Sunday, January 30, 2011

Milwaukee Multisport Expo 2011: Top Ten

Before snowshoeing, Sweetness and I had total fun at the Multisport Expo. Lots of race event organizers, vendors, and cool stuff to see, do, and buy. The top ten:

(10) The sweet little 6 month old baby at the TriWisconsin booth. Baby toes!

(9) Meeting the folks at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes booth. Am seriously eyeing their Headsweats visor for springtime running. Plus, what a great way to minister to athletes.

(8) The delightful lady plugging the MS 150 ride. We'd do it this year, but we're already booked that weekend. However, next year . . . .

(7) The "irunlikeagirl" tech tee I got for my daughter.

(6) Dirtygirl. Hmmmmm . . . . .

(5) I needed Moving Comfort sport bras in the next size down. The good people at Fleet Feet obliged, at half off, plus pitched in a gel pack for free. Sweet!

(4) The indoor bouncy house to entertain children, which is also used as part of the obstacle course for the Madison Mud Run. Sweetness and I briefly considered playing on it as part of his training for the Mud Run, then thought better of it.

(3) Watching grown men and women cycle to nowhere on trainers for an indoor time trial. Man, I love biking, but I'm not sure I love it that much.

(2) The cool pop up privacy tents the vendors were using as fitting rooms.

and . . .

(1) Watching my Sweetness pump out 20 push ups on a balance board in exchange for a free bag of Sport Beans.

Snowshoeing for Dummies

So let me first tell you how much I love snowshoeing. It is, bar none, my favorite winter sport. (I do not count drinking spiked egg nog and eating Christmas cookies a sport, alas). There are a couple of reasons. First, it is great for your lower body muscles and your core. Second, because of reason one, you seriously torch calories while snowshoeing. Like, I can't eat the number of calories I burn, seriously burn calories. Read that last sentence again. With me now? Good. Third, and finally, it is a stable form of winter sport. By this I mean the things I strap on to my feet are wider than my feet, unlike skiing and skating, and does not require rapid rates of speed going downhill, like snowboarding or skiing.

So first, you need snowshoes. The old wooden and rope snowshoes are no more. Now they make lovely (relatively) lightweight metal shoes with plastic bindings and settings. Basically, you buckle in once you've adjusted your setting and you are off. While these shoes are relatively light, they do add weight (thus the major calorie burn). Also, they will change your gait to a slightly wider one, and the muscles on your inner thighs will feel it.

Second, you really would love trekking poles. You can snowshoe without them, but they do add more of an upper body workout to the snowshoe experience and, if the terrain is uneven, they can help with balance.

Third, gear. Your base body temp, as with any other high intensity workout, will rise, and you will get hot, so dress in synthetic layers that can be "vented" (also known as zippered up and down). Yesterday, I went against conventional wisdom and wore jeans and a cotton turtleneck as my "base layers," then added a lightweight running jacket and a windproof jacket over that. Ten minutes in, I was hot and the outer jacket was unzipped. For footwear, I had on Sorel snow boots and wool hiking socks from Costco. I also had a headband on, and thermal gloves. I was fine. You would also do well to bring along sunglasses to protect your eyes from the winter glare (I didn't).

Finally, hydration and nutrition. I treat snowshoeing the same as any other high intensity workout -- about 30 minutes in I will need simple sugars and need water throughout, so I wore my Camelbak hydration waistpack and tried out my gel flask. I diluted a Clif shot, mocha flavor, with water. It tasted almost (but not quite) like a bottled Starbucks frappuccino. I tolerated it well. I wonder if chocolate, diluted, would taste like YooHoo. Hmmmmm.

Anyhow, besides the many health benefits of snowshoeing, you get to see places other people only see from afar. We shoed along the shoreline of Lake Michigan at Grant Park. It was tough to get a sense of how deep the snow was, and where we were on the terrain, but at places we were trekking past tree tops. We also were very close to the shoreline at one point, and may have been on top of the built up snow and ice formations at the edge of the lake. Cool.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Five: Back in the Game Edition

(1) After a completely crazy December and January, culminating in a week of no exercise whatsoever, this week has been a relief. I've been kicking back, not working all that much, and getting back in the exercise groove.

(2) Speaking of the exercise groove, Sweetness and I are going snowshoeing this weekend. Two years ago we each got a set of Yukon Charlies with trekking poles at Costco and have gone whenever the accumulation and the kid schedule allows. Last year, it wasn't much, and so far this year it hasn't been either. But on Saturday we're headed out to Grant Park on the south side of Milwaukee -- nice wooded areas along Lake Michigan. Can't wait.

