Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Skirts in the Dirt Mountain Bike Race

Hello Friends,

It has been quite a long time since I've posted here. It seems like life switched into high-gear about this time last year and I haven't been able to keep up. While I haven't been mountain bike racing I have still managed to keep a bit of dirt on the wheels with some family and leisurely single track rides here and there.

But, in a little over a month I plan on breaking out some racing legs for West Michigan's first Women Only Mountain Bike Race, Skirts in the Dirt presented by the WMMBA. This isn't a race just for Iceman veterans and dirt fanatics. There will be something for everyone! Check out the race descriptions:

  • Girls on Wheels -- Kids Under 12 race for free -- Bring the whole family!. Race begins at 1:30 p.m.
  • Never Ever! -- For those ladies who said they'd never race. Never say never!!! You've been out riding and love being on the trail, but are still starting out. Let's keep this fun! Beginner Course, Race begins at 1 p.m.
  • ​Weekend Warrior -- You love to ride and maybe even race from time to time. You have probably passed a guy in an Iceman Jersey and politely waved as you pedaled by. 2 laps, race begins at 11:30 a.m.
  • Fabulously Fat (Fat bikes only) -- ​For those riders who are always prepared for whatever weather Michigan can throw at them. Your favorite way to ride is with tires 3.5" or wider. Why loose the fat in August? Don't put that bike on a diet! Bikini season is almost over! 2 laps*, race begins at 11:30 p.m.
  • Dirt Diva -- Chain lube is in your blood. Quite a few people have no idea what you look like without a bike helmet and dirt on your cheeks -- but you look like a total diva when covered with dirt. 3 laps*, race begins at 10 a.m.

The organizers of the event asked me to help out with the t-shirt design. It was a lot of fun to work on! The design is above. I've also created stickers (because stickers are fun!). Actually I wanted a sticker for myself. I see cars driving around with "26.2" and "13.1" and "ITRI" and wished that I had a sticker to represent what I love to do. Since I was making one for myself anyways, I thought I should just make them available for everyone!

Stickers can be purchased at links below (with customized hair color! Also, the pink isn't quite so pink on the actual sticker):

And there are sticker for the Girl mountain bike racers too!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Having a Snowblast!

Happy Friday everyone!

There have been some disappointing winters in Michigan in recent history. This year however has definitely made up for it in grand Polar-Vortex fashion—I even saw a snownado go by the house yesterday afternoon. It's not unusual for us to get a blast of snow in late October or early November. But it doesn't usually stick around with the relentless force as it has this year.

Muskegon has had over 80" of snow and we have the potential to be hit with at least two more snow storms this week. Coupled with the snow is the frigid temps. I have to say there is a part of me that is a little delighted with the arctic blast. Back in October when I was Christmas shopping for the kids I went overboard in the underwear department and purchased each of the kids multiple sets of expedition weight long underwear AND tall, thick wool socks. The kids are getting their full-use out of these items.

RT: Sage sledding LT: Bear laughing at Sage Sledding. Photos by Aunt Lisa
They have gone sledding just about every weekend. When they aren't sledding, Bear prefers to be inside. However we can't keep Sage in the house. She's either outside shoveling—for shoveling's sake—building a shelter for the animals, making snowmen, or building a stash of snowballs to launch at an unsuspecting Mom or Dad.

Dad has also groomed our very own XC trail through the yard and around to the neighbors.

Bear XC Skiing
We've gone biking . . .

And Sage is training for a 10k (this was back on Thanksgiving, but she's been running every week since) . . .

To sum it all up, our family has been having a Snowblast this year!

Snow Shoe Running

While the kids have been making their own fun experiences, Chad and I have been hitting the trails for some quality and challenging snow shoe running. We've both signed up for RBR 25k which means we can't let what some people would call "poor conditions" hold us back from training. 

Kelly, Roxanne, and Myself getting ready to run. Photo by Roxanne
I've been able to meet friends for a couple of runs and even ventured out for solo excursions. Snow shoe running is probably my favorite of all running experiences. Mostly because I get to be out in the woods (which is also why I'm a mountain biker and not a roadie). My first snow shoe run experience was at Big Foot Snow Shoe Race in 2011. At the time I thought I had never suffered so much--of course I was an immediate fan.

Me at Bigfoot Snow Shoe Race in 2011
There is that side of me that is a bit of a masochist and finds a sick enjoyment in torturing myself. Snow shoe running is brutal. As I described it last week to my FB friends: I felt like I was running in place with 10 pound sand bags tied to each ankle for 90 minutes.

While it is challenging there is also a serene side, an escape into the wilderness and away from the cars, the lights, and the crowds. On my run yesterday I climbed to the top of a sand dune and could look out over the treetops to the ice formations on Lake Michigan. I could see all the way past where the ice broke into the blue water. It was breath-taking. Later, as I trudged along, I saw a small burrow where a rabbit must be making his home this winter. There is always so much to see and experience. 

