Sunday, July 26, 2020

Boob--Wobble and F*ck the Patriarchy

The title says it all. Yes I know this is meant to be a happy smiley blog post, but this issue has been bugging me.

I am not a small girl -- chest wise. In the attributes department I would be classed as a 34-"well, hello nurse!" Since the age of 15, I have literally battled with two appendages, that if they were attached to men, would be in medical journals -- but as I am am not, they are counted as things to be stared and commented on. The thing is, compared to the average size of breasts in the UK, they aren't excessively oversized -- In the UK the average cup size was 36DD, (and breast size is increasing, up from a 34B, 11 years ago). Britain is blooming in a wonderful way.

What has this got to do with running? Well, as most female runners will tell you, when you run, you have to bind those puppies down. Double-down on the bra's, buy specialist bra's, there are even Boob-band's  to stop the swaying.  I have done all of the above because I had this notions that I needed support to prevent muscle strains, or bruising, (I honestly don't know what rationale I was using) -- stupid idea's that we are all fed by advertisers and magazines. Those mammogry glands need to be kept stationary peeps, for your own protection. It's running law! Are there Boob-Cops? I bet Netflix has a show on it.

Over, the last few weeks I have been run/wallking on a treadmill at home. As I mentioned last time, I am usually wearing nothing more than my underpants, and a t-shirt... and a bralette.  (It has all the support of a democrat voter at a Trump rally. It has been my curtesy at wearing a bra when the postman knocks on the door.) I am sure a sexy scene --  Runners World, photo shoots eat your heart out. I bet I could do a fantastic alternative cover shoot if needed  -- like Celeste Barber.  

Yet, did my chest muscles all collapse in a heap? Nope. Did I get two black eyes from the excessive bouncing? Nope -- In fact where is the bouncing? Did society collapse? Nope. Did Aliens invade? Nope -- bit sad on that, we could do with a dose of Doctor Who about now. Okay, so what is the hang-up about the boobs and running?

Over the last couple of weeks I have been thinking about this, and I have come to the conclusion -- It's  because of some men and their inability to cope with boob-wobble. Women have been binding themselves, in some type of medieval practise because some men can't cope with the idea that boobs will wobble whilst women run. 

I have just watched the rousing congress speech by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez yesterday in response to the apologies by Congressman Ted Yoho. It struck a cord, women -myself included- have been called names and will continue to be called names by men when we don't do what they want. She inspired me. I finally had to write this shit down. My Boob-wobble pot of anger had boiled over. Again, another Netflix show in the making.

You see, I quite often run with my teenage son in the room, and I have had to reprimand him to stop interfering with my run -- by showing me meme video's or doing silly dances, or trying to distract me with showing me Terraria biomes. Not once has he mentioned anything about how I look whilst I run -- he doesn't care what wobbles and jiggles; what I show, or don't show.

However, contrast that with other experiences I have had running. Running outdoors on my own, or in a gym, where I get wolf-whistles or glared at -despite being an over-forty, unfit, jogger. Men shout and toot their car horns. The troubling incident at a local Parkrun I used to attend, where one man used to make comments to me about which outfits he wish he could see me in to run. Or asking me to do an extra-run-up to the finish on a costume day -I thought so he could take a photo for the event- so he could see my boobs wobble in my costume. How I felt powerless to make a complaint because he was popular, so I started going less.

In running, do women  double-up on bras, or buy extra-supportive bra's or boob-bands not for their own health, but because they want to prevent situations where comments will be made that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe? Over the last few weeks I realised that I have the extra-supportive bra's, the boob-bands and the loose shirts for outdoor running, not because I need them medically, but I need the emotionally -- to protect myself from the potential of being cat-called. Just like I won't run at night, or run in places that are quiet, or run on trails alone. I do this to protect myself. I protect myself from all those who might hurt me emotionally -- who have in the past overwhelmingly been men.

So, whilst this isn't the upbeat Be Happy post, it is strong and defiant. FUCK THE PATRIARCHY! We should be able to embrace our boob-wobble if we want to. Men should grow a pair (and have the freedom to run with them flapping and jiggling in their shorts for everyone to see without comment). 

