Night Snowshoeing in the Keweenaw

Some of our good friends, T and D, came to town post-Christmas to enjoy the Keweenaw and have a bit of a vacation. Baberaham and I convinced them to join us on an evening snowshoe hike to explore Hungarian Falls in Tamarack City during the full moon. I thought this would be a great time to try out my new camera (the Lumix TS1) and take the Core Concepts gear out for another trial.

Unfortunately while we were gone for the holidays, the Keweenaw (and the state of Michigan in general) was coated in a nice sheet of ice from the freezing rain on Christmas Day. The snow was still in great shape, though, and although the trail was tracked out at times, it was a beautiful night and we barely needed to use our headlamps. The Falls weren’t yet ready for ice climbing, but the icecicles were massive and the falls were slushy.

It was a coooold night. The damp air made the breeze feel like it went right through us, and the temperatures dropped after the sun set because of the low cloud cover. I was pretty darn cold at first, but I was wearing two ‘active’ layers (my Brooks HVAC and a Craft poly) and my Core Concepts Double Shot jacket; I had on a pair of long underwear (Marmot) and my PowderPlay Bibs too. The bibs were quite nice at keeping my core warm and keeping the snow out. I didn’t wear the skirt to my Double Shot jacket because I forgot to reattach it before we left, but I didn’t need it! The bibs underneath worked great. And once I got moving, I was the perfect temperature. D was a bit sweaty and uncomfortable, and said he wished he had not worn so many layers…

It was eery walking around in the woods with the clouds moving over the full moon. It would be dark, then bright, then dark again. The sky was a red glow, which was captured beautifully with my Starry Nights feature on the Lumix (15sec exposure):

I still need to work on perfecting the use of the Lumix (hey, I’ve only used it twice!) but I foresee it being a stellar outdoors camera. Unfortunately I don’t have a steady hand and didn’t bring along a tripod, otherwise I’d have had some photos of the full moon and stars (the ones I took were pretty messy).

When I got home and took off my jacket and bibs, I was impressed that I wasn’t sweaty and damp. The breathability of the jacket and bibs after two hours of tromping around the woods was quite a nice feature. It got methinking about a new adventure to plan for the next full moon!! …Stay tuned.

Say Yah to da UP, from Downstate

Over my short break at home with family, I spent an evening making gluten-free cut-out cookies. My mom’s kitchen is the best place for this, because she has so much cookie-makin’ real estate in terms of counterspace. I grabbed the only bag of gluten free flour in the house (Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice flour), found a recipe online, and pulled the butter out of the fridge. Then I realized that the recipe called for xantham gum, and on Christmas Day, I knew I’d have a hard time finding that anywhere. Luckily, my mom’s awesome Google-ing skills found me a xantham gum-free recipe, and it only called for rice flour*! Double bonus.

Here’s the recipe for about 6 dozen cookies!:

  • 4.5 cups of rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 cup butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1.5 cup sugar

Beat together butter and sugar, then beat in eggs. Mix the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and form dough. Refrigerate for an hour or so, and then flour clean countertop and rolling pin with rice flour (or cornstarch). Roll out dough and cut out cookies! Bake at 350F on a non-stick cookie sheet for 8-10minutes or until edges are brown.

I used cornstarch to ‘flour’ my rolling pin and countertop, because I made a 1.5batches of cookie dough and subsequently ran out of rice flour. It worked great though!

I definitely represented with this batch of cookies. I brought along my copper cookie cutter on the trip, and had a little piece of heaven with me to share.

The Upper Peninsula was definitely on my map on Christmas Day. Say yah to da UP, eh?

*gluten-free baked goods typically use flour mixes, such as Featherlight (rice and tapioca flours with potato starch), which makes the flour more like the ‘real thing’

Early Christmas!

Lucky me, I have an incredible boyfriend with an incredible family. Not only did I get a sweet workout get-up from Soma from my boyfriend’s parents (and a lot of other really cool things including underwear and a handmade ceramic ornament!), I got to spend time with the “whole family” all together: my boyfriend, my parents, his parents, and the dogs. Talk about a most excellent time.

On the drive home (the good ol’ 10 hours of it), I totally guessed the gift that Baberaham got me (he gave it away with ‘smaller than a toaster’ and ‘electronic’, and the fact that he intentionally dropped my Sony digital camera in the snow while skiing a few weeks ago because I asked him not to!). I didn’t know what specific kind he got though, so I was super excited to see that he got me a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT1 camera (translation: tough camera). It can be dropped 5ft and submerged under 10ft of water (for 60min) without anything bad happening to it! Sweet. Sounds perfect for my clutzy self.