(3) Before the snowshoes, we're going to the Milwaukee Multisport Expo. (Yes, this is what we married people with children call a "date." If you add in Papa Murphy's pizza and a glass of wine, the statistical probabilities for Sweetness become very, very good, if you know what I mean. nudge, nudge). Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to finding all sorts of new gear tidbits to look at and drool over.

(4) Speaking of gear, I'm stoked about using my hydration pack and gel flask at my 8k in 3 weeks. The hydration pack has been indoor tested on the treadmill with excellent results. Yes, I'm sure I look like a complete doofus, and no, I really don't care.

(5) You may ask "Why on earth would you need gel for a five mile run?" And the answer will be this: about 30-40 minutes in to any run, I get cranky. Simple sugars help this problem immensely. And five miles takes me about 80 minutes, give or take a few. I plan to do the gel flask with one packet gel, diluted, and take half 30 minutes in and the other half 60 minutes in. I'm also going to be giving Nuun a try for electrolyte replacement, though my tough guy Army Ranger sergeant brother says Camelbak makes the best electrolyte tabs, and seeing as he's made it through 4 tours in Iraq and 60 days on the ground with just the pack on his back, I trust his judgment and I'll be trying that soon too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winged Shoes

Or something. Did 2 miles at a 15:30 pace in the new kicks. No hotspots, no blisters, nada. While I'm sick, even. Amazing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes

This, from the Barefoot Athena.

Fivefinger Bikilas rule. However, they have their limitations. One of these limitations is that they suck up water like a sponge, and in the winter, any snow whatsoever becomes snowjam between my toes and immediately makes my toes cold. A dry cold, no probs. Any precipitation on the ground, we're in frostbite city.

SO, I meandered over to Performance Running Outfitters, where the lovely Ann put me on the treadmill and proceeded to inform me of a few crucial pieces of info. First, my right foot overpronates, meaning that it rolls inward slightly too much. Second, my left foot compensates for the overpronation on the right, and this is probably what causes the blistering and hot spots on my left foot, and a mild stability shoe would correct it. Third, since I have not injured myself with the Bikila, with slow increases in speed and distance, I am likely to avoid injury in another minimalist shoe, whether or not I correct the overpronation on the right foot. Fourth, I have very good forefoot running form. And fifth, my foot requires a curved footbed (where the footbed actually looks like a "c") as opposed to a straight footbed.

This might be a good place for me to say that I will never go to another running store again. The knowledge base at Performance is amazing.

So, I tried on a number of minimalist and forefoot shoes, including Newtons (too bulky), Mizunos (too stiff), and Saucony (too tight in the toe box) before finding the perrrrrfect outdoor running shoe for me, a pair of racing flats (HA!) made by the fine folks at Brooks. They feel like bedroom slippers, but I can put on Yaktrax and my toes won't get wet. AND, they were only 67 bucks.

I'll be taking my lovely nine year old daughter to meet Ann soon, so that we can get her square for running in the springtime. She wants to do her first run this year.

Metrics: January 25, 2011

3 miles, 16.10 minute/mile.

three weeks until my 8k.

15.6 pounds off. that's approximately 62 sticks of butter, give or take a few tablespoons.

my 15 pound goal reward: a gel flask with a clip for attaching to my hydration pack.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Five: Complete Lack of Exercise Edition

(1) This massive appellate brief business, having taken the lion's share of my attention and time this week, has meant that I have not gotten to the gym at all, and only spent half an hour at a leisurely pace on the treadmill in the basement, which I hate doing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is I have to stare at unwashed laundry and assorted kid and husband clutter to do it.

(2) This complete lack of exercise has translated into a complete lack of energy and patience on my part. I have also noticed the physical symptoms of stress more acutely than usual, like a tight back and shoulders and headaches.

(3) I miss the gym. Mark this day in history. I miss it because I miss having time to myself in a place where noone bothers me, and I can take a shower in peace, with warm towels to dry off with, and I can focus on myself and my needs.

(4) On a positive note, I've been eating well and sticking to my plan and haven't dived head first into a vat of chocolate, even with the massive stress I've been under.

(5) This brief is due on Tuesday, but it's close to being done, and if I can swing it I'll be shipping it out before then, because I need to run, or bike, or elliptical, or row, or something.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Five: Fatigue Edition

(1) The intervals in the Bingham plan are good; four days a week plus two days a week cross training are not. I feel like I've been run over by a Mack truck. I think I'll ramp back to three days a week of run/walking.

(2) I'll probably do three days of cross training (bike, rowing, and elliptical probably) and see if that helps. If not, I'll drop back to 2 cross training days and have 2 rest days.

(3) Depending on how (1) and (2) go, I may be reassessing my spring schedule. It seemed a little ambitious on paper to do a half by May, and that may prove to be doubly so in reality. Also, a very good friend of mine from church wants to step outside her comfort zone and complete a sprint duathlon in June; she wants me to do it with her and I can't think of a better way to spend a spring day.