I am happy, that I have a son who, when I run, cares more about showing me meme's than commenting that my boobs are wobbling -- that the idea hasn't even crossed his mind. I am happy that I do have a place where I can finally run happy, boob-wobble and everything. I just know that I am privileged to be able to have it -- now if we can just get that freedom for everyone.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

This Run... Running in a lockdown... (and coming back again)

What my running view looks like... currently without the stinky teenager.
My current running view, without the stinky teenager
-he is at school- laughing at how slow I am.

This run..Running in a lockdown... why is it when I say those words, I have to do it do it to the tune of 'The Specials' 1981 tune 'Ghost town'? Anyway, I have only begun running again because frankly I was having trouble getting into all of my old clothes. It was this or swimming and as the pools are closed, trying to do laps in the bath would be darn tricky, (although it would mean I could boast a new personal record on laps).

The little portable treadmill finally turned up -- It was a Indiegogo/Kickstarter thing which should have been delivered in January, but it ended up being June. I suppose they got some of the letters right in the month, but as with all of these projects you have to take a chance. The little treadmill turned up, and it's meant that instead of braving the glorious UK summer (aka rain and cardigans), I can do a quick run whilst supervising the spawn. Multi-tasking -- the new Coronavirus/lockdown skill. Need a paper to write whilst homeschooling your kid? Easy... actually, yeah, that's a fail. Run in your underpants and a Tweetie-pie t-shirt, whilst watching your kid play computer games? Score -- I am rocking this parenting thing! Yes, he's had chicken nuggets and rice five times this week... I keep my parenting bar low, so I can ensure that I occasionally surpass my expectations. I am proud to say I have a teenager who bathes every day -- so I must be doing something right.

I mentioned last time, I am coming back to running after a 2-3-4 ?? year hiatus. Why did I stop? Well, I think a lot of the authors on this blog, found their running vibe did fade and like myself, they don't run anymore. Life, age and potentially misery get in the way perhaps. The kids got slow and ended up on computer consoles, so we don't need to be fit to chase them anymore.

Personally, I moved country -back to my native UK- to an area that, although has its own type of natural beauty, didn't have the type of trail running I was used to. I just didn't enjoy it as much. I tried to reconnect, but I had my own lows about coming back to the UK and the issues I thought I had run (haha) away from. As we all know, you can't run away from life. Life sucks!! I want a refund on the one given me, I am sure parts of it are broken -- definitely an IKEA life. A surname you can't spell correctly (I blame the husband on that one though), instructions no-one can understand, always some bits left over, seemed good in the shop but when you get home you never know what to do with it. Oh, and I always seem to come with meatballs, hotdogs or ice-cream. I had a 365 day return, but I am over forty years past the return policy.

Another local move, more life angst and then about 18 months ago -after a viral infection- I developed Fibromyalgia. I have to admit, I haven't really felt that amount of pain before -- I have broken limbs, flared discs in my back, frozen shoulder and giving birth, but this was another level of pain. There were points I could barely walk up the stairs, let alone run. And was I tired! So damn tired. If there was a medal for falling asleep in strange places, I bet I could have a couple of golds in a few events by now.

I am still getting my head around the symptoms -- my good days, my bad days, my triggers. I am still in the learning process. New meds, new ways of doing my day. Having to say 'No' to things -- which is a huge issue for me. Going slower. Accepting the new me. It's not been the easiest process -- I am a Gal that likes to go fast and hard, (you know you say something in your head and it seems fine...)

Running isn't the most recommended exercise for fibromyalgia -- It's considered too load intensive on the joints. Swimming is preferred by doctors; as is regular exercise. As soon as I received this Perscription of 'Swim regularly!', Coronavirus took over and the pools shut. As with most doctors recommendations -when it comes to the type of physical exercise I should do- I politely ignored it. The treadmill turned up (eventually), the Tweetie-pie t-shirt went on, the trousers PJ bottoms came off and I started to run (okay, fast walk/trot, as my spawn likes to point out) in socks.

I forgot the whole shoe thing... again. I never intended to 'run' on the treadmill in socks -- I wasn't deliberately thinking about running minimalist again. However, I have had no pains in my knees -which is the one of the main joint killers in Fibromyalgia- and as the treadmill has no inclines, my ankles have been stable. I am taking everything slow because I am unfit and ... well old... but, its going good. I know I will never, ever be able to win any PB's. My goal is walk/run a 5K by the end of the year. In January I didn't think it was possible... now... who know's? I think I maybe in with a shot!

