How to Trail Run

Trail running is something I’ve been wanting to take up and do more of. For the last several years, I’ve lived a thirty to forty-five minute drive to the good trails in my nook of Colorado. It was a lot of effort that took way too much time; get up super early, dress, eat, drive forever, get at least an hour run in, drive home. That’s half the morning gone! I should have tried harder.

But now that I’m moving to a rural area of the mountains and will be doing all my training runs in my new neighborhood of hilly (understatement) dirt roads and U.S. Forest Service trails, I knew I needed to learn how run safely in the high country. It just so happened that my favorite local running store/brew pub (yes, you read that right), Shoes & Brews, was hosting a trail running clinic with Salomon Running. PERFECT. It was providence for sure!

My new neighbor, Mt. Meeker the Fourteener!

I’m so glad I went. It was helpful and informative, and it took some of the fear out of trail running for me. Here are some of the things I learned. Thanks, Salomon!

  1. Stay Upright Leaning forward constricts your airflow, so keep your torso upright and your head up despite the urge to lean into the hill.
  2. Stay on Your Toes Forget the heel strike. Staying on your toes makes you more agile through the rocks and other trail obstacles.
  3. Run on the Rocks If the trail is dry, go for solid surfaces over loose gravel when possible
  4. Run In The Water Don’t be afraid to run in the rivulets because there’s more loose sediment in wet conditions for your shoes to grip. In wet conditions, rocks can be slippery.
  5. Look Ahead Look 2-4 steps ahead of you to see where to step safely. Your brain can remember up to about 4 steps so stay safe by staying focused of your footfalls.
  6. Hip to Nip Move your arms like you normally would making sure they arc from your hip to your nip.
  7. Power Hike I didn’t know what this was until the clinic. It’s hard to explain, so go check out this great explanation from The Long Run
  8. Flail Like a Fool Flailing arms downhill is totally acceptable. No one will judge you for keeping your balance and not falling!
  9. Slow it Down Walking during trail running is a-okay! Even the pro who was with us, Courtney Dauwalter (who just broke a record for running 155 miles on a track in 24 hours) said so! It’s okay, really!
  10. What Goes Up On the downhill, lean forward a little to let gravity help you, but no so much you fall forward easily.
  11. Baby Steps Take smaller steps if you feel like you’re going too fast

Here’s Ester from Salomon with more tips

 

The trail we did was not for beginners, but it was a fun time and I met another Skirt Sports Ambassador, Becky! Making new friends is always fun, too.

Skirt Sisters!

The group at the top

It’s safe to say that I’m hooked. I’ve been posting gorgeous shots of my recent trail escapades on our Instagram all week. I cannot wait to get out there again this weekend and run where I play!

 

Do you run trails? Where do you run? What’s your biggest piece of advice for beginners? Share it all with me, I’m in desperate need of wisdom!

#REALwomenmove

#REALwomenmove

Real women move.  Yes, they sure do.  But what does this mean to me?  It means that it doesn’t matter what your body shape, size or fitness level is.  It means that you are getting off the couch and doing something.

When you think of an athlete do images of super fit people in Runner’s World come to mind?  Do you think of someone with either huge muscles or no body fat?  That is what media wants us to think.  But to me, it is someone that is strong.  Someone that has the willpower to get out there and try to weather their storm.  Someone who will try  to run their first 5K or a marathon, it doesn’t matter as long as they are becoming a better version of themselves.

There is a giant tree near my home.  I run by it as much as possible.  It is America’s largest Bebb Oak on record.  Some call her Grandma Bebb Oak.  She has her own Facebook page.  To me, she is strong.  Her limbs are heavy and her bark is brittle, but she still stands.   She is said to be well over 200 years old. To me she is strong and she is real.

I used to be a slave to the scale.  If a certain number didn’t come up, I wasn’t happy.  If my pant size wasn’t the right number, I was disappointed.  Now I realize that my body is strong.  I might not have the perfect amount of body fat.  I might be slightly overweight at times.  I have never been accused of being skinny.  On the flip side, I have been labeled as determined, hard core, and relentless.  My legs are more like tree trunks, like that Bebb Oak tree.   But those tree trunks get me to the finish line of 100 mile races.  I think that if you can believe it you can achieve it.

So get out there and do the impossible.  Do what you think you cannot do.  Don’t let others establish your limits because they see you in a different light.  Redefine yourself. Accept yourself, love yourself.   Prove people wrong.  Be strong and prove that #REALwomenmove!

#REALwomenmove is a new campaign by my favorite clothing company, Skirt Sports.  It is based on REAL women, REAL bodies, REAL inspiration.  Skirt Sports believes we all can and should embrace fitness and health.  We should be strong, confident and not judge, but rather encourage other women.  You can read more about #REALwomen move and check out their great running skirts and other great clothing items at skirtsports.com/realwomenmove

***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It’s a company I believe in and am I’m proud to be a part of their family.

