Wind down or wind up

Oh the weather outside is frightful. It’s getting “chilly” here in the mountains of the northern hemisphere. Well that’s how the meteorologist described the 23 degrees Fahrenheit today. Personally, I’d say that’s freezing.

Many runners turn indoors in the winter months and reduce their miles for a welcome and well deserved rest season. I can’t say I blame them. It’s very challenging to get in long runs when the thermostat drops below zero.

Challenging does not mean impossible, however, and if you’re considering an early spring or runcation to somewhere warm, you’ll be doing decent miles all winter long. What’s it take to run outside on very cold days? Creativity and layers, lots and lots of layers.

Let’s start with layers. You want a good thermal base layer that will pull the seat away from your skin. After that, use a lighter middle layer. Whether it’s long sleeves and another pair of pants or a short sleeve and shorts will depend on the length of your run and the temperature. If you need more than a second set of long sleeves and pants, make your third layer wind proof, even if it’s not windy, it will hold the heat in.

Don’t forget your head, face and hands. Keep your lips coated with lip balm and you may need something similar for any other exposed skin. Use hand warmers and mittens over gloves. I do gloves, hand warmers and double layered mittens, which hasn’t failed me yet.

For your head use a balaclava and either a fleece headband or beanie. Make sure your ears are tight to your head. You want as little exposed skin as possible.

Now comes the creativity. Try splitting your long run into two shorter ones on the same day. You can also run part of your run inside either on a treadmill or indoor track. I recommend starting out doors and finishing indoors due to sweat and it being easier to unlayer than layer. Stay where the wind can’t get you, so on narrow roads or trails with lots of trees.

Winter brings a new set of challenges, beautiful glistening runs, discovering new routes or a new perspective on the old ones. We’ll talk about other aspects of winter running including footwear, other gear, and safety training in the posts to come.

Happy Running!

The Treadmill Struggle is Real

 

I hate treadmills. I know they are useful and in some situations better for your body than running outside in extreme weather or pollution. Treadmills are troublesome for a few reasons. First, they’re inside. Second, the scenery is limited and the same day after day. Third, you are not going anywhere. Fourth, there are numbers right in front of you telling you how much longer your torture session is. Sixth, it’s not the same workout.

A treadmill can be helpful if you are working on cadence, stride length, and form. It’s easier to pay attention to these things when you’re not going anywhere and the surface doesn’t change.

Treadmill and outdoor running are different. You expend less energy running on a treadmill than you do outdoors (running at the same pace). The reasons for this is the lack of wind resistance, terrain changes, and because the treadmill belt helps propel you along. To compensate for this, raise the incline to at least one percent.

Another difference is your smaller stabilizing muscles in the lower legs don’t work as hard on a treadmill as they do outdoors. This is because the surface is level, and you don’t have to propel your body forward as much. Your calf muscles, on the other hand, work much harder. Because of the extra work, runners can have calf muscle pain, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis and other issues if they run long distance on treadmills.

The biggest challenge of treadmill running, for me, is the monotony. How do you keep yourself entertained while on the treadmill? (really, I want to hear from all of you on this one).

Here is what I’ve come up with: music, audio books, podcasts, Netflix or other video streaming, and books (yes, I can read on a e-reader and run. Actual books are more complicated). For longer runs, I have to take all of these.

Other ways to entertain oneself while running the hamster wheel are to do various types of workouts. Here are a few suggestions:

Hamster Wheel Speed work

Workout: Six/Sevens
Warm Up

1 Set: 90 seconds @ 6 percent grade and marathon pace
1-minute recovery @ flat jog
1 minute @ 7 percent grade and marathon pace
2-minute recovery @ flat jog
Do 6-10 sets.
CoolDown

 Workout: Faster, Faster
Warm up
1 Set: 400m @ easy run pace
400m @ 15K (tempo) pace
400m @ 3-5K race pace
Do 4 sets.
Cool Down

Workout: The Pyramid
Warm Up

Set 1: steady pace 1 minute each @ 4, 5 and 6 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 2: steady pace 1 minute each @ 5, 6 and 7 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 3: steady pace 1 minute each @ 6, 7 and 8 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 4: steady pace 1 minute each @ 7, 6 and 5 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog

Set 5: steady pace 1 minute each @ 6, 5 and 4 percent incline
2-3 minutes recovery @ flat jog
Cool down

Workout: The Lab Rat
Warm up

Stage 1: 4 minutes @ easy run pace
lower speed 2 mph for 2-minute recovery

Stage 2: 4 minutes @ stage 1 pace + 1 mph
lower speed 2 mph for 2-minute recovery

Stage 3: 4 minutes @ stage 2 pace + 1 mph
lower speed 2 mph for 2-minute recovery

Stage 4: 4 minutes @ stage 3 pace + 1 mph
lower speed 2 mph for 2-minute recovery

Stage 5: 4 minutes @ stage 4 pace + 1 mph
lower speed 2 mph for 2-minute recovery
Cool down

Rising from the Dead

I really must apologize for my serious lack of posting over the last month or so. I had to take my own advice and let one of the juggling balls fall while I kept others in the air. As some of you know, I’m a full-time attorney by day and an ultrarunner by night (and day). I’m also the program director for the Homeless Youth Legal Clinic here in Utah. I sneak in writing when I can (I was hoping to publish another novel this year, but that doesn’t look like it will happen). Oh, and I’m a mom of two amazing sons and now a third little one is coming in May 2018!

Needless to say, between being pregnant and everything else, sleep became more necessary than writing my weekly blog posts. But the first trimester is behind us and the energy is supposed to come back soon…zzzzzz

Here is another confession. I chose not to run after I was five weeks pregnant. I’ve been hating on the elliptical and the stair master for the past eight weeks. However, I will be starting back running now that the first trimester is complete.

Running during pregnancy is a personal choice for each mother and child. And subsequent pregnancies can be treated very differently. It is completely possible for a healthy pregnant woman to run throughout her pregnancy. However, running is not a sport a woman should take up during pregnancy. Other, non-impact, activities are totally fine and should be pursued by pregnant women.

Here is why I chose to back off my running during the first trimester. The first trimester is the time with the highest risk of miscarriage. My chances of miscarriage started at 20% and slowly decreased during the first trimester. There is some research out there that says running can increase the chances of miscarriage during the first trimester.

A research study done with 90,000 pregnant women in Denmark, which found women who exercise more than seven hours a week during the first trimester increase their chances of miscarriage four times. And women who participate in running or ball sports during their first trimester increase their chances of miscarriage by four times.

I don’t think this study says women shouldn’t run during their first trimester. I think it says be smart and know your limits and know your body. I wasn’t willing to increase my risk of miscarriage since it was already higher than average because I’m over 35.

After the first trimester the risk of miscarriage is below 2% and all of the baby’s major systems are established and the placenta is fully functioning. Miscarriages happen for many reasons and most of them are out of the control of the mother-to-be.

Reverting to less impact forms of exercise for the eight weeks after we found out I was pregnant was a sacrifice I was willing to make to increase our chances of a healthy full-term pregnancy. Plus, I’ve come back from low impact training to full running many times and know it’s not as hard as grieving after a miscarriage and wondering if it could have been prevented.

Looking forward to running this new adventure!

Light it Up

I passed two people walking their dog along the trail this morning at 530 a.m. in the pitch black. As I passed them one said, “Oh I guess we can run with our headlamps.”

Now, I’m sure all of you know you can run with a headlamp. It does take some getting used to so give yourself some time to adjust. You’ll likely be a little slower at first until you gain confidence.

You don’ t need to use a headlamp either. You can use a flashlight or something else that will light the path in front of you. If you choose to use a flashlight as your primary source of light (I have a tiny one as an emergency backup) make sure it has a wrist strap in case you fall.

I wear my headlamp around my hips rather than on my head. Whenever I wear it on my head it slides with my sweat, it bounces a bit, or I get tunnel vision. The other problem I have with it on my head is that it wipes out my night vision completely. If it’s around my hips I don’t have these problems.

There are a few things you’ll need to figure out if you try wearing a light around your hips: first, make sure your shirt is not going to bounce over the light; second, you do have to turn your body to see in another direction with the light, but you may not need the light unless you’ve obliterated your night vision or it’s really freaking dark.

Okay so we all know we need to have a light.

What are the things we need to think about when purchasing a headlamp?

