Friday, February 17, 2017

Four Winter Runcation Ideas

It may reach 60 degrees in Denver today, but a recent opportunity to spend weekend in Phoenix for a Oiselle team meet up was a great escape from winter weather. It got me thinking about how amazing and energizing it can be to get away from the cold of winter for a few days of sun and warmth. Even though I saw flowers starting to bloom during a walk the other day, the snow will be back still this season.

A change of scenery and new places to explore through running can provide a big motivation boost for runners, any time of the year, but especially now. Here's a look at a few winter getaways we've enjoyed that make perfect mid-winter runcation destinations.

Charleston, SC
With a temperate climate, quaint charm complete with cobblestone streets, an impressive food scene and packed with history, this is clearly a great city to explore running with plenty of non-running diversions.
Early Morning Run - Charleston, SC

Early Morning Run - Charleston, SC

Savannah, GA
Savannah oozes history and southern charm. You can't help but feel like you've been transported to another time and have walked into the film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." With parks and gardens around every corner, stunningly elegant homes and southern cooking, it's easy to start your day with a run exploring the city then filling the remaining hours with any number of activities.
Early Morning Run - Forsyth Park Savannah

Early Morning Run - Owens-Thomas House Savannah

Santa Fe, NM
Yes it can snow in Santa Fe but the area still provides a great getaway during the colder months and plenty to keep you busy for a long weekend. This is a great option if you particularly enjoy trail running, art, margaritas and soaking tubs.
  • Where to run & hike: The Dale Ball Trail (below bottom) system offers 22 miles of well marked but challenging trails with stunning views and varying terrain. Additional trail options can be found here.
  • Where to eat: Maria's, The Shed, The Teahouse, Plaza Cafe
  • What to do when not running: See all the art - there are more than a hundred galleries to explore along Canyon Road and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is not to be missed while the Loretto Chapel's staircase is a mysterious work of art. Schedule time in a soaking pool at Ten Thousand Waves for after a long run (tip: try to get a private pool/sauna and arrive early to enjoy the foot soak). Stop by the farmer's market at the Railyard (below top) for fresh food, chilis, spices and more.
  • Where to stay: Casita Hopi through Airbnb is a bit out of downtown but incredibly comfortable and a perfect home base if you like to prepare some of your own meals and enjoy privacy. La Fonda on the Plaza, Hotel St. Francis and the Old Santa Fe Inn are steps from the Plaza, restaurants, and more.
Early Morning Run - Santa Fe Railyard

Early Morning Run - Dale Ball Trails

Phoenix, AZ
Alright, 75 degrees is the middle of January and to go out for a run in shorts and a tank is pretty nice. It almost feels luxurious. What most surprised me about Phoenix is that while it's mostly flat, there are mountains in and surrounding the city. While the 1,000-ish ft elevation was a nice change for our group from Colorado, it might add a little challenge for those coming from sea level.
Luci's at the Orchard

View from Piestewa Peak Phoenix

What are your favorite runcation destinations? * How do you stay motivated in the winter?

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about any of these spots!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Running on Plants

In 2014 years ago my husband decided, after reading The China Study, that he wanted to try a plant based diet. I was eating very little meat as it was and it's easier when both halves of a couple commit to something like this, so I decided to join him. 

Before I go any further, let me say that this post is not about convincing you to switch to a plant-based diet or shaming anyone who likes meat. That's not at all what I'm about. I want to share my story because I know there are other vegan runners out there and others who are curious about it but have reservations.

Early Morning Run - Crested Butte Farmers Market

While the treatment of animals played a role in my decision, the impetus was a focus on our health. One thing I've learned over the years is that there are a lot of things out of our control. We can't select our genes, or walk around in a bubble to keep all carcinogens away, and we certainly can't control mother nature or random accidents. But we do make lifestyle decisions that have a big impact on our health. Getting regular exercise, not smoking and choosing to eat healthful foods, for example. And so I've chosen to make decisions on how I live my life to give myself the best chance - while knowing full well that it doesn't guarantee it - that it'll be a healthy life.

When we switched to a plant-based diet we went cold turkey and have only eaten animal products a few times a year since - usually a bite of something special at the holidays or our very favorite burger when we're back in NYC (hint: Delmonico's Grill). Because we love brunch, by far the hardest for me to give up was cheese, eggs, and yogurt. But now I don't miss it that much and we've found great vegan-friendly brunch spots around Denver.

With osteopenia and a history of stress fractures, I was a bit nervous about making the switch because I'd be missing out on a lot of the easy calcium and protein sources. My biggest fear was retreating back into that old pattern that had me hobbling around on crutches or in a boot and visiting physical therapists on a regular basis.

You know what? Two and a half years later and I'm going strong. (knock on wood!)