Sandy is an Ultra runner who’s on state 35 of her 50 state quest! She loves to push herself and encourage others to dare more than they dream. Sandy shares her running adventures on her blog, TheUltraFreak 

5 Things to Know Before You Get Married

A few weeks back, I celebrated my fifteen year wedding anniversary to my high school sweetheart, Rick. We were together for eight years before we married so we’re celebrating almost twenty-five years together. We’ve learned a LOT in that time. We’ve watched nearly all of our friends marry, have kids, and divorce. We’re the last ones standing so-to-speak, and since I’m occasionally asked for marriage advice, I thought maybe I’d share a little bit of what I end up telling those who ask. This mindset is what works for me, but I don’t pretend that I’m an expert an any way, but here goes.

  • Make sure you’re in love with the person and the vision of your future together, and not just in love with the idea of a wedding. If only I had a dollar for all the times I’ve heard young women wax on and on about their wedding and then look like a deer in headlights when I ask “what goals do you have after the wedding?” I strongly feel this is a common mistake with young women. We’re groomed from such an early age to dream about being married to our prince charming in the perfect gown and having our special day where we’re the most beautiful girl in the whole world. The reality is that your wedding day zooms by so fast you hardly remember it later and what’s left is a gorgeous gown, some amazing photos, and that person you wake up next to every morning for the rest of forever. That person is the reason to get married, not the gown, the reception, the gifts, or the attention. And not because he/she will give you a family, your own house, or financial security, or because you were told your whole life that you’re supposed to get married and have kids because that’s what grown-ups do, but because you are madly in love with them. Love is the reason to get married, and it’s the only reason because if you don’t have love, you won’t stay married for long. Promise.
  • You don’t get to tell the other what to do. Just because you got married doesn’t mean that you get to tell your husband where he can go with whom and for how long any more than he can tell you what to do, how to dress, and that you can’t have guy friends. To be married, you must trust. You must trust your husband to make the right choices, and when he fails (like we all do), be there to help him through that and recover from his mistakes. That’s the “better or worse” part of your vows. You don’t surrender your free will or agency when you get married. He is his own person and so are you. You each have your own identity. I don’t care where my husband goes or with whom, just as long as I know whether or not he’ll be home in time for dinner or if I should just pour myself some cereal because I’m lazy.
  • Don’t ever make your spouse choose between you and their family. Sometimes loyalty can get tricky. When a situation arises that puts your spouse in a tough spot, don’t make it harder by putting them in the position of having to take sides. No one will win this way. I’m not saying you have to swallow genuine feelings to maintain harmony, but there is a graceful way to let your feelings and expectations be known without making your spouse feel like they’re being pulled in two directions. There are times to let it go, and there are times when you must quietly and firmly stand your ground and say “I am your wife/husband, and I deserve xyz. I need you to back me up this time.” Choose your battles, and choose diplomacy over war every time you can.
  • It’s going to be fucking hard sometimes. Marriage is work. For some, it’s constant work, for others it’s easier. I had a friend tell me once after being married for a short time, “This is too hard, it shouldn’t be so much work. He should just sweep me off my feet all the time.” Um, NOPE. I wish, but no. All these RomComs  and Disney movies have addled our female brains about the nature of true love and commitment. I guarantee you will have to put in effort to make your marriage happy and to make it last. Some days you won’t like your spouse at all. Sometimes, things are said and done that take a long time to heal and be forgiven for. We’re human after all, and sometimes we hurt those we love the most. My advice here is to be present, be accountable, and be compassionate. Own up to your half of the argument. Validate your spouse’s feelings. Listen to them. Support them, and help them grow and change to be a better person. Recognize when YOU need to grow and change to become a better person. We all need those closest to us to call out our bullshit and help us see ourselves for who we really are. The trick is to come out of that process with the love you took into it. Being humble in marriage is key.
  • Never stop talking and sharing. It’s cliché, but love, trust, and communication really are the bedrocks of a happy marriage (in my experience anyway). You need to laugh together and hold space for each other. You need to be emotionally available to your spouse and be comfortable sharing any and all feelings whether good or bad. You need to be able to hash out the hard stuff and appreciate the accomplishments. A strong foundation of love, trust, and communication will help you build a true partnership, and give you comfort in that you have a partner that you can always count on no matter what happens in life. As long as you’re both committed to the marriage and have love, you can work through the tough times and come out stronger and more in love than before. That’s a reward I feel many marriages don’t experience because we are a culture of giving up. I’m certainly not saying you should stay in a relationship that’s abusive in any way, but you must be honest about what marriage is really about. Sometimes it’s painful and uncomfortable, but if you have a core of love, trust, and communication, you can overcome as a team. Together. And believe it or not, your love for your spouse grows even deeper after you weather the trials together.