(4) The other thing I'm realizing is that I probably need fewer races in the spring/summer/fall to keep me motivated. I've been exercising 3-4 times per week for almost a year now, and I think that's become a permanent habit. I don't think I'll need as much external motivation.

(5) Yes, I've been eating enough and hydrating well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Metrics: January 9, 2011

5 miles.

80.30 minutes.

16.05 minute/mile.

13.6 pounds gone.

9.7 pounds until my 10% body weight goal.

1.6 pounds per week average loss.

6 weeks until I meet my 10% body weight goal.

$387.50 in the road bike fund.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Three Things Thursday

(1) I've settled on a training plan for the St. Jude Marathon. It's from "Marathoning for Mortals" by John Bingham, affectionately known as The Penguin for his slow pace and penguinlike stride. Since Mr. Bingham has lost 80 pounds, written many books, and was a long time columnist for Runner Magazine, it seems clear that speed or lack thereof is no deterrent to being known for your athletic tendencies.

(2) I'm combining the plan from John Bingham with a bunch of stuff I learned from Danny Dreyer's book ChiRunning. At first, the idea sounds a little woo-woo, but the idea is to basically be a mindful runner, land on the forefoot with a slight forward lean, and focus on form first, then distance, then speed. It seems to be working.

(3) I'm down 5 percent of my body weight. In about 4 weeks, I should be down 10 percent of my starting body weight. I should also be in a size twelve jeans. I think the last time I wore a size 12 was in college. No, I know the last time I wore a size 12 was in college. Also, I can feel my abdominal muscles under my pudge for the first time -- hm, since I was pregnant and I had baby feet pushing against my uterus. Before that? How about never.

(4) Yes, I know it's Three Things Thursday, cut me some slack, I'm chatty today. I'm a big believer in celebrating small successes along the way to a big goal. In the past, I'd celebrate with food. Now, I celebrate by treating myself to something that will encourage me a little closer to my big goal. My treat for my first 5k was a Camelbak Alterra hydration waistpack. I already had a hydration backpack, but it does not fit particularly well over my ample bosom. Sweetness loved his, and so now I have one. There are benefits to having a gear junkie for a husband.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Today, the weather is more genuinely Wisconsin: bitter cold with a biting wind. If 2010 was out like a lamb, 2011 is in like a lion -- a really mad lion.

Speaking of change, I worked really hard on it in 2010 and anticipate more of the same in 2011. It's interesting, though, how change will ripple and spread into places one doesn't expect.

In 2010, I got really tired of being tired. My doctor thought it had a lot to do with weight (too much) and exercise (too little) . I decided I'd work on the exercise piece and the weight thing would fix itself. But it didn't work that way, and it never will, because the same voice that tells you "it's just one muffin" will also add loudly that "you JUST RAN THREE MILES." After eight months of vigorous exercise, I got really REALLY mad that the scale number wasn't going down, and realized I was going to have to (sigh) watch what I eat.

So I joined Weight Watchers. At first, the plan emphasized calorie counting, and just about the time that I was gonna throw in the towel and resign myself to being a slow, chunky fit person, they changed the plan to encourage more whole foods, discourage artificial and processed foods, and basically made fruit and veggies not count for purposes of tracking your food. This made all the difference in my ability to think I could stick to the plan long term, and since I joined I've lost ten pounds and maintained over the holidays. Today I'm back on the bandwagon, and anticipate that I'll be down to my goal weight by summertime.

This brings me to two points. One, given my height (five nine) and my overall build (big boned and muscular), even my goal weight will exceed my husband's weight, and I will never look "willowy" or "lithe" nor will I ever leave the athletic category designed for big women: Athena. While there's something cool about being in the same category as the Greek goddess of war and strategy, I must admit it's discouraging to know that a healthy weight for me would still classify me as "fat" among athletes.

Which brings me to my next point, which is, I don't know if it's the nature of being me or the nature of being human, but it seems that when I decided to change myself, to set boundaries and goals for myself, to do things in my own best interest, I get encouragement from people I don't expect (which is great) but I also catch a lot of flack from people I don't expect (which stinks). As a woman, it's hard to do the right thing for yourself, to set goals and meet them, to run farther and faster than you ever have in your life, and then learn that people (especially other women) are threatened by it, want to sabotage you, or question your motivations, or even your sanity, and then, on top of THAT, to know that even when you meet your goal, you'll still . . . well, weigh more than the average man. To know that you can also probably chick the average man is kind of cold comfort.

I know that names have meaning, and I don't think that there could be a better name for a class of big, strong, and athletic women than Athena. I am honored to be one. I guess I just wish I had Athena's self-assurance too.