Friday, April 16, 2010

Go! Explore!

I recently found myself walking up a slot canyon, mouth agape, trying to take in all of this amazing hidden gem. To call it “off the beaten path” is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been sworn to secrecy regarding its exact location, but it is so special, it is under consideration to be designated a Wilderness Area. Grubby Guy knew about it from a previous trip, and wanted to show it to me and look around for some elk sheds. This hike turned out to be an “ah-ha moment” for me. It was nothing short of a revelation! I could look at the rocks all around and feel the history of the area. I found myself wondering who else had walked that canyon…Native Americans, explorers, mountain men, hikers, hunters... I wondered what it looked like for them, what they saw. I found myself wondering what kind of animals lived in the area and what they thought about it. I saw mountain lion tracks, deer tracks, elk tracks, raccoon tracks, beautiful little blue birds, hawks…and two little butterflies that followed me down the canyon. I thought about the amazing forces of nature needed to create the slot canyon. I wondered about the rocks and how they were created, and where they started from and how they ended up in the canyon. I found myself wishing I had paid more attention to my Geology class...My imagination was ignited. My sense of wonder was exploding. For those things alone, this little jaunt was rewarding beyond measure.

So, this is my challenge for you…explore the untrodden places. Go for a walk in a place that doesn’t have an established trail. Drive down a road you’ve never driven down before. Stop at a little pull-out and get out and walk for a bit. Take an entirely new route through your city or town. Pick a place on the map and find your way there. Go somewhere new and different and unexplored by you. You never know what you will discover. I recently read about an archaeologist in South Africa who decided to explore the caves nearby, figuring they held untold treasures. He was meandering around in an area he knew had lots of unmarked caves, and found the skull of a 9 year-old boy who was 2 million years old! It turns out to be a whole new species of man – the first link between the apes and us. And, all of that because he wandered someplace not marked on a map. You may not find a new species, but you never know what you could discover about your environment and yourself!

As Calvin said to Hobbes in the last frame of the last comic strip… “Let’s go exploring!”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting Started - Buying a Bike

While you can ride a bike virtually year-round (just one of the many reasons riding a bike makes people happy), most people dust their bikes off in the spring and get the wheels spinning. Not only is bike riding excellent exercise, it’s also a great way to explore the world around you. One of my all-time favorite things to do is ride my bike on summer evenings after supper. I try out new routes through the neighborhood, explore neighborhoods I’ve never seen, ride around the park and watch all the families playing…it is hard not to smile and feel like everything is right in the world. In fact, when I am out on my bike, it’s pretty hard to wipe the smile off my face in general.

If it’s been years since you’ve been on a bike, never fear, it really is as easy as riding a bike! You don't have to be like Lance to have fun!

First things first…you need a bike. Maybe you have one stored in the garage or storage locker. Maybe you don’t have a bike at all, but have decided this is the year you get back in the saddle. If you are thinking of buying new wheels this year, there are a couple of things to keep in mind while you shop:
1) The kind of riding you will be doing – do you want to ride mostly on bike paths and streets? A road bike or cruiser would do you just fine for either of those purposes. If you want to take your bike off-road on trails and jeep roads, you will need a bike with a little more meat like a mountain bike or a cyclo-cross bike. And if you are looking for a couple-friendly ride, you may want to consider a tandem bicycle.
2) How far you want to ride – if a couple of miles will do you, you may want to stick with a cruiser bike, which typically has anywhere from one to three gears. If you want to ride longer distances (10+ miles), you will want a bike with more gears. It will make the pedaling easier and reduce the strain you put on your body. Mountain bikes, road bikes and cyclo-cross bikes are all suitable for longer distances.
3) What you’re willing to spend – you can get a lot of bike for a relatively small investment – and you can get a lot of bike for a really huge investment. Plan on spending at least $700 on a good starter bike (less if you are purchasing a basic cruiser, which you can run $250-$500). The nice thing about bikes is that you can upgrade components as your skill and interest increases. You don’t have to buy top-of-the-line right off the bat…Upgrade as your budget allows. As long as your frame is solid, the rest is pretty interchangeable. You can add clipless pedals, different handlebars, different wheels, a lighter gear set, fancier breaks, a new saddle (seat) seat post, a computer to track your mileage and speed, etc.
4) Your frame – as in your body type. Many bicycle manufacturers make women-specific bikes that are adjusted to fit a woman’s body a little better (narrower handlebars for our narrower shoulders, a slightly shorter top tube because we tend to have longer legs and shorter torsos, etc.) There are also bicycles build for heavier-set people, bikes for people who cannot lean over for long, bikes for unusually tall people. Talk with someone at your bike shop.