Then and Now, Prom ’94, and October ’14

What relationship advice has worked for you? Do you have wisdom to share? I always have something to learn, so share your tips in the comments.

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Race Recap: Vacation Races Yellowstone Half

Last weekend, amazing races took place all over the country. Maybe you even participated in one. (If so tell me allllll about it in the comments!) I was lucky enough to be one of those people, and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures from  the Vacation Race Yellowstone 5k and Half Marathon. I had dreamed of doing the Caldera Triple this year, but other obligations (tickets to see Roger Waters) kept me from the mother of all medals. Next year, it’s on!

Disclaimer: while I am a Vacation Races Ambassador, I did pay for my registration for this race and I didn’t receive any compensation for this race review.

I live about ten hours from Yellowstone. Honestly, when the scenery is as beautiful as it was and you’re driving your Mustang, ten hours feels like five.We drove up last Thursday and got into Yellowstone at around seven o’clock in the evening. Along the way, we stopped at an overlook to take in the most beautiful mountain range I’ve ever seen, and keep in mind, Rocky Mountain National Park is my backyard. If you’ve never been to the Grand Tetons, you need to add it to your bucket list.

Jackson Lake and Grand Teton

We came from the south which meant we had to drive through Grand Teton National Park to get to Yellowstone. We decided to buy an annual park pass since we’ll soon be living so close to a national park ourselves. Eighty bucks to support our national treasures was money well spent in our book.

I had signed up for the Bison Double, which meant I was running the 5k Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday morning. My husband and I decided to get up before dawn on Friday to see some of Yellowstone while the light was still good for photography. It was the right choice!

He was the only other guy on the road at 5:30 am. Also, he wasn’t moving for us.

Sadly, the Grand Prismatic Spring was too steamy to see.

Kepler Cascade

Yellowstone Lake and Thermal Vents

A real life postcard.

After a morning of exploring the park, we headed back to the hotel to take a nap and prep for the 5k. The weather forecast at race time was less than dry. I was volunteering at the race expo before the start, so I headed over a little early and met up with the rest of my team at the start. My husband, sisters-in-law, and their husbands all ran the 5k, and exactly none of us were looking forward to running in rainy drizzle and 42 degrees.

There’s some first timers in this pic!

The course was beautiful despite it being wet. I don’t have many pics of this race because the conditions made it hard to snap shots. We started on paved town roads for the first mile then transitioned to gravel trail riddled with puddles and mud for the rest of the race. We had to watch where we stepped so we didn’t slip in the mud. I’m glad I’d packed so much gear, options are so important when the weather is unpredictable. Plus I’d bought an emergency poncho for which I was so grateful! I was slow because of the conditions and I wanted to be sure I was okay to do the half the next morning. My husband and I crossed the finish, then waited for the rest of our team. We were disappointed to learn that the 5k medals had been lost in shipping, but we were assured that they’d be mailed to us once they were located.

The next morning, I woke up to a weather forecast calling for hail and more rain before the half marathon. Yes, hail. Well, tiny little pellets, but still, when they hit your cold cheeks, it hurts! I shook out my disposable poncho and layered up. With some fleece lined leggings, a Lioness skirt from Skirt Sports, and three layers on top, I was as ready as I could be for my first wet, cold trail half.

I knew this race was going to be my hardest one yet going into it. I knew the elevation gain was no joke, and that it was mostly on a trail. I also knew I wasn’t able to train for this race like I wanted to. Since February, I’ve had to focus on selling my house, moving, and finding a new place to live.  Doing all those home improvement projects did get me into better shape than I was in after the holidays, but I was no where near where I wanted to be for this race. Getting a PR wasn’t my goal, not getting hurt was. My strategy was to do walk a brisk pace with some splashes of running until the big hill. Then, I’d walk as briskly as I could up that bish.

Around mile five, it started to get steep. The course was still thick with mud, and I tried to stay on the edge of the trail to keep from getting bogged down. Mile six is where it started to get nasty. Hence my face in the photo below. It was yucky, but at least the sun had come out and the rain/hail stopped! Once I got over that hill, I found one of my Skirt Sports sisters on the course, and I couldn’t have been happier! Kim is the best. We’d run the Skirt Sports 13er together last year and running with her is always so much fun.

After I’d made it over the hill and found a friend, the race took on a new feel. The course turned technical with large rocks as we began to descend in elevation. I took my time through the rocks but still stumbled a few times. The views were completely worth it, though, as the course took us beside the river and through pristine forest.

As I was out there feeling better than I expected to be at mile nine, I took a moment to appreciate my body. I have ridiculous expectations of it. I ask it to do amazing feats of endurance without ever putting in the 100% training I should. As I climbed that hill and listened to those around me struggling to breathe due to the altitude, I sent my body some messages of gratitude and I promised to not ask it to do this again without the proper preparation.