  1. How far do you need to be able to see? If you are running trails you need a brighter light. There are lights out there that are self-adjusting for brightness
  2. The beam width. A spot light is going to be brighter to see farther, but a flood light is going to show you more width.
  3. Battery life. You don’t want to be changing batteries mid run. Although you should always have spares with you. When you’re looking at battery life, think about the different settings of the lamp. Bright is going to use more life. Steady beam is going to use more than a flashing beam.
  4. Weather resistance. Rain, snow, heat, can your light handle it? Another thing in this vein is how durable is the light. Trail runners fall. Make sure your lamp can take a bit of a beating.
  5. A lighter light is usually more comfortable. How much does it weigh? Some headlamps have a overhead strap which can add to the stability and is good for a lot of uneven trails or technical stuff where you are really getting around. Look for something in the 6-7 ounce range.
  6. User friendly. Let’s face it, if you’re an ultrarunner and you need to figure out why a light isn’t working or change batteries on your own at mile 80, a three-year-old better be able to figure it out.

Race Director

Three years ago, before I became a race director, I used to look at different areas where I ran and think, “Oh it would be cool to put on a race here.”  I don’t think that much anymore. Just kidding I do, but being a race director is a lot of work.

Race directors (RD) are amazing people (and not just because I’m one). Putting together a race is a lot of work. There are a lot of moving parts that need to move together by race day.  My race is a 5k and 10k called Run for Home. It has become easier over the three years, not because there is less to do, but because I know what I need to do and who to contact to get things done.

A RD doesn’t get paid for the hours spent filling out permit applications, waste management plans, and Americans with Disabilities plans.

They don’t get paid for creating race maps, talking on the phone with parks and recreation, local police officers, barricade companies, t-shirt companies, medal companies, and event companies.

They don’t get paid for days they spend seeking donations to support the race and prizes they can raffle off at the race. They also don’t get paid for gathering and organizing all the volunteers for the event.

RD’s are volunteers who love the sport and love runners.

So where do all the race fees go?? Alright, so I will say that some of the big races have employees who get paid, but most, dedicate the sweat and blood out of love. Still where do the race fees go?

Race fees pay for t-shirts, medals, permits (city and county), liability insurance, local law enforcement, port-a-potties, recycling bins, hand washing stations, reflective vests for volunteers, food and water that doesn’t get donated, bibs, timing company, start/finish arch, posters for advertising, registration websites, advertising with any other media. There is a lot of places for money to go and nifty new things always show up.

If you’re thinking about putting on a race, here are some tips:

  1. Pick a weekend that doesn’t have a lot of other charity events.
  2. Submit an application to the city or county where the race is going to happen. If you expect a large number of people you may need an additional application/permit for a “mass gathering.”
    1. Start contacting anyone required for the permit. There is usually paperwork that has to be filled out and submitted.
  3. If you are using an event company for the timing or start/finish line make sure they can be there on the date you’ve chosen.
  4. Start planning early: get your race listed on race calendars, hang up flyers, and start getting everyone you know to register.
  5. Gather your volunteers and make sure you know what you need them to do and how many you need. You may need police to close roads or to get barricades to direct traffic/runners away from each other.
  6. If you’re doing food of some type, you need to have the department of health check it out.
  7. If you are doing a raffle or getting sponsor, you have to start months before the event.
  8. There are lots of websites that you can use for race registration. I use Registermyrace.com
  9. Figure out if you are doing race day registration and if you are how are you going to accept payment: Square readers are awesome.
  10. You’ll have to order shirts and medals three to four weeks in advance.

 

 

