Sunday, June 23, 2013

Running Safety Tips

It's officially Summer!  We can celebrate with longer days and more sunlight to go out there and do what we love to do... including running.  I don't want to get all doom-and-gloom on y'all and take away the joy of summer... but I have seen an increase in news stories and personal stories on social media involving attacks of one kind or another.  Some involve loose dogs, others might be traffic related or worse, of a predatory nature.  Some common denominators to all the stories is that the runner was 1. Alone.  2.  A woman and 3.  In an area where there wasn't a lot of people around.  It might be a friendly looking neighborhood, but are people out mowing lawns or visible?

I'm no expert, but it seems like maybe I ought to just throw out a quick list of a few things I've thought of to help keep each other safe.  Please feel free to add your own two cents too in the comments below.  I don't want to cause fear or make people feel like they can't go outside to run... I just think there are a few tips to keep the sport fun and keep you safe.

Always tell someone where you are going.
Tell your spouse, room mate, or call a friend and tell them your route you are planning to take and be sure to communicate when to expect to hear from you after the run.  There are also lots of GPS specific apps available so that a loved one knows exactly where you are during your run.

  • ReactMobile enables you to report suspicious incidents or send your current GPS coordinates to pre-selected contacts with the push of a button if you’re approached.
  • StaySafe allows you to enter your expected running path and timing, and if you don’t check back within the allocated time, your pre-set emergency contacts will receive your GPS coordinates—even if your phone is switched off.
  • bSafe turns your phone into the ultimate safety device. One touch of a button sounds a siren, records a video, alerts authorities, and informs selected contacts of your GPS location.
  • MyPanic is a free app that lets you trigger a piercing alarm and flash bright colors to grab the attention of other people who may be nearby.
  • Guardly sends emergency alerts to your selected safety network, who will be informed of your real-time location and whether you’ve called 911.

If possible, run with a dog, a group or at least one other person.
I'm not ready to commit to the demands of dog ownership, nor do I think my cats would appreciate a new housemate... but I know a few people who might loan me their dog!  There may be a local running group in your community to join for runs and you might meet some new friends.  Check with your local running store for free group runs.  If you can't find a running group or free running club, start one!  :-)  That might be easier said than done in some cases, but I love my MRTT group and glad I started a chapter in my area.  My running partner has gotten wicked fast, but I bet she'd put up with me on a couple runs now and then.  Running with someone else challenges me to be better at my sport and we are all a bit safer.

Running with someone doubles your chances of survival in an attack situation.  Two people are harder to control for one person.  A dog is a great deterrent for someone with criminal intentions.

Stay on well travelled and well lit roads. Don’t take short cuts through woods, poorly lit areas, avoid running at night... etc.
Some of this might seem like common sense, but we've all been in a situation where we knowingly did what we shouldn't have and then regretted it.  That's part of being human.   I got really sick once licking the cookie batter spoon.  But some things aren't worth the risk.  Stay in well lit areas so that traffic can see you.  If you run at night, wear bright colors with lots of reflective strips.   While driving in my neighborhood one night, a runner decided to cross in front of our moving car.  He/She misjudged our speed and how much time they had to cross.  Unfortunately they were wearing all black and I didn't even know someone had jumped in front of our car!  Fortunately their shoes had a reflective swoosh and I screamed "Shoes!"  And my husband with ninja reflexes understood what I was thinking:  "Oh my god!  A Runner!  Please don't hit them!" and slowed the car as we watched the shoes pitter-patter on their merry way.

Ditch the headphones.
When I first came across this advice, I was unhappy.  I feel like i need music at times to drown out that voice that tells me "You can't do this.  Your knee hurts.  You're too slow.  Go home."   But the more I look into it, the more this advice seems to be well founded.

If you can't let go of the ipod, keep only one ear bud in and switch up which ear it's in during your run.

A distracted runner is an unsafe runner.  Be alert to your surroundings in an audio sense.  Can you hear cyclists requesting right of way around you?  Could you hear someone else's foot steps approaching you?  Are you able to hear traffic?

Face oncoming traffic.
Don't assume drivers out there are not distracted.  Despite my local driving with cellphone laws, I see drivers chatting on the phone all the time.  They may also be late, distracted by the radio, etc.  Don't assume they see you and will give you the right away.  Make eye contact with them and wave a "thank you" or a friendly head nod to them.  Chances are this will cheer them up a bit and encourage them to share the road with another runner in the future.

