Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pepper Spray: A Subtle Message to Potential Creeps

Last night I had to work a couple hours late, and then I was starving for dinner, so I didn’t get around to running until after it got dark. Have you noticed, by the way, that it’s getting dark earlier? Waaaah!

Anyway, I decided to take my pepper spray along. I feel completely safe in my neighborhood, but that’s what I have it for right?

My spray canister came with a Velcro strap that wears comfortably around my hand so that the can sits right in my palm. Easy access for a quick defensive shot, but I can still use my fingers to start my stopwatch, grab my water bottle, etc.

So I was running along with pretty much no one around for most of the run. Then, a man approached from behind me on his bike and politely said excuse me. I assumed he was just going to pass me, so I moved over waiting for him to go by. But he got closer and asked me a question. I couldn’t understand him since my ears were facing ahead and his voice was coming from behind, so I stopped and let him catch up.

Apparently, he was just looking for directions, so I helped him out.

After he took off, I realized that I had unconsciously scratched my forehead while thinking about his directions request with the hand that had the pepper spray strapped to it. Kind of like I was subtly saying, “Hey buddy. I’ll help you out, but keep in mind that I will cause you excruciating pain if you mess with me!” He looked anxious talking to me and eager to get on his way. Maybe he was late to meet someone. Or maybe he didn’t want hot pepper juice in his eyes. Hard to say.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

High mileage pain: what to do?

After so many overheated runs in the 95 degree California dry heat last week, it was great to get back to running in Michigan. The weather is still summery here at 80-85 degrees, but it is cooling down significantly in the evenings. It’s lovely outdoor sports weather.

On Sunday, I did my 18 mile training run in the evening. I can’t tell you how much easier it was to run in 70 degree air than it was in the California desert heat! I had so much energy. I was able to run the entire 18 miles without walking. I hydrated adequately and ate enough during the run, so it was a great confidence boost in most respects.

But one thing about the run worries me. I felt great the whole time until the last 3 miles when everything started to hurt. I still had energy, but pain just started to grow in my tired feet, hips, knees, and legs. Toward the end, every step hurt and my legs got heavier and harder to move.

I completed the training run, but what’s going to happen on race day when I still have 8.2 more miles to go at that point? Will one more long training run at 20 miles prepare me to push that pain off as long into the race as possible? Or is this what every marathoner faces at high mileage?

Can I just push through it, or will it get so bad that I just can’t keep running? Should I be eating more or taking walk breaks? Are my electrolytes low?  Should I be doing more base mileage on my shorter days?

Marathoners (or other endurance athletes - thanks Donna!) out there…I need your wisdom!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Completing two marathons in 10 days

When I arrive home tomorrow evening from my 10-day business trip, I will have completed two marathons.  Not the running kind, but the work kind.  Two all-nighters of work + travel with no sleep in between. 

(See how I lured you in there with what sounded like a feat of athletics but was really just a plea for pity?)  ;)

I am not a stay-up-all-night-and-into-the-next-day kind of girl.  When I'm tired, I want to sleep.  Sleeeeeepppp...

Oh...uh...sorry.  I'm awake.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hiking Mt San Borgonio

This is the first time I've travelled to California for work and had a day off to do something fun.  So I decided to do some hiking in the San Bernardino National Forest.  There are dozens of trails in the forest - miles and miles of climbing mountains, crossing creeks, and camping out.  So it took some work to choose the trails that I would spend my day exploring.

My co-worker told me about a quick hike to Big Falls in the Barton Flats/Mill Creek area of the park.  Big Falls is the highest falls in California, so I couldn't resist the 10 minutes it took to see it.

After making a stop at the Mill Creek ranger station to pick up a map and an Adventure Pass, I drove through the adorable mountain side town of Forest Falls to find the Big Falls trail head.  I parked and walked along the creek for a short distance, crossed it, and soon found the falls.  Very cool.