But for now, I am moving happy. I am moving smiley! (as long as the teenage spawn doesn't fart -- cloth masks maybe good for helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they do nothing for the biological weapon known as his farts!). 

Friday, June 26, 2020

RE...Restarting... Running, smiling, writing, what-else?

I couldn't find a good 'reboot' image, so have cute cats instead
I couldn't find any 'reboot' images, so have
some cute cats instead. Ahhhh....

Hello?... TAP. TAP. TAP. Is this thing on?

Well, hello. It's strange to finally find you. Hidden between old accounts and forgotten websites. I had almost forgotten about you. I know you remind me occasionally -- with the occasional new likes on Facebook, but frankly I haven't been paying much attention.

2011-2012 or so, that was so long ago. Even when I tried to reboot you in 2013, it was half-hearted. I was still in a place, where running and living were not something I really wanted to do... let alone smile whilst I did it. I lost it... my joy -- it's there somewhere. Probably hidden, in those lost passwords and mothballed websites.

Now, well I don't run anymore. I haven't run competitively in four years, (it wasn't really a race then either, more of a lark around a course with cake). I haven't run at all in over twelve months. Many of the friends I had made when this site started, are in a similar situation. Life, work, kids... the world has just got in the way. The happy group of mavericks... we just got old.

And Fat(ter); Well I have. If you haven't noticed lately, there is a situation going down in the world at the moment. COVID-19. Coronavirus. I am now into month four of lockdown and my waistline is showing it. I would rationalise it by saying its the Peri-menopause, or 'I am just getting old', but it's not. I just got lazy. Very Lazy.

This week -quietly ignoring my doctor, who recommends swimming (the pools aren't open and the last time I ignored that particular advice I secured a sweet trip to New York)- I decided to start a couch-2-5K training plan.

Couch-2-5K. Yeah. I am quite humbled by that. I remember a time, (okay, it was about 10 years ago), I used to run half-marathons on a whim -- Just because I was bored that weekend. Now, I am running my first week of a plan that has me walking for the majority of the session. 

But, do you know what? At least I am moving again. I am trying again. I am having aspirations, I am setting myself small goals and I looking to the future again. It's been a long time since I made a move that positive; and as you can see, I am writing again. 

This is a big deal.

So here is the re... re-start of 'The Run-Smiley Collective'. I maybe only one member now, but I am always on the lookout for more. If you run (or walk, or dance, or pogo-stick, or silly-walk) am unspecified distance and you want to write about the positivity of movement but have no forum... let me know. Let's spread some "Collective LUUUURRRVVVEE' out there.

MMMWWWWAAAAHHHH.  XX (<-- Socially distance kiss of course).

Monday, December 9, 2013

I don’t do race reports, but if I did, then it would include a Rude Zombie Santa.

Trying not to laugh. I won't tell you where we had
our hands.
You know you get those races where the only object of the run is to be as silly as possible? No? Wow, there are some boring runners out there.

If you said ‘Yes’, then welcome to my club – yes, you can be afraid of the honour if it helps.

Last Sunday, my friend Nikki and I ran a race -a 4.4 mile Santa Run- and to be brutally honest, we weren’t at our best.  We wish we were suffering from a humongous (I like the word ‘humongous’, I may use it more in conversation) hangover, but frankly we were both a little broken. Nikki has been on the road to recovery from tendonitis, and I was on the tail-end of a lingering chest cold. It was a case of the lame leading the infectious.

The beauty of Santa races is the fact that you can be as stupid and as slow as you like, and unless someone clocks your bib-number, you are completely incognito. Why? Everyone is wearing the same Santa suit. You are just one of seven-hundred Santa’s all running the same route.

This had a possible side-effect that Nikki and I had realised early-on. From the start of the race we made it our mission to be as rude as possible. For us it isn’t as hard as it may seem. We had spent the pre-ceding Friday having loud conversations about ‘Tart Plungers’ and big balls that were a mouthful at our Christmas Girls Night out.

"Come here little girl and stroke my beard"

Firstly, we rejoiced in the beauty of arriving at the start thirty minutes early. Why? Because we wanted to play with each others’ beards; our false Santa beards! What were you people thinking of?! snicker. With comments of: “Come here little girl and stroke my beard”, to “Come here little girl and look in my pocket [on the coat] and you’ll find a present [of Jelly Babies]”, we then progressed to stroking our bellies in a suggestive way. Okay, that bit was just me; however, it was quite apparent before we had even started that we were the creepiest Santa’s on the course.
As taken by a Mayor or someone...