Facing oncoming traffic allows you to be easily seen and make any split decisions that may be needed if you have to respond to the traffic.

Carry some essentials with you (besides hydration and fuel).
Always have identification with you.  Carry your driver's license and insurance card in your pocket in case of an injury and have an I.D. tag on your shoe laces or as a bracelet with an emergency contact phone number listed.

Carry your cell phone with you on all runs.  You might need to make an emergency call for yourself or someone else.  I ran past a house on fire once and was the first to report it.  Another feature besides a handy phone call, is if your phone is on, your phone company can track you by your phone's GPS feature.

Carry a little cash with you.  If you twist your ankle or some small injury that will limit your mobility, a little bus fare or cab cash will go a long way to recovery.  You may need to stop and buy more water/fuel or some first aid supplies.    

It might also be a good idea to carry pepper spray/mace.  Check if it is legal in your state.  It is effective up to 8-12ft away (depending on aim) and usually one burst will stop someone (or a dog ready to bite).  3/4oz. canister has approximately 10 bursts in it.

that it could end up being used against you or the wind working against you and a gust of the stuff getting in your eyes.  A self defense class instructor told me to buy some on a long weekend and spray myself directly in the face Friday night and take the rest of the weekend to recover.  this sounds crazy, but if you know what to expect when it get's you, you'll be more apt to keep a clear head and get out of the situation that called for the spray in the first place.  Also, buy more than one canister so you can take the practice can (after squirting yourself) and test out using it during a run and right after.  this is because physical endurance pulls blood from the brain and effects our ability to think and aim.

If someone looks shady to you, cross the street or go the other way.  (Or if you are paranoid like me, if they smile too wide and greet your hello a little too enthusiastically.)
In all seriousness, listen to your gut.  If someone doesn't seem right to you, don't push it off as you being too quick to label an innocent person.  Your gut instinct is there to protect you, let it.  I might be a bit jumpy at times and watch the guy who smiled really big as I said "Hello."  But with statistics of sexual assault always on the rise, I'd rather be a bit jumpy and see the mofo coming than be taken by surprise.  I'm going to put up a fight!

If you are being heckled or threatened by someone, keep running!  Don't stop to tell them off or flip them off, keep your distance and continue to an area with lots of traffic or other people around.  Don't appear vulnerable.  Hold your head high and stay strong.  If they try to stop you, be forceful.  Tell them to back off and keep moving!  Since you now run with your cell phone, call the police.

When someone stops to ask me for directions, I always stay at least 8 feet from the stopped car.

Vary your routes. Don’t be predictable.
This does a couple things.  Besides mixing it up for stalkers or weird ex boyfriends, it keeps things fresh for your mind.  If you get comfortable in a routine, your mind becomes dull and you aren't fully in your senses and aware of your surroundings.  This can make things pretty hazardous when dealing with cars, other runners, cyclists or perhaps the random loose dog.

Perpetrators also look specifically for people who aren't 100% aware of their surroundings.  Don't be distracted.  Know where you are going.  Don't look confused or lost- that can make you a target.

Consider taking a self defense class. You never know when you might need these skills.
It's a good idea to refresh that college self defense class you took back in your freshman year.  Taking a self defense class every 5 years helps you stay fresh with the moves and key info.  Check with your local community college or police department for classes and workshops.

One tip I specifically remember from my last class is to avoid wearing a pony tail.  It's an easy thing to grab and pull.

If attacked, do everything in your power to not be taken to another location.
If you’re approached, establish the impression that you’ll be a terrible victim: loud, fearless, and willing to fight,  Be verbally and physically assertive—look the person straight in the eye and speak loudly, saying, “Stop right there,” “You’re too close,” or “Leave me alone.” An attacker is likely looking for someone who will be easy to overpower, not someone who’s willing to get physical.

Bottom line:  Trust your gut. If something/someone doesn't feel right, it probably isn’t.
If you get that prickly feeling that makes you feel uncomfortable about something, someone or a location.  Don't ignore it.  We were born with the flight or flight response for a reason.  Our survival.  Run the other direction.

