf Marshmallow Man costume. Fingers crossed that it is at least in the high teens or 20’s for the race so I can wear my Bundle Up running jacket.

• Jacket aside, it is also kind of hard to run in snowshoes. Those things are waaaaay bigger than my feet. It definitely took a bit to get into a groove where I didn’t feel like I was about to trip over my newly-huge feet. I can’t say I ever got to the point of being elegant, but I did manage somewhat of a steady pace after an initial (very)  awkward period.

Zip ties are handy little buggers. My ankle strap clip broke on one of my snowshoes Wednesday, and there was no way I was going to wait for Tubbs to send out a replacement before attempting another snowshoe walk/run. Enter the zip tie. I love these things and have more items around my house that are secured with zip ties than I care to admit (most everything else is held together with duct tape or binder clips, two of my other favorite essentials). It worked perfectly to secure my ankle strap – better even than the original clip. The only negative, of course, is that unlike the clip, the zip tie needs to be cut off in order to remove the snowshoe. No bother – I packed a set of clippers and was good to go. I am definitely keeping a few of these in my ski jacket for any future mishaps.

• If you head out in this kind of cold without first applying chapstick, you’re asking for trouble. I forgot, but fortunately had some tucked away in a random pocket in my ski jacket. Wind & cold are not kind to your lips. Nor is a balaclava, which basically traps warm, humid air (i.e. your breath) by your mouth. I think that if I were to head out for a really long snowshoe in this type of weather, I might even put some aquaphor all around my mouth for extra skin protection.

If you do not go to the bathroom before you exercise in this kind of cold, you will regret it. Fortunately, I did, so did not have to avail myself of the freezing cold porta potties located by the trails. I saw a few walkers exiting them, and they did not look happy. No. They looked to be downright miserable and possibly in shock.

And the most important thing I learned on Friday:

SNOWSHOES WORK A HECK OF A LOT BETTER WHEN YOU PUT THEM ON THE RIGHT FEET!! Yes, it turns out that many of my binding issues on Wednesday resulted from the fact that I put the damn snowshoes on the wrong feet. Even though the snowshoes look the same, there is a right one and a left one. I knew this, but somehow reversed in my mind which one was left and which was right when I put them on. Sigh.

I’m appropriately mortified, of course. And relieved to know that I don’t have to stumble on snowshoes crookedly for 13 miles on March 1.