Then, I headed for the fantastic Vivian Creek trail.  I walked a rough path for about half a mile along the south side of the creek until crossing over to the Vivian Creek trail head. 

This trail is a steep hike up Mount San Borgonio - the highest peak in southern California - for the first mile.  It is full of switch backs and the first of the mountain's spactacular views.  It is also home to bears, lizards, and chipmunks among other creatures.  I made a friend.  Just a small, non-bear type friend, fortunately.

After that first steep mile, the trail weaves through the San Borgonio Wilderness, which is gorgeous.  Over 7-8 more miles, the trail leads to two camp sites and ultimately the summit of the mountain at 11,500 feet. 

Unfortunately, hiking the wildnerness area requires a permit that I did not have, so I couldn't explore it very far today.  I loved it so much, though, that I desperately want to come back to hike to the summit and camp out for the night enjoying the sweeping vistas.

After heading back down the mountain - which is hard on the knees, I might add - I checked out the Momyer trail accessed back in the town of Forest Falls.  I parked at a very full parking lot and made my way down to the creek again.  I paused to sit on a rock in the middle of the creek to enjoy the small rapids.  The water was cool and clear. 

Momyer is much less intense than the Vivian Creek trail (at least in the short distance that I walked) but still beautiful.  It would be a great walk with kids.

At this point, I decided that I was hot and tired and ready for more to eat than the snacks that I carried, so I headed back to my car and drove down out of the mountains again.  I didn't touch my gas pedal for about 2 miles.  Awesome.

I love love loved the hike on Vivian Creek.  I hope I can return soon to do the whole trail.  Next time, I'll apply in advance for the Wilderness Permit and plan an overnight all the way to the top!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bike Maintenance & Repair Classes?

The hubby and I are looking for a place that offers bike maintenance and repair classes beyond the old "how to change a flat" stuff.  Does anyone know of a place in the Grand Rapids, MI area?

Other suggestions are also welcome.

Thanks everyone!

@Scott - Yes, all of those things, as well as derailleur/shifter and brake adjustment.  Shoot me an email when you have things set up and we'll think about coming out.  Thanks!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Local woman will attempt to swim Lake Michigan

In the local feats of athletics category, I point you to this inspiring woman from Jenison, MI - Ashley St. Andrew - who plans to swim across Lake Michigan starting in the next few days.  If successful, she will be the first woman to accomplish this swim.

Read the article here.

Good luck, Ashley!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to cool off during a summer run

I did a 16 mile run today.  It was hot out, mostly sunny, and humid.  I felt pretty good until I got to an area with little to no shade and started getting overheated.  I had plenty of fluids to drink, but it was still just humid and the sun was inescapable.  During the last half of the run, I needed to walk every once in a while and started searching for ways to cool down.

First, I looked up ahead on the bike path around mile 10 to see my friend Jair riding his bike toward me.  What luck!  He happened to be out for a ride enjoying the Sunday afternoon, too.  We both stopped and chatted for a minute, then I asked if either of the bottles in his cages had plain water in them.  Score!  Jair let me use some of his water, still cold in an insulated sports bottle, to wet my head.  It felt amazing!  I was reinvigorated...for about a quarter of a mile.

That cool down didn't last long, but I knew that a mile or so down the road was a gas station.  I hoped to go in and top off my own water/sports drink mixture with cold water and grab some ice.  The soda fountain machine did not have a water tap, but I grabbed a handful of ice anyway.  I rubbed a few pieces on my face and neck and dropped the rest down my shirt.  That kept me going for a little while longer.

Then, I knew that if I could make it another mile, I'd enter another bike path that was graciously shaded by trees for an entire mile and a half.  I was able to keep up a slow running pace in the shade without needing to walk any of that section.  Then, it was a matter of just finishing the last mile and half and I could collapse in front of my air conditioner or hop in a cold shower.