What are your helpful hints to staying safe?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: Born To Run by Chris McDougall

Idly flipping through Competitor Magazine, I came across this picture and just kept flipping.  Then a week later I signed up for my library's adult summer reading program.  Not that you care for details, but it's a bingo card and I needed to check off a nonfiction book to get my BINGO!  Well, why not read a running book?  I know I saw an article about one somewhere... what was it?  Which one should I read?

I know what you're thinking.  "You call yourself a 'runner' and haven't read McDougall's book YET!?"

I remedied that, though I haven't finished the article that I found the picture (seen above) that had planted the idea in my mind for me to pick up the book.

Is it a fantastic book?  Absolutely.  Is it a little fantastical?  Yes.  I don't want to discredit McDougall in the least.  He paints a great picture and tells a vivid story.  He is a journalist and takes those skills to delve deep and find the facts, write about them in an interesting way to capture his audience and find clues and hints about people to give us a bit of their character.  Perhaps he takes these clues an embellishes a little?   Perhaps the Tarahumara are romanticized a bit and we don't fully see the exploitation and poverty they live in?  It is glossed over quickly, but that's because it's a book about running, not sociology or anthropology.

 I particularly was fascinated and appalled with Ann Trason.  Maybe not with Ann Trason herself, but how she is portrayed in the book.  I'm not buying McDougall's idea of her... and I'm not the only one.    It made for a great story that Caballo Blanco called her "La Bruja", but according to the blog linked above, there is more to the story:

Caballo also says that the reason they called her "La Bruja" was because he himself had used that word to try to describe a woman with great powers. 
His Spanish is limited. He never intended the name to be used it in a critical way. Being viewed as a powerful woman is not the same as being a mean old witch. Caballo can probably also be blamed for some of the weird interaction between Ann and the Raramuri. He advised them to stalk her and not pass her until the end. Apparently, when Ann stopped to take a pee during the race, Juan (one of the Raramuri) stopped and waited for her. She was understandably weirded out by this because she thought he was taunting her. Caballo said that he and the Raramuri were very impressed with Ann's performance at Leadville. She didn't win, so it must have been the way she ran. In fact, the Raramuri were so impressed, they presented her with a special gift of hand-made sandals at the awards ceremony. That doesn't sound like bad blood to me. Why would they do that for someone who had been mean spirited?

I think it is a great book, with some very interesting facts about running and some great "characters" to the book...  It's in my nature to research some of the things I can after reading stuff like this.  It's fun and interesting to look up "Barefoot Ted" and read about some of the other great people mentioned in the book.  I think it's also important not to take one guy's word for it.  Even Ultra runner (and one of the main characters in the book,) Jenn Shelton took some issue with some aspects of the book... and she was there!  Which, I think, is the point.

Read it, please!  But with any book about anything out there, don't just take that person's word for it.  Or maybe the next person's either.  One thing is for sure, the book has sparked quit a bit of discussion, controversy and brought to light some great people and a culture not well understood before.

Have you read the book?  Love it or hate it?  Are you a barefoot runner or in shoes?  I'd love to hear what your ideas and opinions are when it comes to this, so please share.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

National Running Day! I Run....

“Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.” 
                                                                                                     ― John L. Parker Jr.

Today is National Running Day!  And my media news feeds are exploding with running related giveaways, discount codes for races, running apparel and all sorts of great deals to "celebrate" the day.  Did you checkout the giveaway I have going on?  ;-)  

I asked on my facebook page yesterday what people would do to celebrate... the general theme was "Go out and run!"  Yes.  Do!  Get out there and tear it up!  But I also hope that we take a moment and reflect within us why we run and maybe pick up the phone and call a friend who might need a little encouragement to get out there and try running too?   There is no community like the running community...  We are an open and accepting group competing against ourselves and old Personal Records.  It doesn't matter if you are fat or thin, fast or slow, anyone is welcome.

I started running the summer of 2011 because a friend wanted to do "Couch to 5k", and I thought "Well, why not?  Surely I can run for 60 seconds..."  I wanted to die.  Really.  I was bound to give up, but she wouldn't let me.  Or my pride.  After a couple weeks, my friend would tell me how much me going helped her.  HELPED HER.  I was helping someone with MY running?  My piddly stomping and huffing and gasping for breath?  I helped her because she didn't like to run in the park alone.  I couldn't believe that I was helping!  I kept going.  We ran our 5k that October and I quit.  Well, I kept up with it until I got pregnant with Squeakers that January.  I started again this January and have a bit of catch up to do.  That first 5k PR seems so far away right now.  (And let me tell you, it isn't like it was a super awesome time or anything...)