Here’s a little information about the different types of bikes.

A quick note about buying a new bike…there are some bike shops that will allow you to demo different bikes on a “rent to own” basis. That is, each time you rent a bike, a portion of the rental fee will eventually go towards the purchase of a new bike. Also, if you keep your eyes peeled, in the Spring and Summer, many bike companies offer “Demo Days,” where they bring a bunch of bikes to an event, park or trail, and let people try the bikes out. Ask about upcoming demo days at your local bike shop. I would strongly recommend you ride as many different bikes from as many different manufacturers that you can. Even the same sized frame will feel slightly different from different manufacturers. Ride lots of ‘em and find the one that feels best for you. Even then, you would be wise to invest in a custom fit session at your local bike shop. They will look at your body on your bike and make adjustments to help you be more comfortable and injury-free! A fraction of an inch can make a HUGE difference.

Even if you already have a bike, it is a good idea to double check the fit of your bike every year or so.

Here are some bike fit tips from the experts.

And another link.

Next time, we’ll talk about getting started, what kind of events you can enter to stay motivates and other cycle-friendly tips!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting Started - Snowshoeing
Once the snow starts to fly, many turn their attention to skiing or snowboarding. I turn mine to snowshoeing. Not only is snowshoeing a tremendous winter workout (you can burn upwards of 500 calories per hour!), it is also one of the best ways to truly enjoy the quiet and serenity of a snowy landscape…and it all comes without crowds, lift lines, pricey lift tickets, a 4-hour traffic jam on I-70 or a before-dawn wake-up call. Whoo-hoo!

What do you need to know before going? Not much. Can you walk? Have you put one foot in front of the other in an extended series? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you can definitely snowshoe. And, other than snowshoes and poles, you probably already have everything else you need to get started in your winter wardrobe…I cannot stress enough how important it is to dress appropriately when snowshoeing. DRESS IN LAYERS! You will heat up significantly during your hike, and you will want the option to shed some layers as you work up a sweat, and you will want the option to throw some layers back on if the wind picks up or you are in the shade for an extended period of time. A good rule of thumb is that if you feel about 10 degrees too cold when you get out of the car, you will be perfect once you start moving. It bears repeating: DRESS IN LAYERS!

You will need to protect your feet, hands, face, neck and head. Almost 50 percent of your heat loss will be through your head. I typically bring ski cap and a ball cap so I can switch depending on conditions. I also bring two different kinds of gloves – my snowboarding mittens for when it’s really cold or I’m just starting out, and a thin wicking pair for once I get started and the mittens become too hot. A neck gaiter or scarf is helpful for when it’s super cold out and you’ve got snot-scicles forming.

It is important to pay close attention to the layers next to your skin. Your first layer should be silk, Capilene, DryClime or wool/wool blend. You do not want wet cotton against your skin once you start sweating. Brrrrrrr!

Also vital is the outerlayer…Gore-Tex is best because it breathes, and is also wind-proof and water-proof. But, it’s expensive. Nylon that has been treated will also work. You want to be sure it’s fairly water-proof, so re-treat every couple of washings. For your bottom half, breathable rain pants would work, as would ski pants. Because I tend to get hot pretty quickly, I layer running tights with rain pants, and stay comfortable and dry. On really cold days, I will wear long underwear and ski pants. Try a few different options to determine which is best for you. But, remember, layers, layers, layers!

The next thing you need are some snowshoes and poles. Unless you are absolutely certain snowshoeing is something you want to do a lot of and you know what kind of snowshoes you need, it makes sense to rent snowshoes to start. Many outdoor shops will rent snowshoes for a weekend for around $15 - $20. And, keep your eyes peeled for Snowshoe Expos…at an expo event, you can try a variety of snowshoes for free and see which ones you like before investing. I first tested my current snowshoes at an expo. You can plan on spending $150 and up to purchase a new pair of snowshoes and poles. Here’s some advice from Outside magazine about selecting snowshoes.

And from Cabelas.