River Crossing

River water levels are pretty high right now with all the snow runoff. The news has covered multiple deaths or near enough over the past month of people who have ended up in the water one way or another and never made it back out.
As trail runners, we bound through rivers on a regular, if not frequent basis, without much of a thought. With the level of water in Utah’s rivers, I suspect most runners would stop and think about crossing the river. I would. There are definitely going to be times where the risk is too high to cross a river. You’ll have to make that call depending on your experience, the availability of security items, and what you have to loose.
Here are some tips for safely crossing a river:
First take a look around and decide if the section of the river that meets the trial is the best place to cross at the time. There are a lot of conditions which can effect the volume of water flowing including: weather, temperature, time of year, and debris. The safest route on one day can be different on another, so even if you’ve crossed at the same point the day before, make sure it is still safe to cross in the present.
Prepare to cross by releasing the clip on your hydration pack (chest and/or waist). If you go down in the water, you need to be able to get the pack off. The pack will weigh you down and is another object for the water to grab onto. If you have other things about your waist, take them off and stick them in your pack or clip them on. You can even try throwing them over to the other side.
Foot placement and shoes are key factors in getting across so make sure your shoes are secure and that you have the proper ones on. You’re not going to be able to see the bottom of the river. Slipping because of wet or rolling rocks is a definite possibility. You also have the force of the water pushing against you to content with. I know some runners put plastic bags over their feet, cross barefoot, and some hikers carry sandals for crossing. You are more likely to slip with sandals or with bags over your feet. Wet shoes is better than wet head to toe. As for the barefoot, you need to protect your feet from sharp rocks, sticks and other such stray objects beneath the surface of the water. Wet feet are better than bleeding feet.
Check down river as well as up river. You don’t want to cross where there is wood, trees, branches along or overhanging the banks. If you are swept downriver, you can get pushed against these and actually pulled under them. Not a good place to be. Rocks and curves in the river can create an eddy, which is a place where the water actually flows upstream. These can be a safe haven.
Look for rocks protruding from the river. Behind the rock the current is usually not as strong, but along either side it can have more force. Standing behind the rock can give you a break from the force of the river. Do not cross in the whitewater part of a wave
Crossing where the river is narrow may make sense at first glance, but the current is actually stronger at narrow points. An island in the middle of the river is a better point because it breaks up the current and force of the river.
Use trekking poles or a large stick to help you balance and to probe the river in front of you checking for large rocks or deeper parts. If you are out with a running partner or two, cross together. If you walk side by side, the person more upstream will break the force of the water for the person next to them.
If you do go down and are being swept down stream, put your feet down river. It’s better to have your feet hit something rather than your head.

Is your sunscreen working?

Everyone knows there is a risk of developing skin cancers by exposing unprotected skin to the sun and that risk increases depending on how long you’re in the sun and when. Where you live also increases or decreases your risk.
Factors such as time of day latitude, altitude, and time of year change the amount of UV’s you’re exposed too. The EPA’s sunwise app predicts UV levels based on these factors. Other personal risk factors include, facial cleansers, fair skin, blue eyes, red hair, and freckles.
Every year companies review the Effectiveness of and harm caused by sunscreens. Prior to 2014, there were no regulations on sunscreen effectiveness, ingredients, or claims of preventing skin cancers.
In 2011, after 4 years of multiple articles being published about the harmful ingredients and lack of actual protection, standards were created by the FDA. In 2014, testing standards were implemented. Although, the US standards are lower than Europe’s. Now in the US, companies can no longer use the claim that their sunscreen “prevents skin cancers.”
Ongoing air pollution has increased our risk of skin cancers. Cases have increased by 35% over the last 30 years. The FDA also, now, requires sunscreen to screen both  UVA and UVB rays. But about half of products do not screen them equally and they could not be sold in Europe.
Most sunscreen companies have stopped putting a harmful type of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, in its product. This ingredient may increase the speed of developing melanoma. However, consumers should still check for it-14% contained it in 2017.
Higher SPF claims do not mean more screening. SPF over 50 is misleading and does not mean more protection. Most countries cap the SPF claim at 50. The FDA is drafting a regulation to address this issue.
Nor are the claims of sweatproof, waterproof, or sunblock entirely accurate and thus no longer allowed to be printed on the screens. A skin cancer warning is required.
Spray on sunscreen are not as effective as creams/lotions. They don’t go on evenly or thick enough. There is a danger of inhalation as well.
Sunscreens need to be reapplied every two hours and sunscreen is not enough. If you’re going to be in the sun for long periods of time or between 10 am and 4 pm wear UV protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses.
Indoor tanning is also a big no-no. It increases your risk of all types of skin cancer including melanoma, which is the most dangerous. It’s illegal for someone under the age of 18 to use indoor tanning beds in most countries, including the US. It’s like smoking when you know the risks for cancer and other health problems. You are actually more likely to get skin cancer from indoor tanning than you are lung cancer from smoking (although it may cause other serious health/lung issues).
Best sun screen list here.