Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Refuge Freeride Mountain Bike Park - Video

This weekend, the hubby and I and a crew of our friends checked out The Refuge - a freeride park in Fremont, MI.  The trails near the entrance were a bit overgrown with some thorny bushes, but once we got deeper into the woods, it was wild!

The Refuge is an amusement park of well-built bike stunts designed for riders of a high skill level.  We only tried some of the less intimidating obstacles - a pump track, some raised platforms, a teeter-totter, some stepped ramps...for we are not riders of a high skill level.  But many more stunts were break-your-neck scary!  Not for the timid or noob mountain biker!  That said, this park is awesome.

It's a good thing we were smart enough to stick to the stunts that we did judging by the bruises and scrapes that we came away with.  I've got a couple nice purple streaks up the back of my leg from falling off a 4-foot high platform after stalling out on the way up the ramp.  At least I wasn't on the 10-foot high rollers or the jump that dropped into a valley below.  Wow.

I may not have ridden too many obstacles myself, but I did take some video of my friends attempting them.  Below is my first try at editing a video with the FlipShare software.  Definitely room for improvement, but a fun video to watch.  (By the way, the guy in red is the hubby!)

I hope you enjoy the crashes. ;)

Music: "Right Now" by SR71

Losing a Toenail from Running

Years ago, when I was training for a half marathon at the end of my senior year of college, I had a pair of running shoes that did not quite fit me right. As a result, I developed blisters on the ends/tops of both of my second toes (the ones next to the big toes). Eventually the nail on both toes turned purple and came off revealing new nails underneath. This was not particularly painful, but it was a mildly disturbing experience nonetheless.

Apparently, this is very common among runners. Losing a toenail is generally caused by damage to the nail due to impact from one’s running shoes. This often happens when the runner’s second toe is longer than the big toe, as is the case with me.

I bring this up, because it’s happening again – though only on one foot this time. I just bought a new pair of running shoes a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been completely happy with them. After trying several different models on, I wasn’t super excited about how any of them felt, but my old shoes were badly worn out, so I settled on this year’s version of the shoe I had last year. It should be the same shoe as far as fit goes, but it is not.

The best way to prevent toenails from falling off is to wear running shoes that are a half size larger than you would normally wear. This increases the space in the toe box decreasing the amount of impact of the toes on the ends of the shoes. I thought I had selected a shoe with lots of room in the toe box, but my purple nail now tells me that it wasn’t enough.

The problem is that your feet swell when you run. This is not a big surprise, but it means that if you try a pair of shoes on after you’ve been sitting at your desk at work all morning (yah…that was me), they are not going to fit the same as when you run in them. Perhaps the lesson here is to go for a run before trying to buy my next pair of running shoes.

But now that I am stuck with the shoes I have (at least temporarily), I have been looking for ways to prevent further damage to my toes and to possibly allow this purple nail to heal up without falling off. I’ve tried different socks, petroleum jelly, and Band-Aids. Yesterday, I bought a gel toe protector that slides over the toe like a glove finger and provides some cushion. I did a short run with it, but I haven’t decided whether I like it yet or not. Does it take up too much of the precious space in my shoe, or does it protect my nail more? Is it too tight or is some compression normal? Only further trials will tell.

Have you ever lost (or almost lost) a toenail from running? What did you do to prevent it from happening again? Has anyone run with a gel or silicone toe protector before? Share your toenail treatment secrets!

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Mom's Kidney Walk 2011

I try not to use this blog to solicit for charities.  There are so many meaningful causes out there deserving of our hard earned dollars.  But for one organization, I make an exception.

Each year, I post a link to my mom's fundraising page for the National Kidney Foundation's Kidney Walk in Ann Arbor, MI.  My mom received a kidney transplant 6 years ago, and has been healthy and blessed ever since.  I am so thankful for that.  So, you can see why this particular charity holds personal meaning for me.

Me and My Mom

That's why I post this link every year.