Funny thing is: His present from me was also a digital camera- the Olympus TOUGH 8000.

So now that we each have a tough camera, we are BATTLING!

Which camera owner is more lucky?

The Lumix:

  • Shockproof (5ft)
  • Waterproof (10ft)
  • Intelligent auto-mode (ie. ridiculous image capture regardless of photographer/subject movement)
  • 12.1Megapixels
  • 4.6x optical zoom
  • High ISO
  • Wide angle lens
  • HD video!

The Olympus TOUGH 8000:

  • Shockproof (6.6ft)
  • Waterproof (33ft)
  • Freezeproof (-10C)
  • Crush-proof (220lbf)
  • Dual image stabilization
  • 12Megapixels
  • 3.6x optical zoom

Only time will tell.

We debated sending one back and sharing the other… but then vetoed that because each camera has its own qualities that we’ll benefit from (and we both are gear geeks). The Lumix has HD video, so expect to see more awesome Youtube/Vimeos on my blog! And the Olympus Tough is, well… more tought than the Lumix, so Baberaham can take it climbing and not feel so bad if he drops it halfway up a pitch.

I’m really excited to use these! Will keep ya’ll in the loop about the functionality of each. If you have one of these, let me know what your favorite features are!

Winter running tips… continued!

So I have been on a big winter-running-kick, probably because I am trying to get in 100 runs in 100 days in the Slowtwitch competition (see the ST button on the right side of my site?). So you can imagine my excitement today when I had not one, but two boxes at my doorstep. I knew they weren’t my holiday presents from Baberaham, because he had those shipped to his parents downstate. They could be nothing other than my winter trainers and my Nathan goodies!

To start off, I was so excited to open my new Nathan arm warmers and see that they were in fact silver, not white (as they look in the catalog). Awesome! Reflective, leotard-ish material, very snug. They even make me look a little buff! They are a great price, too, retailing under $25.

As a member of Brooks Inspire Daily, I was allowed to order Brooks gear for not just myself, but for anyone else on my shopping list- but only for the month of December (ish). A few weeks ago, I put in one last order for some Brooks goods before I rescinded my renewal application to the Brooks ID program (sad day).

So, since I could order stuff for fam and friends, and since I’ve recently converted Baberaham to both running and a Brooks-geekdom, I put in for a pair of size 10.5 Launch. He loves these shoes. Not only do they look fast, but he would argue that they are the most comfortable running shoes he’s ever had. Did I mention they look fast? Because of his knee instability, and his distaste for running in the cold, he sticks to the ‘mill, but as many of ya’ll know- the snow doesn’t stop me! So I ordered a pair of the ASRs to replace my used-and-abused La Sportiva Imogenes that I got in 2007 (yes. I know. tsk tsk).

The Adrenaline ASRs are a pretty sweet shoe. They are basically the Adrenalines, but with a waterproof upper, tread, and some sweet tongue designs. Snowflakes on shoes? Love it! My Imogenes were in grave need of replacing, even though the Sticky Soles held up really well!! Those were a great pair of shoes.I’m really excited to try out the ASRs. I’m looking forward to running the gamut of winter running shoes, because I’m super stoked to try out the Saucony shoes with gaitors (that will be later in the season, though). These new shoes got me thinking…

How do you tie your laces? I seem to remember an article somewhere (maybe Runner’s World?) that asked that question, but I honestly don’t remember reading the article or hearing anyone’s thoughts on the topic. I’ve tied my shoes the same way for the last ten years. I learned it from a physical therapist my dad had. She taught me it to keep me from needing to stop and tie my shoe during a run (or lose my shoe during a race!). It’s a sweet style, and I’m sharing it with you today.

First– [below] use the lace holes most posterior on the shoe. Go into the most posterior one first, from the inside of the shoe, and then make a ‘loop’ into the second-most posterior hole (coming into the second-farthest hole from the outside of the shoe). Do this for both sides. You’ll see why this is important later.

Second[below] Take the free end of the lace from the left side and thread it through the loop on the right. Do the same for the free lace from the right side. Of course, your foot can be in the shoe at this point, but it doesn’t need to be. After this second step, though- make sure your foot gets comfy in there 😀

Third!- Pull the free ends straight out (medially and laterally) to tighten down the loops.