On hot days like this, I've found a few strategies that help me beat the heat.  I'm not always smart enough to employ them sufficiently, but some methods are:
  • Run in the morning or evening.  Avoid the hottest hours of the day.
  • Wear sunscreen to avoid burning.
  • Pre-hydrate for several hours before the run and carry sufficient liquids for the run itself.
  • In case you do run out of beverage, know where the sources of liquids and ice are on your route (gas stations, fast food restaurants, drinking fountains) and plan them in if necessary, or stash iced bottles of fluids along the route before you run.  You may want to carry a couple bucks in cash in case you have to buy something.  If all else fails, knock on the door of a friendly looking house and ask to borrow their hose. 
  • Soak your shirt or shorts in cool water before you leave the house.
  • Wear a handkerchief or other clothing that can hold an ice pack near, but not directly on your skin.
  • Have a buddy bike with you to carry extra supplies.
  • Run through a sprinkler.  It's just a fun as when we were kids!
What other methods have you used to avoid overheating on summer runs?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hiking in So-Cal: Recommendations?

I’m going to be working in the Riverside, CA area over the next couple weeks, and I may have a day or two free one weekend to do something fun. I’m thinking beach and/or hiking. I’m really leaning toward the hiking, if I can’t do both.

I’ve been taking a look at the various parks and trails within an hour drive of my hotel in Moreno Valley. There are some beautiful places to hike. I’m considering either the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park or the San Bernardino National Forest.

Can anyone recommend a good place to hike in this area?

Also, where can one buy pepper spray? Since I’ll most likely be out there alone, I want to have something to protect myself.

Thanks all!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Warrior Dash - Caught on Video

Sadly, there were some injuries at the Warrior Dash this weekend.  There was a girl just ahead of us who landed wrong somehow when jumping over the fire logs and broke her leg.  And there was the Hope College student James Sa who is now paralyzed from the chest down after an injury from diving in the mud pit.  My thoughts and prayers are with these unfortunate athletes.

But while reading the news about James Sa on, my co-worker noticed me and the hubby crawling through the mud pit in the first video below the article.  Look, Ma!  I'm on TV!

Courtesy of video

Watch it here.  We start crawling through at 00:09.

Monday, August 1, 2011

On a Mud Run Kick

The hubby and I are on a mud run kick right now.  Last year we did two and sort of fell in love with them.  Obstacles on a 3-mile trail run?  Mud?  Beer?  Food?  Music?  Even non-runners love these races!

We just completed the Warrior Dash in Flint, MI this weekend.  We are Warriors!  It was a great day out there.  Not as muddy as the Warrior Dash in Joliet, IL last year (which was hilarious and downright epic), but still a fun time.  Our friend Jair ran, too, and he did great!  All the mountain biking he has started doing this year has really helped his fitness.

We are also planning to do the second annual Grand Rapids Mud Run on August 27.  It's just a few miles from our house, which is super convenient.  The course last year was a little bit disappointing since you had to run the loop twice.  But we'll just see how they improve upon their first attempt this time around!

And I'm trying to sign up for the Dirty Dog Dash: Hell Survivors run on September 17 (my mom's birthday!) in Pinckney, MI.  There's a Groupon for half off the entry fee.  What a great registration deal!  If you can do the race, you should jump on that Groupon.

Some day I'd like to grab a partner and do a Muddy Buddy.  These are events for teams of two who alternate mountain biking and running over a 6-mile course.

And finally, the hubby and I are considering doing the Tough Mudder next April.  This is the utimate in mud runs with more challenging obstacles over a 10-12 mile run.  As their website says, this is less of a race and more of a challenge just to complete the entire course.  It sounds wet, cold, hard, and awesome.  I'm so in.

These are great events that appeal to a wide range of runners of all ability levels - especially adults (since most serve alcohol and involve obstacles that could be difficult for small kids).  And if you like dressing up in costume for running events, this is a great place to show off your style.

See you in the mud!