My mom is one of the lucky ones to receive a good organ match while she was on dialysis.  But there are many people still suffering from kidney disease that are awaiting a transplant.  The National Kidney Foundation offers information, and support to kidney disease sufferers and their families in this challenging time.  It is a wonderful organization.  My mom herself has served as a mentor to other patients awaiting transplants.  It means so much to them to connect with someone who has been through their experience and can share with them what to expect in such a scary time.

So if you would, please consider donating to my mom's fundraising page.  And thanks for taking the time to read this.

Saturday, July 23, 2011
Run 4 miles, Bike 3.6 miles
Race for the Rock in downtown Grand Rapids followed by riding at The Refuge in Fremont, MI.  This was a crazy freeride park far above my skill level, but it was awesome to check out!  I've got some spectacular bruises to prove it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011
Run 14 miles
Did my long run this week with my friend Cat.  We walked a little bit due to Cat's calves cramping up, but I didn't care.  It was great to spend the time catching up and enjoying the summer evening!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Antsy to move

How is it that I can run 12 miles on the weekend like it’s nothing, and then a few days later a 3 mile run feels so hard?

Also, I have read that when people train hard for an event and start their taper in the weeks before the race, they feel antsy like they are not doing enough physical activity. I’m not in a taper yet, but I’ve been training for the marathon for about 3 months now running or mountain biking most days of the week. Now on the days that I don’t exercise, I have the urge to go run. My body has gotten used to being consistently active. It doesn’t feel right when I’m not.

I was talking about this with the hubby last night, and he is experiencing the same feeling right now. I’m stoked for him. He’s gotten into the habit of exercise, and he’s in the best shape he’s been in in years. I really hope I can help him keep up the pace. His doctor’s going to love it. And I love having a partner who is into the things I do.

The hubby actually proposed doing the Tough Mudder together in the spring. This race looks intense! It’s a lot like a Warrior Dash (coming up on the 30th in Flint, MI by the way!) with more challenging obstacles…and it’s 10-12 miles long! That’s right…the hubby proposed doing a run together that is 10-12 miles long. Oh. My. Gosh. Yes. The race looks cold, wet, scary, and hard. But I’m so in.

It’s a strange experience having that antsy desire to be active every day and also have the days that feel like you’re dragging your lead weight of a body down the road when you finally get out there. I’m excited now to have the Tough Mudder in mind for the spring. It will motivate the hubby and I to maintain our fitness during the winter, which can be so hard to do in the long, cold, grey season of death here in Michigan. I may have to drag my body out into the snow, but it’ll be so worth it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Running with Headphones

I know that some people swear by running with headphones. Some almost can’t handle running without them.

I however am generally a no-headphone kind of runner. I like feeling in touch with my body while I run. I like hearing what’s going on around me – when I run outside in particular. I want to hear vehicle traffic and bicycles coming up behind me.

I also feel like the music that I listen to affects the pace that I run, which feels strange to me when the tempo changes from song to song.

However, once in a while I feel like having something to think about other than running. For example, last night I did my long run – 12 miles – the longest yet in my marathon training, and I wanted some distraction. I almost had the hubby come along with me on his bike, but he was busy with other things that I didn’t want to take him away from. So I wore my MP3 player.

Right now, my player is loaded with up-tempo songs that are great to work out to – some rock, some techno, some club, some R&B. I think the music really motivated me, and the pacing seemed to be relatively consistent.

I was really cruising along at a 9:38 mile pace, which is good for how my long runs have been going lately. Not my fastest for the same distance, but very acceptable and maintainable. Since I’ve been running 10+ minute miles on my long runs this summer (especially on really hot days), I was happy.

I don’t know if it was the cooler weather of the evening that helped or the tempo of the music, but I it was a good run. I enjoyed listening to the peppy songs. Too bad MP3 players aren’t allowed at the Chicago marathon. I’ll have to depend on all the craziness going on around me to keep me distracted from the pain. That is one of the reasons that I chose Chicago over a marathon close to home – all of the bands, shows, crowds and hullabaloo that the Chicago race has to offer its participants along the route.

Update: I just read that the ban on headphones has been lifted for the race (except for those competing for money).  Sweet!