Fourth and final step: Tie your shoe like you normally would- however you were taught as a kid! You can double knot your shoes, too. That always adds extra protection from loose laces.

The coolest thing about this lacing system is that its free. Ok, maybe that’s not the coolest thing, but that is pretty rad. The best thing about it, seriously, is that the laces won’t come loose, even if your shoe gets untied. Because the laces are threaded into the holes near the ankle, even if the bunny-hopping-through-the-forest tie job you did comes loose, the shoe probably won’t fall off because the laces will stay tight. I especially like this lacing system for trail shoes (there are enough obstacles in the way out there) and it also keeps my shoe more in line with my foot. I am definitely in the biomechanics-school-of-running, where I know I need a stability shoe because I know my feet overpronate. I want to get the most support out of my shoe as I need, and this lacing system helps make that happen. By keeping the shoe snug to my foot, I don’t get as much motion, rarely ever get a blister (unless I’m going sockless), and I may even get more life out of my shoe (I’m using the entire shoe, not just the sole; stress distribution, anyone?). So give it a try. If you don’t like it, that’s cool. Let me know!

As a side note, I’m going to try out my new Nathan Storm hydration pack tonight on the trails. Cross-country skiing must-have, especially if rocking the waxable classic skis. Here’s a sneak peak:

Core Concepts winter gear review

Ever want to shout “Oh, oh, you don’t even know!” to someone? That’s kind of how I feel about the whole #snOMG extravaganza going on east-ward on the Atlantic Coast. [For those that don’t speak Twitter, the hashtag (#) indicates a ‘trending topic’ and snOMG is a reference to the crazy awesome ‘oh-my-gosh’ snowstorm that recently hit the East Coast.]

I feel like I can wave my MegaTough flag for this one, because Houghton rarely ever gets on the news when we get a foot or two of snowfall. That’s because it happens all-the-time. Every winter, we can expect at least one, probably more like five, snowstorms that will strike us. It’s one of those “ain’t no thang” mentalities, though. You get so used to snow, that it’s not a big deal to park your car in a snow bank when you’re rolling down Agate Street. It’s what I call “Yooper braking”- Stop signs are optional, it pays to have a manual transmission, and you’re insane if your car doesn’t have snow tires. Anyway, I digress.

If you live in the Keweenaw, where there aren’t any malls within a 100mile radius, and no one knows what Vera Wang does for a living (but everyone has stock in Cabelas), you learn to live the Yooper life. You do what you can to stay warm, and that’s about it. No time to be trendy (and I don’t “do” fur, thankyouverymuch). The running joke of the college kids up here is: “Man, I don’t want to go home [to the metro-area], because I can’t wear a hooded sweatshirt and thermal underwear to the bar!” I’d argue that people leaving the UP have issues with re-mingling into society [kind of like how people who are released from prison have a hard time…]. I own a pair of camo bib coveralls, a winter coat that has a built-in ammunition belt, and the thickest wool socks you’ve ever seen. So when I stumbled across Core Concepts through Sonja‘s blog, I was… intrigued.

The claim to fame at Core Concepts is that they make “top notch performance outdoor layers that function no matter what you’re up to – double black, single track or a quick run at lunch.” Designed for multi-sport, multi-climate and 100% capable. Shah! Like that’s possible. So I thought. I asked the very friendly folks on the west-coast if they’d like a field tester in the Great Lakes region- someone who would use-and-abuse their gear in the extreme seasons of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That someone was me, of course. I love new gear. I also love trying to ruin new gear (whether intentional or not). I received a big box chock full of awesome gear, and wanted to head out right away to test its limits.

So yesterday, Adam and I went galavanting around the Keweenaw to find some last-minute gifts for the special people in our lives. We were not very successful. However, we did venture to The Lake to see how the ice was shaping up, and to try out my new gear.

We stopped at Great Sand Bay to hike around a bit. The temperatures by The Lake were a good fifteen degrees lower than in town, and that may have been even colder with wind chill. It was blustery. But the freezing rain didn’t stop me! I pulled on my new Powder Play bibs and buttoned them up. These are my first-ever pair of “snowshoeing” (ie active-wear) bibs I’ve owned. [I have a pair of hunting bibs, but they are definitely men’s, superlong, superbaggy, and camo. Not the most stylish, but I suppose I fit in with Yoopers when I’m wearing ’em.] Regardless, I am trying to revamp my outdoors style, so the Powder Play bibs were nice. Next time, I’m putting them on before I leave the warmth of my apartment, though. I also donned my Core Concepts Double Shot jacket [which received mega-compliments since I got it] and braved the winds.