The short walk to the start was uneventful – well as uneventful as walking to a dis-used Castle with five hundred Santa’s (and a couple of elves) could be.

At the start, we eyed up the most senior and most important person we could find to take our photo’s and then dared each other to ask him. It was some type of mayor or something or other. Luckily for us, I managed to keep my comments to myself and he didn’t realize he was one step away from taking a mug-shot of the ‘Arctic’s Most Wanted’ –next to ‘Barry the Elf’ and ‘Jeff the Reindeer’ who were ‘lewd, and crude and rude’.

The start was more a mass ‘escape of Elf-catraz’ (get it?) with a plethora of false bearded, felt suited and very over-heated Santa’s all running as fast as their little legs could carry them.

Nikki and I took this opportunity to engage with our fellow Claus-ian friends. Actually, it was more of a case of Nikki and I shouting very loudly and seeing who would respond. Our biggest catch were two Santa’s who were very interested in my ‘Chest pulling’, (I discovered coughing and running were not a good combination) and why my hat stood up after playing with the ball.
Our Mascot Christmas tree who we didn't
know the name of, but I will call him 'Norm'

As we left the half-way point of the first lap, we encountered our own little mascot. I wish we knew his name, so from this point I will call him ‘Norm’, mainly because I like the name and I think it suited him. Norm, was dressed as a Christmas Tree and we couldn’t help but sing, “Christmas Tree, O’ Christmas Tree” as we jogged past. I did realize as I went into the third line of the song, I actually don’t know the third line to the song and it was pointed out that “your balls are small and your lights only blink” was probably a little derogatory and insulting. I am sure they were the right lines. Huh.

The urge to cough was very apparent and I now became the dodgy Santa who liked to breathe heavily with a certain amount of wheezing. As we turned for the next lap it was only ‘Limping along Santa’ A.K.A Nikki, who kept me going. For an injured person, she run’s bloody quickly.

The crowd had thinned out as the majority of the Santa’s participating had realized that 2.2 miles was a good distance to justify chocolate marsh-mellow pancakes and cider. Clever bunch. Nikki was enthusiastic and I made the mistake of following her slip-stream. It was a mistake because she’s smaller than me and was no use what-so-ever in removing some of the wind.

We plodded along -well Nikki plodded and I huffed- until we got to our friendly Christmas Tree called ‘Norm’. I didn’t help on the lookout for him as I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so my only contribution to the conversation was, “That’s him… wait, or is it a tree? No, it’s just some bushes”. Nikki was barely holding herself from crumpling with laughter.

We managed to locate him –he was a six-foot man dressed as a Christmas tree, how hard could he be to find? We sang our ditty again (this time I omitted my made up and personally attacking lines), and it was enough to make him blush. He was just being kind so we –okay more I—would stop singing. There is a good reason I am banned from singing in the car.

The last mile was spent passing all of the walkers (most of them with children). We found that the shout of “Santa behind you” wasn’t really a good indication that you were passing, when there were a load of Santa’s running. Nikki and I also asked some of the adults if they had been “naughty or nice”, making note of all the ‘Nice’ ones – I am sure they were hiding something wink

As we got towards the end, my wish to curl up and collapse was only held off by Nikki tempting me with alcoholic cupcakes at the end. Damn, she knows how to motivate me.
Santa's with a medal -- taken in some
'hobbity' type hole. It's artistic people!

Finish done in 38:15 and we immediately headed off after collecting our frankly awesome medals to get some cash from the car; oh and to strip. Before you get any idea’s on Santa-on-Santa action here, may I just point out that sweat-dripping felt Santa suits is not a good look.
It wasn't just the Grinch who stole Christmas.
Zombie's do it too!

In the end we managed to spend £20 on alcoholic cupcakes and coffee. We picked up a few items before we realized that if we carried on, I may be over the legal limit to drive back. We stopped briefly for photo’s; mainly my version of Zombie Santa (I felt it was necessary to wear my InkNBurn Halloween outfit underneath for added fun) and as many silly poses as we could get away with, without mental health professionals being called in to assess us.