Early Morning Run - trail running the Dale Ball Trails

In fact, I'm feeling better than ever. I've only lost a few pounds (and I attribute that to my run streak more than anything else) while Matt, of course, has lost quite a lot and is looking better than ever (I'm a lucky woman). I still have days when I feel 'blah,' but don't we all? Especially in the middle of winter? Overall, I feel great and I've run 70 plus days straight with hardly a twinge. 

I shouldn't be surprised though. It's not like you have to eat burgers and wash them down with a glass of milk to be a good runner. We all know of Scott Jurek, one of the best ultra runners there is, who's a long-time vegan. (Not that I am, in any way, comparing myself to Scott Jurek) And Matt Frazier has been running on plants - and writing about it - for years. As have many others who run many more miles a week than I do.

While there are vitamins and nutrients we all need, we're all still different. Animal protein might be best for some, and others can thrive without it. Matt and I chose to follow a plant-based diet for health reasons and as long as we feel like it's working for us, we'll keep doing it. I will never judge someone for eating an omelette while I'm digging into my scrambled tofu, and I hope that goes both ways. 

The point is, you can be a runner and fully enjoy a vegan/plant-based diet.

Vegan curry from Heirloom Vegetarian (Vancouver)

I am more than happy to answer questions, and I do when people are interested in learning what we eat or just how we manage without the deliciousness of cheese in our lives. It's been a learning process for us and event fun to learn new recipes and get creative with grains, beans and trying new vegetables. We've also learned that Matt is a pretty great cook. 

Are you a plant-based/vegan runner? * What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if you switched to a plant-based diet?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Make Your First Race a Great Race

My first race of 2017 is coming up in less than two weeks and while this is definitely not my first ever race, a lot of New Years resolutions were made at the start of the month to get in shape, start running, and run a race. There are so many reasons to make this commitment in 2017, and I'm cheering for you all the way if you did!

So as someone who has run too many races to count over the past decade (and lord, I do not want to know how much money I've spent on them!), I thought I might share a thing or two about how to have a great race day. Sure, there are a lot of things out of our control - like the weather - but there are a few things we can do to help make the experience a great one.

Plan Ahead. Sign up for the race with plenty of time to train, psych yourself up, and maybe enlist someone to join you. Don't wait till the last minute to look at the details - where the start line is, what time the race starts, what the course is like, when/where to pick up your bib, where to park. If family or friends are coming to cheer for you, take a look at the map and plan in advance where they'll spectate from. I can't stress enough how much easier your race morning will be if you take these simple - but often overlooked - steps.

Mile High Turkey Trot start line

Do a dress rehearsal. Pick a training run a few weeks in advance and wear what you're going to wear on race day. Chafing during a race does not make for a good experience. And if you're jumping in the deep end and picked a longer race for your first, be sure to test out your fuel to make sure it doesn't disagree with your stomach! The fewer pit stops on course, the better. Doing this a few weeks in advance will give you time to make adjustments and try again if you need to. Also, if you're lucky you'll get a chance to train in the rain or snow. I say you're "lucky" because you never know what race day will throw at you and if the weather isn't perfect, you'll feel much more prepared if you already have a rainy run under your belt.

Set a Goal. And then another. There is nothing wrong with setting an ambitious goal for your first race. In fact, that's awesome! But it's good to have a B Goal in your pocket because there are a lot of things out of your control on race day, including how your legs are going to feel. Having a B Goal can keep you from feeling discouraged after your first race and push you to keep going after that original goal. Remember, it's your first!

Grace and Lisa before the Mini 10K NYC

Approach it as "Race Week." Don't let race day be an island on itself in your life. You'll set yourself up for a great race day if you're preparing for it all week. Eat well. Stay hydrated.  Don't overdue it on the miles. Stretch each day and put your legs up the wall. Get lots of sleep. It's common for even the most experienced runner to have trouble sleeping the night before a race, but the sleep before the sleep before the race, is the most important. The day before, lay everything out that you'll need the next morning so it's all there when you need it.

Stay positive and have fun! It's all about the attitude. You might be nervous the morning of, and that's okay. Finding a place to park, dealing with the porta-potty line, and waiting around for the gun to go off can be a bit nerve wracking. Don't let little things get to you and don't put too much pressure on yourself. Instead, go with the flow and talk with other runners. Do your warm-up, breathe deep, get your music going (if that's your thing) and go for it! Enjoy the cheering spectators, the view, and the awesome thing you're accomplishing.

Oiselle Volee Colfax Relay team 2016

Celebrate. You've done something awesome for yourself. No matter what distance you traveled or how long it took you, you did it and that is something worth celebrating. Be proud!

Do you have any favorite race day tips to share with newbies? * What races are on your calendar for 2017?