I was impressed with how well the bibs fit. It was almost as if the Core Concepts designer got my torso measurements and designed the bibs around me. The pant legs were a little short, but the bib comes with a built-in gaitor that hugs the boot. Next time I head out, I’m wearing my taller boots so that the gaitor and boot make a better barrier.

I should explain the other pair of bib overalls I own. These were purchased as a gift from my dad when I was in middle school, so I could enjoy going hunting with freezing my buns off. They droop and sag and if I’m just wearing the bibs, I am guaranteed to get snow infiltration. Not the best. The Powder Play bibs were so well fitted that I’d be hard-pressed to get any snow inside them. Awesome!

The jacket was definitely wind-stoppable. Both the bibs and the jacket are made with Core Concepts “Shelter Stretch”- which is a three-layer fabric for active cold weather use. Waterproof (20K) and breathable (15K). The zipper for the jacket is protected with a button-over flap to keep water out, too (and the zipper is pretty robust itself).

I received a jacket, bibs, and shirt from Core Concepts on Thursday. I was super geeked to open the box from Idaho and see all the cool stuff inside, but was definitely worried about the cream colored coat. I don’t do white well. I am a dirty, messy, clumsy girl. I swore that I’d spill coffee on it right away and ruin it forever. But, interestingly enough, four days later, it still looks clean. Hmm… something’s not right…

So, after the hike-around, I came home and decided to make a little video to “test” the waterproofability of the jacket. Of course, being the clutz that I am, I wanted to test it with something I knew it would come in contact with eventually: Coffee. Check it out:

So far, I’ve gone for two runs, a hike, and attended a holiday party with my Core Concepts Sprint Crew top. And I haven’t washed it yet. I took the tags off and put it on. It really hasn’t left my skin. But, it doesn’t even stink yet! Three days, no stank… that’s pretty good in my book. But I’m not giving up on it yet.

I’m taking the whole kit-and-caboodle out for a ski tomorrow. I’ve never worn bib coveralls to go skiing, so it should be interesting!

I’m leaning towards the side of “I love this gear.” There are a few modifications that I’d need to make in order for it to be absolutely perfect for me, like the length of the Sprint Crew sleeves (they’re a little too short for me, so I don’t get to utilize the thumbies. I love shirts with thumbies!), and the length of the pant (also a little short). The length of pant is a double-edged sword. I don’t want them to be too short, or else snow will sneak into my boot. But, if they are too long, then the bottoms get all icky when I’m walking around town and the sidewalks are covered in slushy snow! So, there’s got to be a good balance. Who knows, maybe these bibs have it. I’ll have to test them more to find out for sure.  I am also going to do some in-house modifications when I am at my mom’s over break. I will make sure to post any alterations on here for ya’ll to see!

The best thing about Core Concepts is the incredible functionality of their stuff. They do stuff differently. My shirt, for example, turns into a ‘fanny-pack’ if I don’t want to wear it anymore. No more tying the shirt around my waist by its sleeves! The coat is super cute. I would totally still buy it if I were a business professional and had to wear dress clothes to work every day (by the way, I don’t have to wear dress clothes to work everyday). But, the fact that the coat is windproof, waterproof and breathable means that I can be fashionable and live in the UP at the same time. Never thought that was possible. Seriously. When I was an undergrad, I had a hideous camo green down coat (made by Cabelas) that went down to my knees, and (of course) had those camo-hunting bibs. Now I actually look posh. Maybe I will be bringing sexy back afterall… to the Yoop.

*Luckily, the residents of the UP are blessed with an amazing taskforce of snow removal personnel. At all hours of the night, you can count on hearing the beep-beep-beeps of the dump trucks (yes, dump trucks) as they fill their back ends with snow. The road commissions up here know their stuff!

Quick shout out…

Hey, folks! My bloggy-friend and Trakkers teammate, Sonja, just posted a contest on her blog!

Head on over there to enter in the raffle for some free Ritter chocolate! She has a LOT of chocolate to give away. Mmmm… Speaking of chocolate. I’m going to head to Jim’s Foodmart right now to buy some! Happy trails!

What not to wear.

I headed out on an afternoon (evening? nighttime?) easy distance run with Margot today, and was running a little late. I threw on a pair of tights (not sissy tights, CWX Stabilyx Insulator tights), my Vapor Dry hoody, and my Icebreaker hat. I wore my ol’ standby gloves (the nylon/poly/cotton el cheapo’s) and threw on my trail runners.