So, now you’ve got your shoes and poles, you’ve packed plenty of water and snacks, and you’re layered up and ready to go. To get the most of your experience, you should probably wait until there’s at least 6 to 8 inches on the ground. You can snowshoe in less (provided you’re ready to take your snowshoes off several times when you hit bare ground or exposed rocks), but it’s way more fun to have a little snow to work with. You can pick a hiking trail, tromp through a local park, or just go exploring. Many of the popular hiking trails also make good snowshoeing trails. I would encourage you to walk on the packed-down trail while you’re getting the hang of it, but you really should break trail and head through the trees and up and down steep hills (provided you are not walking up an avalanche chute)…that’s where the real fun begins! There is nothing quite like trying to run downhill in snowshoes and floating through the powder! So fun! Because there is a nice layer of snow between you and the ground, you do not need to stick to the trail. You won’t cause any erosion or damage to the tender plants underneath by going off-trail, provided there is enough snow. I like a mix of going off trail and the relative ease of packed-down trail. Breaking trail is a blast, but it is hard work!

As always, the most important thing is to just get out and try it!


All the Grubby Details:
How Far - Depends on how far you'd like to go and how many other people you’d like on the trail with you...there a TONS of options within a one- to two-hour drive of Denver.
Time Commitment – Depends on how far you want to go and what the snow is like…But, definitely plan on being gone for at least 3-5 hours, including the drive.
Misery Index – Low to Moderate – Snowshoeing is super fun, but it is also an intense aerobic workout. You can get pretty tired. And, then there’s the cold. If you get moving, the cold shouldn’t bother you (I’ve snowshoed in temperatures well below zero with no problem), but it’s tough getting started when it’s that cold.
Intimidation Index – Moderate – fears include equipment overload, avalanches and thinking it’s a lot more technical than it is. Don’t let any of that stop you. It really is as easy as walking. As far as avalanches go, as long as you stay in places where there are a lot of trees and don’t hike up or down super steep slopes (think 30 – 40 degree slope), you should be fine. But, let your intuition be your guide…if it feels sketchy, turn around. There are plenty of non-avalanche prone areas to explore.
Dog Friendliness - High - but, make sure your dog has plenty of water and can handle a hike in the snow and cold.
Important Notes – If you are snowshoeing on a mixed-use trail, stay out of the tracks left by cross-country skiers. It messes up their lines and makes them VERY grumpy! And, try to stay away from areas that are popular with snowmobilers…not only are the machines loud and stinky, they can also be dangerous to snowshoers and dogs.
Equipment needed to start – Snowshoes, poles, clothing to layer…and you’re good!
Equipment to upgrade if you find you like it – Snowshoeing is one of those rare sports where, once you have your equipment, there really isn’t much to upgrade. You can buy fancier poles or more intense snowshoes, but your standard-issue snowshoes and poles should do you good for years and years and years and many different types of terrain.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Your First Turkey Trot - A Challenge

Getting Started: Your First 5K

The Turkey Trot Challenge

This past spring, I ran my second half marathon. This fall, I signed up to run a full marathon next spring. But, long, long before any of these feats was even a twinkle in my eye, I had to start running. I’d always enjoyed long walks, but once, in the middle of a walk, I decided to see how far I could run. I couldn’t even run a half mile. That day, I finished my walk and decided I would try to run again the next time I walked. And, I did. I would walk for a few minutes, then run for as long as I could, until I was running a half mile, then a mile at a time, then two miles, then two and a half miles, then three miles…It was all very gradual over one summer. That, my friends, was the start of a beautiful love affair with running.

My friend and neighbor in Albuquerque heard I’d started running and challenged me to run the Turkey Trot with him. I took Darrell up on the challenge, and having a goal that I was working towards was a huge motivator to be consistent with my runs. That first race, I didn’t even know there were training programs. I just set out to run, and run a little further each time I ran until I knew I would be able to run a whole 5K – 3.1 miles. I ran that first Turkey Trot pretty slowly, but I was proud of myself for having finished it, and started to look for other races so that I would always have a goal to keep running.

In the 11 years since my first Turkey Trot in Albuquerque, I have only missed one, and that was because I was in Aruba. I’m running the Mile High Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving, in fact. It is my very favorite Thanksgiving tradition. The atmosphere is fun and familial, and it allows me to feel less guilty about the feast later in the day.

Since we have about 6 weeks until Thanksgiving, I thought I’d issue a challenge, just like the one Darrell gave me. If you’ve ever thought about running, or wondered what it’s like to participate in a race, now’s your time! Sign up for the Turkey Trot in your area, and start training!

Here’s a list of Turkey Trots…there’s definitely one near you!

Here’s a plan to get you started:

And, here’s one of my very favorite training companions:

DJ Steve Boyette even has a series called “First Day to 5K” – Perfect!

All the Grubby Details:
How Far – 5K, 3.1 miles, about 35 minutes.
Time Commitment – For the next five weeks, plan on walking/running for at least 10 minutes a day, three or four days a week. Build slowly. Add a few minutes to your time each time you go out.