I ran happy and energetically last night rocking out to my tunes. That is until the MP3 player died at mile 8.5. I was crushed by the loss! But I recovered and finished the last 3.5 miles strong.

The hubby even decided to ride my route backwards to meet me and make sure I was OK. I ran so fast, that I met him in the last quarter mile turning into our subdivision.

How do you feel about running with headphones? Pros? Cons? Have you done a marathon without music?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taking the in-laws mountain biking

My in-laws are very active people.  They both run and bike several times a week.  So it was kind of cool when they asked to go mountain biking with us this weekend.  They don't do much trail riding, so we chose to take them to Luton Park, since it is a great trail for beginner mountain bikers.  Fun, but not too hilly and not too scary.

My mother-in-law, Helen, had a really bad crash on her road bike last year when her rear tire blew on a fast decent and threw her over the bike onto the pavement.  She's still recovering from that scare psychologically, and I can't blame her!  It took me a while to regain my confidence after getting hit by the car a couple summers ago.  I even have a day here and there where I'm just not feeling brave.  So Helen took her time and just rode at her pace, which was great.  She was out there doing it.  Go her.

My father-in-law, Eric, is a pretty good athlete.  He does several running races and a triathlon every year.  His goal pace is about 7 minutes per mile running on the road, which is a pretty good run for a guy in his fifties.  So at Luton yesterday, Eric was right on top of things.  I'm sure he could have ridden faster than me, but he chose to follow me to see what lines I chose on the trail.  Whatever I did, he did - no matter the obstacle.  It was great for me, because I felt flattered by his confidence in me, and it pushed me to ride a little more aggressively than usual.  I actually slid out a couple of times and when down, but I got dusty - nothing more.

After a while, we lost Helen on one of the trails and assumed that she had made her way back to the parking lot, which she had.  Next time we all go riding, we'll have to bring some walky-talkies so we can communicate.

It was fun having the parents go for a ride with us!

After mountain biking, he hubby and I rode motorcycles with our friend, Jair, to the Muskegon Bike Week festival.  I've never been to a motorcycle rally before.  It was cool to see it!  It was also great riding passenger with Jair on his sport bike.  What a blast!  I love the motorcycle that I have, but there is still a part of me that just feels right on a true crotch rocket.  Maybe I'll upgrade someday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Short run - 3.1 miles
Fast run at about 8:20 mile pace

Thursday, July 14, 2011
Fartleks with the hubby - 3.5 miles
A short warmup plus 30 minutes of Fartleks with the hubby.  Three minutes fast plus two minutes slow for a total of about 33 minutes. was freakin' hot out!

Saturday, July 16, 2011
Mountain Biking - 9.5 miles
Riding at Luton with the in-laws, the hubby, and Jair

Thursday, July 14, 2011

C9 by Champion Women's Ventilated Running Skort Review

I admit it. After reading this month’s issue of Runner’s World, I was drawn in by the fun, feminine, yet practical style of running skorts. I have wanted to try one out for quite a while, but I never searched very hard to find one that fit me well. Until now.

Inspired by Runner’s World, I investigated several brands online. Most running skorts are priced around $45 or more from the brands that specialize in stylish women’s athletic clothing. In the end, I decided to go the inexpensive route for my first try with a running skort, so I picked up a C9 by Champion Ventilated Running Skort for under $20 at Target.

Image Courtesy of

This skort is short (but not too short) and cute. The cut looks really nice on my body complementing my hips and long legs. The shorts underneath the skirt fit much like bike shorts and make me feel confident that I’m maintaining my modesty even in such a short skirt. As a nice little touch, the inside back of the skort has a small pocket that would easily hold a key or some cash. I don’t think it would not be large enough to hold a driver’s license or credit card.

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I love the look of the skort and have generally been comfortable and happy wearing it for running and playing tennis. I think it would be good for biking, as well, if you do not care to have padding in your shorts.

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However, there are two things that I have not been impressed by. First, even though the underneath shorts hug my thighs, they do not stay in place. They creap up my legs and bunch up at the top. This is not a huge deal, since they are not too uncomfortable this way, but I find myself wanting to tug the legs down all the time.