Today, on my 2 mile run, I reflected a lot on why I run.

I Run....
To find peace within me and shut my mind's chatter off.  Find the rhythm of the feet hitting the road and focus on the things I see around me.  Shut off the to-do lists and the shoulda-coulda things I berate myself with.

To prove to the negative self-talk in my head that I really can do this.  I can overcome the chronic pain in my hips and my pelvic tilt.  My plantar fasciitis is not going to win.  My crappy knee is not going to paralyze me.  I will not give in to that voice that says I am too weak, too fat and too slow.  If I can push two babies into the world without pain meds, I can surely go around the block without stopping to walk.  I will run that half marathon in October before the cut off time.  I will.

To be more healthy, get fit and set an example to my family.  My father has always been thin, but his sisters have battled weight all their lives.  My mother's family has been thin, but she has had her own struggles with weight.    I have lost 34lbs since I started running again in January.  In all honesty, I still have quite a ways to go.  I'd like to lose over 80lbs total.  Running isn't going to be the only way to do that, but it's a start.  The more active the parents are, the more likely children will be too.   I run to overcome the lazy in me!

To to feel better physically and mentally.  After I prove to myself that I can do it, the endorphins kick in and I feel like I got over an obstacle in my path.  I CAN run!  ...Maybe even a marathon someday.  I had always been the fat kid who came in last for "the mile run" in P.E.  But I am going to conquer that self doubt within me and overcome any excuses I am so good at coming up with.

Ultimately, it can all be summed up with:

Tell me about you.  Why do you run?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Product Review and GIVEAWAY: PROBAR

PROBAR sent me some of their CORE Protein Bar to sample and review... and the best part?  To give away!!

PROBAR has this to say about their CORE bar:

Looking for a protein bar that resembles nature rather than a science experiment? Good. Because we've packed 20 grams of plant protein and plenty of real, recognizable ingredients into this bar. And it does more than build your strength – it boasts chia seeds for hydration and recovery too.

Well, let me tell you a little bit more about them.  

Flavors include:
Cookie Dough
Peanut Butter Chocolate
Brownie Crisp
Mint Chocolate

As you can see, the bar has a chocolate coating.  I think of this bar as a "recovery food" for post workout and intense runs.  Maybe it's best that this bar is waiting for you at home or at least out of the hot sun and not in your fuel belt or fanny pack.  After carrying the bar with me and the mild temperatures of a May morning run in the Pacific Northwest, my coating was a tad bit gooey.  It left my fingers with a light coating of chocolate.  It wasn't as bad as a Hershey's bar, but I'd hate to see what would happen if it was left in a hot car after a trail run or something like that.  

Aside from this characteristic of the bar, it has some pretty neat things going for it.
First off, they are Vegan and certified Gluten-Free.
Each bar has at least 20g of plant protein (soy isolate protein.  There are 21g for the "Cookie Dough" bar).  The high protein makes this bar ideal after a hard workout or a long run as a "recovery snack".  

The "Mint Chocolate" was packed with flavor, and each bar is also packed with quality ingredients.  Each bar contains chia and flax seeds that have a long list of health benefits including providing a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.

 However, one of the things on my long list of ingredients to avoid is palm kernel oil and other palm oils.  You can click HERE to read some examples why, but that is a whole other soapbox for another day.  Back to the point...  

The average calories for these bars is 290 ("Mint Chocolate is 280 calories), 17-14g of sugar from sources such as organic tapioca syrup, organic dried cane syrup and organic agave syrup.  That's a lot of sugar!  At least the sources are organic, however I'd love for them to be certified organic.  (The PROBAR Fuel is certified organic, and you better believe I'll be buying a pack of those!  So, stay tuned for that review...)

Overall, the bar is very delicious.  I tasted the "Mint Chocolate" and found that it was true to it's name.  There is more mint to it than chocolate.  The bar is chewy, without being tough like many protein bars out there.  The texture is more of a crisp type of "chewy", like eating a chocolate covered rice cake or something like that.  I loved it, but I have my eye on the "Peanut Butter Chocolate" in the future.  Is there a better marriage than P.B. and chocolate?  I don't think so....  