I couldn’t find my running jacket (that doubles as a garbage bag), so I grabbed my fleece vest and headed out the door. Brr. As soon as I stepped out of my apartment, I thought: “hmm. I should go grab another layer.”

But I didn’t. I was meeting Margot at 5:10pm, and I forgot to wear a watch to remind me. I ran down Huron Street toward Chutes and Ladders, where we were meeting up. She was running a little late, so I jogged back and forth in front of the park, and the uphill climb to MI26 warmed me up a little. I saw her rambling down the hill toward me and we took off eastbound.

The run was uneventful. My shoes had great traction, even though I could see the exposed ice in the middle of each lane. Traffic wasn’t too bad, although I almost got swiped by a Jeep and couldn’t see very well once the sun set and car lights were shining us head-on. My stomach got a little grumbly but we were going at an easy pace, so I didn’t complain. Margot warned me that her toes were a little chilly and she may have to turn back early if they didn’t warm up, but we kept motoring along.

Then it started to get colder. I should have known it would, because the sky wasn’t capped with clouds and the stars were shining bright. Stars = cold [as a side note: One of the things I love most about the Keweenaw is the lack of light pollution and the ability to see the Milky Way on any clear night]. Anyway, we rolled around the east side of town for a bit, through Daniel Heights and Portage/Mill Road. We talked about adventures, trips, fun future megatough stuff. Then it got a tinge colder, and my fingers started to feel the bite. Weirder still, my elbows got cold.

I could see frosty glimmers of Margot’s hair popping out from under her hat, and it looked like streaks of gray mixed with her dark brown hair. That was pretty cool. Little ice chunks started forming on our faces, and we struggled to hold an understandable conversation. I tried to warm up my fingers by hooking them into my shirt’s built-in “mittens”- and that actually helped. But the elbows… What do I do about the elbows?!

We chatted about a trip to the sauna, and lamented about how we can’t use the one at the SDC (our uni’s gym) for the next few weeks. We tried to think warm thoughts; she told me about her chocolate of the month club and I told her about coffee. We headed back towards West Houghton and I swear the temperature dropped even more. We went past the bank and it read 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes! Time to get home.

The run ended and I climbed the stairs to my apartment as fast as anyone could with numb legs and frozen fingers.  I sat at my kitchen table until the frost dripped from my face and my elbows could make more than a 90 degree bend. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a better shower. Follow that up with some spaghetti and Trigger Point quadballing, and you’ve got yourself a great recovery. Now, I’m bundled up in a long sleeve shirt and jogging pants, and those fluffy soft slipper socks that are so completely impractical [except when you are not planning on leaving your apartment for the rest of the night].

Lessons I’ve learned today:

  • Just because you live and breathe the U.P., doesn’t mean you can go outside in the winter time with just a long sleeve and a vest on. Especially when its 16F when you start.
  • Don’t eat a bowl of pumpkin oats within half an hour of running for two hours.
  • You probably can get frostbite on your elbows. So don’t risk it!
  • El Cheapo gloves are not always the best for a cold evening run. Shoulda wore my snowboarding mittens!!!

Interesting Fact of the Day:

Sauna, pronounced “SOW nuh”, is a Finnish tradition of placing water on very hot rocks in a small, enclosed room to create a “steam room” (it can also be used sans water to make just a HOT room). Trust me, it is the best post-winter run/ski/snowshoe/outdoor activity treat you can have. I don’t like sweating a lot or being too hot, which is ironic because I LOVE being in a sauna.

Ahh, snow.

The weather this week was interesting. Apparently, the UP received the “storm of the century”- but I don’t remember it being all THAT bad. Sure, there was snow. Lots of snow. And wind, can’t forget that. It was cold, it was icy, and most importantly- it was snowy! I love snow.

It was nice to get dumped on. We went from having no snow, to having blankets of the white fluffy stuff. YAY! That to me means cross-country skiing, trail shoes, and snowshoeing.

It wasn’t all smiles and laughs, though. Seriously, it snowed for six days straight. It really never stopped. If it did stop, you couldn’t tell, because the wind was whirring up the snow that had fallen earier. It was definitely winter parka weather.

It was miserable walking home from campus, but it was better than having to scrape off seven inches of snow after being parked for a few hours.