Second, I’ve worn the skort on some really hot and humid days, and it does not breath well. I feel no air flow to keep me cool, and I get all sweaty in the entire shorts area. This was a definite surprise to me, since I thought that a skirt would be more breezy. On days with a more moderate temperature, this will not be a problem.

So to summarize – the C9 by Champion Ventilated Running Skort from Target is cute, fits well, is comfortable for days that are not swelteringly hot, and comes at an unbeatable price. However, the legs of the undershorts do not stay in place, and the material does not breath.

Considering what I got for the price, I would recommend this skort as a decent inexpensive option.

When I decide to upgrade, I think I will try my favorite option from my online research – the Ultra Swift Skirt from runningskirts. It is priced at about $48 right now on their website.

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This skirt looks cute, soft, and comfy and has the adorable runningskirts log on it. The cut looks flattering, and the Ultra Swift has a brief style liner instead of a shorts style liner. There’s no way a brief can bunch up, so I think this skirt will be more comfortable and offer more air flow than the C9. This skirt also has two velcro pockets on the hips and a velcro pocket in the back. This should allow for more carrying capacity for running essentials like an ID and maybe a gel. I also like that this skirt has reverse seams to prevent chafing.

Image Courtesy of

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I think the Ultra Swift will be comfortable, cool, and cute. I am willing to give it a try for the higher price hoping that the quality will be much higher than that of the C9. Now I just have to wait until they have my size in stock…

I might have to go with the very similar Running Skirt, which is currently carried in my size. The only differences between the Ultra Swift and the Running Skirt styles, it seems, are the lack of the rear pocket and regular seams on the Running Skirt.  Otherwise the cut is the same.

Has anyone else found a running skort or skirt that you love?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A bent wheel and customer service

My friend, Jeff, who recently bought a brand new Trek 29-er mountain bike took it out for his first ride at Luton Park last week and experienced a bent wheel just over a mile into the ride. Not cool. He took it back to Kentwood Cycle and Fitness, where the first thing they asked was, “What did you hit?” Nothing that should have bent a wheel, that’s for sure. So, they trued up the wheel for him, and sent us on our way.

Throughout this week, Jeff has been riding the bike, putting it through the bumps and surges that should be well within its tolerance. Then yesterday, we headed back out to Luton to try to boldly finish the trail. Unbelievably, Jeff’s wheel bent again after just a couple miles.

The loops of the Luton Park trail are ranked Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced by the MMBA website. We were on an intermediate trail when the wheel failed. However, I would not consider any of the loops at Luton particularly intense. There are no big drops, no big climbs, no big rocks. There are no logs to bunny hop over. There are some small roots and lots of twists and swoops and narrow passes between trees. In fact, I would consider Luton to be the easiest biking trail in the West Michigan area – technically speaking. Don’t get me wrong… It’s interesting to ride, but it doesn’t present anything that should cause damage to a mountain bike.

With the wheel bent a second time, we left Luton without completing our ride AGAIN, and returned to Kentwood Cycle. When Jeff walked in the door, the sales guy again asked, “What did you hit?” I’m not impressed. You sell a bike for mountain biking (not the bottom of the line either, just to be clear). You know the area trails and what obstacles they offer. And you question whether the bike you sold can handle it? Not cool.

But they redeemed themselves when they turned around and offered to replace the wheels with a better model (through the Trek warranty, of course). That was the thing to do to make this right by Jeff. I’m eager to see how the new wheels hold up when he gets the bike back in a few days.

If Kentwood hadn’t upped their customer service, I was ready to take Jeff straight to my preferred bike shop – Village Bike Shop. Charlie and the guys at VBS have treated me extremely well over the past few years, and I swear by them.  But I’ll give Kentwood Cycle a chance to see how these new wheels perform. If they fail, VBS is getting Jeff’s business from now on. If not, I’ll speak well of Kentwood’s customer service.