Have you tried a PROBAR CORE bar or other PROBAR products?  Tell me what you thought of them.  If you have a favorite "recovery snack" post race/long run or workout, I'd love to hear about it. I'm always looking for new product recommendations I can learn about and share with others.

Now for the exciting part!  Enter HERE if you'd like to try and win a PROBAR CORE Bar.
Can't wait to try them yourself?  Well, my lucky readers get a 40% off discount your first order.  Visit PROBAR and type in the code you see in the rain puddle below at checkout.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Race Review (or "Coated In Corn Starch For The Fun Of It")

Let me just start off by saying I'm sorry I haven't kept you up with all my running challenges and victories the last couple of weeks...  trail running for the first time, hip injuries, and a family 5k with my husband, daughters and niece.  Me and my 7 year old niece were the only 5k veterans, and neither of us were prepared for this...

Shortly after our start....  BUBBLES!  Green ones...

Photo by Laetitia Beraud, Oregon NewsLab
We, as always, were running a bit late and I was nervous to miss my "wave" time.  We were to start running at the 10am wave of runners and had just parked at 9:45am.  ...And about a mile from the start line.  Not understanding how laid back the event was after reading and laughing at the humor in Color Me Rad's website, I hauled it and my family as fast as I could to the start.

It's a fairly new event, with some glitches or bumps still being ironed out...  With that said, there is absolutely no organization at the actual event.  There are tables set up for race-day packet pickup, but if you've gone before hand, you need not deal with an official of any type.  I don't think it would be hard for someone to dress in white and just show up without paying.  (I offered liability forms for all the kids running with me and the volunteer actually didn't want them, stating "We don't actually need these... Oh.  That's okay.  I'll take them anyway."  I think she threw them away.)

Just show up and queue up.

And be prepared for a long line...  After all, it's a popular event!  Our location had around 6,000 people on race day.  We got into line and waited as small waves of people ran to meet their fate with green bubbles, colored cornstarch and colorful (cold) water in sprayers.

Joining the race (and relaxing that I wasn't going to be barred from it for missing the "last wave at 10am")  I found my waiting friends in the crowd.  And then someone had to pee and someone else was getting tired and needed to be reassured...  racers marched forward around us and before I knew it, we were the very last to cross the start line.

The very very last ones.  That's never happened to me before!   Okay, don't let the panic in.  Just go out there and soak up the color!

Photo by Alan Sylvestre
We rounded the corner of a flat course and caught sight of our first hill.  A very tall, steep hill.  I wish I got a photo of it, but my husband didn't want to risk removing the camera from it's sandwich bag.  There were a couple rolling hills, but the first uphill was the steepest.

I have to say, it wasn't a killer.  I didn't start this race with the usual excitement and adrenaline of racing... (besides my panic of being late and starting last.)  But I also didn't have to battle myself internally.  "You can't do this!"  "God, it's HOT!  Let's turn around now."  "My knees hurt.  This is crazy."

About halfway up the hill I thought "Huh.  This is a challenge."  And I immediately told myself to think of it as training for "The Toughest Race in the Northwest".  Someday I'll conquer that and write a review of it on this blog.  Someday.

For having started out as the very last to cross the start line, we did pretty good.  How good?  Well, for having three kids under 7 years of age and no watch on, I'll say we didn't come in last.  We had a ton of fun and I heard one svelte runner encourage her friend, "Come on, you can beat the guy caring the baby!"  This unencouraged runner told me "Way to go!"  As I passed with my two kids and my husband darted up the hill with the baby, leaving everyone behind! (With his crazy-fast speed walking!)

Photo by Laetitia Beraud, Oregon NewsLab
Once you get to the finish line, there is a big party waiting for you.  It was a ton of fun, and Bug-a-boo is already asking when we can go again.  I am no longer sneezing orange, so I'm game.

Do you do "fun runs" or is race day about serious, timed events?  There is some thought that these runs aren't really racing.  The emcee at our location called this event the "gateway drug to racing".  Once you try this run, you'll be hooked on races.  A lot of people choose Color Me Rad as their first 5k, but I've heard they have a reputation of not actually being a full 5k, but rather short.

Tell me what you think of it.