It was totally worth getting out and doing stuff! Yesterday, I went for an early-morning jog around Houghotn, and it was nice to get the glow of street lights reflecting off the snow. Holiday decorations were out and people were up and at’em, shoveling and snowblowing their driveways. The coolest thing was probably the army of snowplows on Montezuma I saw as I headed up Bridge Street. One after the other charging through the snow, lining up piles of snow in the middle of the busiest street in the Keweenaw. So cool. I definitely had to head out prepared, though. I wore my headlamp and several layers! Get ready to get cold, girlfriend!

Today was absolutely beautiful. The Michigan Tech Huskies had their season opener for Nordic. Sure, it was a little squeaky and sticky for skate, but my kick today was awesome (I classical skied… ).

Adam and I tried out our new headgear that we bought from Sauce (formerly SOS headgear), which was started by a friend of mine and current professional skier, Shayla Swanson (Canada National Team). I met Shayla when I lived in Bozeman [she was roommies with my girl, Karin C.]. Both girls are kick-ass skiers. I love that Shayla sells these hats as a way to represent the ski community and support herself financially. Seriously, it’s really hard to find a perfect hat for xc-skiing (or running, for that matter). Some are way too warm for aerobic activities, some are not wind resistant at all, and some just sorta inch their way off your melon as you move around. The Sauce hats (like the Swift Toque)  and headbands are sweet, because they are tight around the ears but not too tight, cover more surface area (ie. skin!) and they don’t leave you exposed to the elements. Plus, they hats are supa-styling. Mocha polka pattern looks soooo sweet [that’s the pattern I’ve got, pictured below]! I really like how easy these are to take care of, too. The tassel is removable, so I just pull a string and the top of the hat opens up and the tassel comes off. Way convenient for washing it, so I don’t have to worry about the tassel getting all gnarly in the washnig machine at the laundromat. Extra bonus.

So today, Adam and I just skied around on the trails after watching the men’s race finish. The trails were awesome, 24Km all packed and groomed.  I pulled something in my inner thigh while out on Portage loop, hopefully its nothing and I can get back out there tomorrow and get some more skiing in. I love to classic ski! Here’s a video of me out on core loop:

After I pulled my adductor or whatever I did, I dinked around behind Adam a bit and did some videography. Sorry if its a little bumpy, but you gotta see how awesome the trails look 😀 I loooove the UP.

That’s all I got for now! Get outside, folks! It’ll make you feel better 😀

Ready for 2010?

Whether you are ready for it or not, Two-thousand-and-ten is just 25 days away. I don’t really buy into the whole New-Year’s-Resolution thing, but I do believe in setting goals and have already vowed to make a few changes in my training and racing strategies for next season.

Instead of thinking about the New Year as the time to “start over” though, I end up thinking about it as just another day. Perhaps I am on some different calendar. To me, the refresh button is hit when the season ends. That was on October 18th, the day after the Columbus Marathon. I took some time off from serious training, slept in for about a week straight (ok, maybe two), and just generally enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t responsible for accomplishing any athletic feats for the next six months. My next race, the Salt Lake City Marathon, isn’t until April, exactly half a year after Columbus. Oddly enough, I didn’t even plan it like that!

Anyway, I digress. When Columbus was over, I hit reset, cleared out all the junk in my legs, reformatted my digital training log (seen to the right), and outlined my goals for 2010. I wrote them down. I decided that my plans for the 2010 race season(s) will include:

  • Keeping track of weekly swim/bike/run mileage
  • More racing
  • Less whining

Keeping track: I’ve always done a piss-poor job of keeping track of my mileage. I do a good job at first, but then I just stop adding up the hours/mileage and end up making guesses about a month in. For my next training block, I have my Excel file set up to automatically add the mileage for me. I just have to enter each workout. I should be doing that anyway, right? I even color-coded my training blocks and periodization, which makes for an easy-to-follow training plan. For example, lime green means “build” period, low intensity, long stuff.

Racing: I raced a lot last year, but they were mostly shorter running events. I also want to do more triathlons in 2010, because right now I only have three under my belt. With Triple T and Rev3 Cedar Point on deck, I will have a longer race season than 2009, so hopefully that opens up more opportunities.

Stop yer whining: I just gotta buck up and do it. No excuses.