The quality of the stock wheels on this bike model is still questionable, however. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Mountain Bike turned Road Bike - 17.1 miles
Started out mountain biking at Luton Park and had to cut the ride short due to Jeff's mechanical issue.  We then returned home and went on a road bike ride to get some more exercise.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"I'm not alone in my craziness"

I went out for my long run today on another hot day this summer.  It was about 89 degrees F out, humid, and sunny.  I wore a good coat of sunscreen and carried my water and sports drink.

It was a recovery week, so my long run distance was decreased this week.  Since it was a recovery workout, I didn't feel bad taking walk breaks and running a nice easy pace.  I took full advantage of any shade I could find along my route and endulged in a couple sprinklers along the way.  Is there anything better than a sprinkler on a hot summer day?

As I ran down the street near my house, a slim, somewhat pale man with no shirt on approached running in the opposite direction.  As we passed, he said in a thick, possibly German accent, "I'm not alone in my craziness!"  That's right!  I'm crazy about running.  So crazy, that I'll do an 8 mile run on an 89 degree day.  Oh yah!  I was in good company out there today.

Friday, July 8, 2011
Short run - 3.5 miles
Trail running at Plaster Creek.  I think I picked up some poison ivy while mountain biking earlier this week...or it could have been while running.  The hubby and our friend Jair got it, too.  Washing my sheets as I write.  LOL!

Saturday, July 9, 2011
Tennis with the hubby

Sunday, July 10, 2011
Long run - 8.1 miles
Hot, humid, sunny!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bike Shorts

The hubby has finally tried and fallen in love with padded bike shorts.

Victory!!!  :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I was going to take yesterday as an off day and get a couple more runs in at the end of this week before my long run.  But fate intervened (a friend called) and we all ended up going on a 20 mile bike ride instead.  Oh well.  Just more "cross training", I guess!  ;)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Biking on paved trails
20 miles

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Recruits

A second friend, Jeff, has now joined the ranks of mountain bikers.  More new recruits!  He bought his new bike yesterday.

The hubby, Jair, Jeff, and I headed out to Luton Park for Jeff's first ride on his new 29-er.  After the first loop, I caught up to Jeff just before a bridge and he said that his wheel was wabbling.  Sure enough, it was bent.  I don't know if it was due to some loose spokes or a bent rim, but he decided to cut the ride short and take the bike back to the shop for repairs.  After less than 2 miles of riding!

The hubby and I continued on for another loop, but we were forced to stop short as well, because his rear tube kept loosing air.  We also hit the road for the bike shop to pick up a new tube, because I had already used my spare a few days before.

Once all of the bike repairs were taken care of, we headed home and set out on bikes to ride the paved and dirt trails near home.  We rode about 17 miles in all, salvaging the remainder of the daylight.

Funny how mechanicals come in swarms!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Mountain biking
17.25 miles

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I did my long run yesterday - 11 miles.  I ran during the hottest part of the day, so I wore sunscreen.  Nevertheless, I still managed to get a slight hint of sunburn.  I guess I perspired the sunscreen right off.  Go summer.

But as my post title reveals, my main purpose in writing right now is to say that I JUST GOT TICKETS TO SEE STONE TEMPLE PILOTS!  They're playing at the Rock the Rapids festival on August 9.  I am excited.

Monday, July 4, 2011
Long Run
11 miles

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fort Custer

The hubby, our friend Jair, and I went riding at Fort Custer yesterday.  It was our first time to this trail system near Kalamazoo, MI.  We rode the red loop, which is the advanced trail,  There was one section that was a bit more technical than I prefer.  I was a little scared!  But in the end, it was all fun riding and great to try out a new place. 

Also, I love summer.  I just had to throw that in there.  :)

Today I will do my long run for the week - 11 miles.  Wish me luck!

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, July 3, 2011
Mountain Biking
Fort Custer Red Loop - 9.82 miles

Monday, July 4, 2011
Long Run
11 miles

Update: I can't seem to comment on my own blog.  Wierd.  Anyway...

Jann - Fort Custer is a system of mountain bike trails.  There is a yellow loop, which is considered an easy cruise around the park - nothing technical - but still dirt.  The blue loop rides around the lakes.  The green is moderate and the red is difficult.