We counted down the miles together, stopped for orange slices at the mile 11 aid station, and were fueled by the thought of our medals waiting for us. Unfortunately, the Bison Double medals and the Caldera Triple medals were lost in shipping along with the 5k medals. But we did get our half marathon medals, so it was great to have that waiting for us at the end along with the always yummy post race fuel box and bananas.

It hurt so much but we did it!

Kim and I hugged goodbye before I took a few family photos with our race team. I think some of them may have caught the race bug! I’m already planning to come back for the Caldera Triple next year, maybe we’ll make it a tradition!

It was a fabulous race in one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. Aside from the medals being lost, everything went smoothly and we all had a blast. This race may not be an annual one for me due to traveling, but it’s certainly one I’d like to do every few years. Vacation Races didn’t disappoint, they really now how to pick their locations! It was so gorgeous everywhere you looked that I wanted to share a few last photos with you of your Yellowstone National Park.  Enjoy!

Elk buck

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

Bison herd

You could literally reach out your car window and touch them. But DON’T.

Half medal with Old Faithful erupting in the background

 

As a safety reminder, I ask that when you read my recaps of high altitude races to not underestimate the affects of altitude. I’ve lived at over 5000 feet elevation all my life, and soon I’m moving to 8500 feet. My lungs and muscles are acclimated to the elevation despite having asthma. If you do a race at altitude and you aren’t already acclimated, be sure to train appropriately, take precautions against altitude sickness, and be kind to yourself on the course if you don’t hit your pace goals.Save

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Why a 60 Minute Yoga Class?

Recently, I made some folks angry on Facebook which isn’t hard to do these days. It started when, silly me, I commented on this story from the Atlantic where the author laments that anything more than thirty minutes of yoga class is just too hard to fit into her busy schedule. My comment on Facebook was something to the effect of, “if you’re complaining about the class being too long, I suggest you’re missing the point. Yoga is a spiritual practice, not a newly invented fitness crazy to get you a six-pack in 8 weeks”. Because really, if that’s all you’re getting out of it, then there’s a plethora of other fitness classes you can take in thirty minutes. Seriously. SO. MANY. CHOICES.

Holy wow, did I strike a chord with folks. Many people were offended that I was telling them how to be spiritual and/or how to be fit, when I wasn’t doing any such thing. I was simply trying to point out that the original purpose of Yoga isn’t about fitness. Increased flexibly and strength are aspects of yoga that enable you to find focus, concentration, meditation, and liberation (to name a few benefits). It’s all connected. Yoga helps you join your body and mind into a harmonious unison through focus, breath and movement. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Of course you don’t have to subscribe to the ancient traditions of yoga in order to enjoy or receive benefits from yoga. Of course I don’t think everyone who walks into a western yoga studio needs to have read the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita. I don’t expect everyone to set intentions for their practice that include opening the Chakras and/or rooting oneself to the Earth’s energies. These aspects of yoga are not for everyone, I get that.

But I ask you, as a member of our shared human culture, to please respect the ancient origin and traditions of yoga as a spiritual practice first and foremost. Know that there are some folks in your class who may be there to connect with their bodies in a way that is very spiritual for them. For people like me, going to yoga class is more akin to going to church than going to the gym. Those of us who are there for these benefits ask that those of you who aren’t be respectful of the history, the religion, the quiet, the peace, and most of all, the sacred savasana.  (Hint, stop talking during savasana.)

With a little digging, you’ll soon see that yoga has been misappropriated by western culture. You don’t have to look far to see what I mean, after all, baby goat yoga is all the rage. I saw bunny yoga classes on my morning news today, complete with cute bunnies hopping around leaving little round brown presents for all the yogis in class. Gross. I honestly can’t imagine any physical benefit to allowing baby goats to climb on your vertebrae while you’re in child’s pose. I really cannot.

I want to state here and now that I’m not a Yoga teacher (#futuregoals), nor am I a spiritual authority, guide, teacher, prophet, or anything at all. I’m still learning about the history of yoga and all its forms, so in no way am I an expert. But if you’re going to yoga and don’t like that the classes are an hour or more, please consider why they are this length. Do some research. Understand the meaning behind what you’re participating in. If all that new age sounding stuff isn’t for you, that’s totally okay. Just be aware and be respectful. Namaste!

Over the River, Through the Woods

Did you hear??! Probably not, because it’s just became official, but I’m moving to the mountains! I am the soon-to-be owner of a lovely acre-and-a-half near Rocky Mountain National Park. Here’s a little update via vid. Lemme know if ya have any bear tips.

 

I can’t wait to buy things like snowshoes and cross-country skis. Maybe even a canoe!