For the next racing season, I’m also going to focus more on nutrition and general health. I have to pack my lunch more, and get enough of the right calories. Luckily, the MUB now has salads for people that are actually pretty delicious (and gluten free). I need to stay hydrated, get 8hrs of sleep a night. Not that I didn’t already have a good grasp on my training and health in 2009. I was strict about my gluten free diet. But there were definitely times when, on Fridays, I’d come home from work starving, cranky, and unable to do anything until I ate something substantial. It took me a while to figure out how to fuel for Ironman training on a sans-gluten diet. But I never had any gastrointenstinal (GI) problems when triathlon racing. It was a magical race-day experience for me after my first triathlon when I didn’t succumb to the rumors that I’d feel like absolute butt (forgive my French). I am a firm believer that this can be – at least partially – attributed to my gluten free diet.

So, I guess instead of saying I have a New Year’s Resolution, I should clarify. I have a New Race Resolution. Every race I compete in is new compared to the last. It’s not necessarily a second chance, it’s just a new opportunity to see what I can do. It’s a way to learn from mistakes, implement new ideas and strategies, get to the next level. What’s your next Race Resolution?

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful…

This is my first post in The Winter Training for Triathlon Series

I live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Da U.P. Where the north shoreline gets real buddy-buddy with Lake Superior, the largest frickin’ lake in the world, or something like that*. Sometimes Superior freezes over enough that the snow stops falling in the winter, but this is a rare occasion (we’re talking once every 25 years, at least). So, every year, we get 200-300inches of white, fluffy, crisp snow. Sometimes it pummels us, with nothing to see outside except a sheet of white from the massive amounts of frozen white precipitation that isn’t so much falling from the sky but rather making opaque window blinds.

Sometimes, it floats nicely and carefree from the sky, drifting side to side until it finally makes contact with the ground. Watching it will put you into a trance. It calms the soul.

Then there’s days like today, which offered a mix of both. The sideways snow always makes me laugh. I look out the window from the ninth floor of the UP’s tallest building (I don’t know if that’s true, but I like to believe it), and the snow is making mini-tornadoes at the bottom of campus.

I can’t help but smile on days when I walk into school, the gray clouds hovering over and the day feeling all dreary, and then looking outside before lunchtime to see the big white snowflakes falling from the heavens. Love it! I was especially excited on a day like today, because the snow was coming down hard, and I knew my evening run with Margot would include some white-frosted trees and some pretty cool sights.

We donned our reflective gear (well, at least Margot did… I ended up leaving mine in my locker by accident) and rolled out of West Houghton. The first site we saw was the ski hill. Mont Ripley was beautiful. The snow covered hill made me ansy for some skiing. And I haven’t been ansy for skiing in a long time (hey, I can say it! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this summer’s triathlon training).

It wasn’t long before I started to feel my feet sliding around on the ground. Ugh. I hate that feeling. Especially in the last year with my knees acting all funny, I was especially cautious, as was Margot. This was when I realized my beloved Trances were probably not the best shoe for winter road running.

Because it has been so warm, the roads were a bit wet this week, and the snow today meant that the temperatures (obviously) dipped below freezing. This meant that the roads were covered in a sheet of ice. Not too bad if you can run on the non-roadways (eg. snowmobile paths), but since we started at 430 and it gets dark by 5, well… you can imagine. We were slipping and sliding (to the tune of Little Richard) and were extra cautious on the downward slopes. There are a lot of downward slopes in Houghton. The snowmobile trail was a beacon, and the ground crunched under our feet. I guess its time to buy new trail running shoes…

We made it safely back to Margot’s house after an hour and a half of crisp, wintery air. Finally, dear Winter, I welcome you with open arms.

Here are some rules I live by when going out for a winter run:

  • Dress warm. but not too warm. I’m out there to get a my sweat on, so if I am too warm at the start, I will do nothing but sweat more, get cold, and then be miserable. If the temps are between 20-30degrees Fahrenheit, I usually don a lightweight hat (Icebreaker Pocket 200 is awesome), wool socks (back to the Icebreakers… you really can’t get any better when it comes to socks, toasty and perfect for winter running), lightweight gloves (ya know those cheap’o nylon ones that cost 99cents? yeah, those), tights, and two lightweight dry-wicking shirts (Craft poly over my Brooks HVAC long sleeve is what I chose today. When it’s colder than that, I like to wear some thicker gloves, another shirt or a vest, and some heavier-duty pants (Swix Nordic ski pants or Mountain Hardwear Transition pants are great on WINDY U.P. days).
  • Dress in layers. Wearing the two shirts gave me the option to remove one if I got too warm. When in doubt about the temps outside, I typically bring along a lightweight jacket or cycling jersey, and if I get too warm I take it off. No harm in that! If it’s between rainy and snowy, wear something water resistant so you don’t get soggy and wet.
  • Wear shoes with traction! Trail shoes seem to be perfect for winter running. Last year, I bought a pair of La Sportiva Imogenes from Downwind Sports in Houghton. They are comfy and have a great, grippy sole made out of “sticky rubber” that they call Frixion. The tread is deeper than normal trainers, so it can grab onto the snow. In 2003, I bought a pair of Montrail Hardrocks, and although they had mega-tread, they didn’t quite fit my foot right. I’m going to give the newest rendition of the shoe a shot this year, though. I’m not a superfan of YakTraks up here, mainly because my runs take me on a varying terrain of snow, ice, rocks, pavement, and cobblestone. The YT Pros are not recommended for anything but snow-cover and ice, and they get pretty slick on concrete and it sounds like I’m tap-dancing. Regardless, they probably work better than my summer trainers alone; those Brooks Trances just didn’t do it for me last night.
    • Some other good trail-running shoe options include:
      • Brooks Adrenaline ASR– These shoes have a medial posting, which helps direct the foot for people with pronation issues. The ASR stands for All-Season Running, and the shoe upper is weather resistant. Not soggy shoes at the end of the run with these!
      • Saucony ProGrid Xodus- These shoes look sweet. Plus they have a Vibram sole, which means that the rubber is a little more stiff and tractiony (is that a word?). I have a pair of Keens with a Vibram sole and its amazing how sticky they can be on slick, leave-covered rocks out in the woods.
      • Salomon XA PRO 3D Ultra GTW– That’s a mouthful. These shoes have Contragrip and are pretty cool lookin’ too, plus they have a really awesome lacing system that won’t lead to sloppy, slappy laces that are wet and soggy at the end of the run. Great traction, too!
  • Keep it covered. “It” being your skin. On some sunny days, Running Chick uses sunscreen to keep her skin moist and prevent sun burn. Another trick is to use Vasoline on exposed skin and/or wear a balaclava. The last thing you want is a frost-bit nose (sadly, it happens more often than you think). Don’t forget the shades; if its sunny, they’re good for obvious reasons, but sunglasses can also keep your eyes protected by sideways snowfall (and keep your contacts from getting irritated on windy days).
  • Bring water. Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you aren’t sweating. You’re wearing more clothes, and your working harder to keep your body temperature up. Plus, breathing in cold weather is an easy way to lose fluids (that steam you see is water leaving your body!). I love my Nathan Quickdraw Elite, and luckily my camera fits perfectly in the zip-up pocket! I suppose if I ran with my cell phone, this would also be a good spot to put it.
  • Wear bright, reflective stuff! It’s not always bright and sunny out there. It’s not always clear, either. It might be when you start running, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way by the time your done (especially if you live in da yoop). If it’s snowing, cars will have a hard time seeing you. And, if you live in an area like me, being aware of hunters is important to consider. Even if its daytime, being visible is incredibly important. Plus, how many people actually have time to run before work when its light out? The sun doesn’t come up until 8am here, and its gone by 5:30pm. Wearing a headlamp will make those dark roads easier to traverse, too. LL Bean sells a high visibility vest made by Brooks Running Company for $10! Serious. Team Mega Tough swears by these vests, too…
  • When in doubt, get low! If you aren’t sure if the road ahead (or underneath you) is icy, bend your knees more and anticipate a slip or a slide. Lowering your center of mass can help reduce your chances of falling, too. Plus, taking shorter steps, finding drier or more rough surfaces, and keeping your weight centered can help prevent a fall.
  • Don’t try and stop yourself from falling … with your hands. Sometimes falling is inevitable. But falling on ice and bracing yourself with your hands could lead to some serious wrist injuries. Your butt has way more cushion. That isn’t to say that you won’t get bruised, beaten up, or brought on some other painful problems, but there’s more surface area on your rump than on your wrists (more surface area = lower stress, because everyone knows that stress = force/area, right? hehe…). It’s hard to focus on where you are putting your hands when you fall, but if you can- try to remember to put them behind (or in front) of your head. If you fall backwards, having your hands behind your noggin’ might protect your head moreso than hitting your head on the icy road below. The key to falling is to stay limber. Let the fall happen. Don’t try to stop it. Get loose and relaxed and let more of your body absorb the impact.

What other tips do you have for winter running?

*Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world when measured by surface area.