Meanwhile my mileage is falling a bit short of my RBR 25K training plan, I'm comfortably okay with it. I run and bike and "train" in order to enjoy life and to have these amazing experiences--either finishing a race or a view from the top of a sand dune. It's not always about distance or speed. 

Clearly, it's not about speed.

(Actually, will someone please give me a kudos on this run in my Strava account? I'm feeling a little down about my pace. Thanks!)

Some quick-tips for first-time snow shoe runners:

You will get wet. The snow shoes kick up a lot of snow. Make sure to wear good running tights that will help wick away some of the moisture and dry quickly. You may also want to invest in a pair of gaiters. I have a pair of gortex trail-running shoes to help stay dry and warm.

It's a lot harder than running on the road--even a snow-covered, icy road. You may not usually carry water or GU for a 5 mile run through your neighborhood, but trail running in snowshoes is a whole 'nother beast. It requires a lot more energy. I recommend carrying extra nutrition and water for runs 5 miles or greater.

If you are carrying a water bottle in your hand (like I do) stick a toe warmer on the water bottle. Less you want your hand to freeze to it. True story.

You will be slower. Don't worry, you aren't a slower runner per se, it's just the terrain and the cumbersome snow shoes make it that much more challenging. Depending on how hilly the trails are I see anywhere from 1.5-3.5 minute pace slower than my road running pace.

It's okay to walk. Really. There might be sections with snow drifts that cause you to sink up to your thigh. Don't be a soldier. Hiking through that is challenging enough. There's sure to be trail more suitable to running just around the corner.

And have fun.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Give Yourself a Break--When it's okay to, and when it isn't.

Like most well-intentioned folks this time of year I have set a few goals for myself. You can call them resolutions if you'd like. It's a list I compiled of habits I hope to change or develop and some things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year.

One of my goals is to run the Fifth Third River Bank 25k for the third time in May. Normally I'd kick-start my training on the back of racing the Sgt. Preston 10k on New Year's Day. But that didn't happen this time because I haven't been running. I have no base fitness.

This is the first week I've gone for a run in months. I forgot how much running hurts. And I'm slow. Really slow. My feet hurt, my lungs hurt, my arms hurt, everything is uncomfortable.

I'm paying the price for getting in the habit of "giving myself a break."

The Slippery-Slope of Taking Breaks

Here's a glimpse of my inner thought-life the last dozen months that has caused me to be in my current un-fit state: Hmmm, I have a 2-hour training ride on the schedule--there's five loads of laundry to do, umpteen work emails waiting a response, I have to make the kids GF/SF birthday treats . . . an easy 30 minute spin workout should be fine today. That gradually downspiraled into: I think I'll just read a book. To an all-time low of: ooooh, a new season of SOA is available on Netflix!

It felt so good to say screw-it to the schedule. Afterall, I work very hard at my job and for my family, I deserved a break. Unfortunately, cashing in on what I "deserved" only landed me on a custom-shaped cushion on the couch. I forgot that there's a difference between what I deserve and what I need. I Ihad become indiscriminatory when listening to that voice that kept saying "give yourself a break."

But I have resolved that in 2014 I will not allow myself to be blanketed in the comfort of my own apathy.

When Giving Yourself a Break is a Bad Thing

Yesterday I had a "long-run" on my schedule and I did not feel like doing it. I was still fighting a nagging cough, there was a few inches of fresh snow on the ground, the wind was howling, and I was tired. A hot cup of coffee and my fuzzy slippers sounded like a really good alternative. I had pretty much made up my mind--I deserved a break, it's been a long week!--until my husband decided to weigh-in.

FYI, there's an odd phenomen that happens in marriage: I am always right and he is always wrong, even when we are saying the same thing. So when Chad suggested I give myself a break and take it easy for the day he was so wrong!

But Sometimes Taking a Break is the Right Decision

Let me give another example of when he was wrong. Not that long ago I was walking up to bed at 8:30 PM and muttering about all the work I had to do: covers that need tweaking, emails that needed a response, a lot of busy work. Chad said that I should start working at night instead of going to bed so early.

I could see what he was saying: I could hammer through some emails at home, maybe get some design work done. But since he's wrong and I'm right, I went to bed.

How To Know the Difference

What I realized yesterday was that it is okay to take a break when it allows me to move forward. But when taking a break holds me back, then I'm just making excuses.

Running in the snow when I don't feel like it wasn't going to hurt me at all, but it would help me achieve my goal of running River Bank in a few months.

And, sure, I could start working at night for a few hours. But I'm so tired in the evenings I can't imagine structuring a coherent email. Getting a good nights rest is nourishing and restorative. I know that I can work more efficiently and accomplish a lot more on a good nights sleep than I  would by trying to stay up a few extra hours.

I have found that the key to understanding whether I need a break or not is having a clear picture of my ultimate goals. I really want to run River Bank! That's more imporatant to me than spending an extra hour on the couch. I also want to be successful at work--and I can do that best when I'm well rested and motivated rather than exhausted and spent.

Long story short: I ran my long-run yesterday.

Happy New Year!