Misery Index – Low to Moderate – There’s a phrase for the euphoria runners feel when the endorphins kick in – “Runner’s High.” It’s amazing. But, there will be days when every step is a struggle. The important thing is to move past the hard days and be consistent with your running. Don’t give up! Everyone has a rough day.
Intimidation Index – Moderate to High – 3.1 miles seems like a long, long way from the comfort of your couch. But, especially for your first 5K, your goal could be simply to finish it. If you give yourself permission to finish the race with your best effort, you will be less intimidated because you gave it all you had. Remember, you have to start from where you are. Honor where you are and begin. You will be in a completely different place once you finish the race. Who knows, you could end up deciding you love running and want to run another 5K.

Dog Friendliness - Depends on how fit your dog is. I see people running with their dogs all the time. I also see poor dogs lumbering behind their owners, struggling to keep up. See how your dog does, and don’t take them if you just need a companion.
Equipment needed to start – A pair of shoes and a good pair of socks. Socks can make a HUGE difference in the comfort of your run, so be sure you don’t wear cotton socks! Many high quality running stores can help you pick out a shoe that fits your gait and fitness level, as well as your budget. In the Denver area, Road Runner Sports has a seven-step process that will put you in the perfect shoe – and you can return it if you take it out for a run and decide you don’t like it.

I would also recommend a shirt that wicks. You will probably sweat some during your run, and with the crisp fall air, you want to keep that moisture away from your skin.
Equipment to upgrade if you find you like it – Oh, the options are endless. Running tights, head lamps, fancy sunglasses, heart rate monitor, water bottle holders, visors…

Now, get out there and do it! I know you can!


Gabby, Dan, Nicole and Grubby Girl after our first half marathon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The 10-Minute Rule

Sometimes, the hardest part of getting outside and getting exercise is getting off the couch and out the door.

“I’m soooo tired!”

“I’m coming down with something.”

“I don’t feel like it!”

“Ugh! I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Sound familiar? I know I’ve said all of these things more than once. It’s hard to find time to exercise, especially when you’ve fallen out of the habit, or have never been in the habit. It’s hard to think about the whole workout in front of you. It can feel overwhelming and intimidating.

It doesn’t have to be. One of my favorite keys to success for maintaining a regular workout schedule is what I call my 10-Minute Rule. I force myself out the door and promise myself just 10 minutes. I know I can do anything for 10 minutes. I give whatever I am doing – walking, running, riding my bike - my full effort, whatever I can do that day, the full 10 minutes. After that, I check in. How do I feel? How does my body feel? Can I go on? Do I want to give up? If I don’t feel like I can do more, I call it a day and go home. I don't feel guilty because I gave it my best for 10 minutes. But, usually after 10 minutes, the endorphins start kicking in and I feel awake & alive, my body feels less sore, and whatever brain fog was trying to keep my on the couch has lifted. Most days, if I promise myself 10 minutes, I can go on and finish my workout.

Focusing on completing one small goal – just 10 minutes – will ultimately help you accomplish a much larger goal, whether it’s running a 5k or a marathon; riding your bike to work each day or finishing a century; or hiking for 2 miles or to the top of a 14er. Break it down and promise yourself 10.

What are your secrets to success?

It's all in you,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tech Tip: How to Avoid a Bear Attack

Grubby Guy sent this video to me. While it's funny, the subject matter is serious. If you are concerned about bear attacks, or spend any time in places where bears live, I would recommend you watch it and learn what to do when you see a bear.

Click here to see the video. Enjoy! Oh, and don't get your head ripped off!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tech Tip: Herbal First Aid

A comprehensive first aid kit is essential for any outdoor adventure. You never know what you'll need or when. It could be as simple as a piece of moleskin for a blister, and it could be as complex as a broken bone or shock. You can buy a good, light first aid kit at any outdoors shop, but you can add some herbal elements to help support you in acute situations. One of the best herbal ingredients you can include in your first aid kit is Lavender Essential Oil. Among other uses, Lavender Essential Oil helps with:

  • Anxiety - apply directly to pulse points and breathe deeply
  • Bites - apply directly to the bite
  • Bruises - apply directly to the bruise or make into a compress with bandages
  • Burns - apply immediately to burn; add 10 drops to 1/2 cup water and apply to sunburn
  • Headache - apply to temples, back of neck, or bottom of feet
  • Infections - apply directly to infected area
  • Insect Repellent - add to water and spritz
  • Shock - along with other first aid measures, lavender to pulse points
  • Wounds - apply to area

Here's more information about amazing Lavender.