We also managed to find Norm, who graciously posed for photo’s with us.

"Christmas Tree, O' Christmas Tree,How we love you Christmas Tree"

A Christmas race isn’t complete without singing stupid Australian Christmas Songs whilst still wearing Santa hats on the drive home. I also ensured that I wore my Zombie Santa outfit (complete with hat and beard) around the local food store, because really provincial England has not been shocked enough with my running get-up.

All in all, I am reminded that, being injured and full of cold, creates some of the most fantastic runs. The whole idea that you need to run to be fast sometimes just ruins all the fun. I mean what’s the point of getting a PB, if you are miserable doing it. You will find sometimes that running for a laugh will get you that PB you wanted AND you also have a story to tell at the end.

Of course it also helps in obtaining your PB, if you have never run a ‘4.4 mile, dressed as a creepy Santa’ race before. A PB is pretty much guaranteed regardless of how slow –or in fact how rude- you are!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

FlintLand | Running with the Navajo

«Welcome, my People, my friends, ma family.»

Race director Shaun Martin
«Ya'at' eeh. As is Navajo tradition, please allow me to introduce myself.»

Shaun Martin doesn't speak like everyone. Tall, calm with vivid, fiery eyes, you couldn't miss him in a crowd of hundreds. He stood proudly in front of the runners, and went on to recite his name and his family background, in Navajo language.

«What I just did is state my name, my clan and my origins. I started by saying Ya'at' eeh. Translated to English, it is a salutation which basically means that you and I, we're good».

I felt immediately at ease. I'd traveled to Navajo Country with my friend La Mariposa and we'd arrived in Chinle, Arizona, just as the sun set over the distant horizon. The sky is large, here, the land is vast and the air is crisp. Sitting in an outside amphitheater, surrounded by runners and listening to Shaun, I was right at home.

A sacred place of magnificent beauty
Canyon de Chelly (promounced «De Shay») is a place of legends. This space is sacred for the Navajo, and its access is strictly prohibited to anyone unless their clan lives inside the tall red rock walls. Visitors and tourists may glance at it from top lookouts, in the distance. As a world first, on October 12, we runners would have the immense honor of being allowed inside the Canyon and the great privilege of running its entire lenght.

After an evening of connecting with participants and organizers, where my imagination took flight with canyon legends and my heart filled with a deep sense of kinship, we went to sleep for a couple hours among the distant howls of the coyotes and the neighing of the wild horses. The next day, before first light, we made our way into the dark to a warm bonfire where a traditional breakfast of blue corn mash was awaiting us.

There, in the biting cold late-night breeze, gathered in a circle around the fire, we participated in a prayer to the new day and received an intimate blessing of cedar smoke, from a shaman who spoke to all in a mix of Navajo and English.

Blessing ceremony
«You are about to perform a sacred act in the Navajo culture, called Dàghààh. Your footsteps will touch the earth while the sky awakens and sends its first sunlight. As you enter the mouth of the Canyon, the walls will slowly rise; this represents Mother Earth's arms opening to invite you, then rising up to take you to Father Sky.»

We left the warmth of the fire and took a couple steps to the starting line. Shaun stood at the front. «While you travel inside the Canyon, you are welcome to follow Navajo tradition and holler out to your heart's content. The more, the better. Your howls will echo along the rock walls and be heard from a great distance. Canyon residents and visitors to the rim are going to witness a very rare, awesome display of running today.»

Without any need to say more, both Shaun and the crowd united in a huge, wild, primal howl and the runners burst out in the early light. The moment was unique, magical, electric. A long line of awe-struck runners formed as we slowly left the low sand wash and entered the Canyon. Every step took us further in, swallowing us whole in unspeakable beauty.

> Read more on FlintLand

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Limits? Where we're from, we don't have limits!

I know -before you pick yourselves off and stare at the screen in horror- two posts in two days, on a blog that was barely breathing. Well, I have my mojo back and yes, I also know that is a scary, scary thought.  You may -if you wish- run away now, screaming and waving your hands in the air.

Today, I ran a 10K race with little -okay, closer to no- training; testing my limits and giving the proverbial finger to life and everything she wants to dish out at me.

I wrote yesterday, that prepping for the race, felt like a marker in life; a hint that today, I would learn something about myself, my running and about the community I live in.  I did.

I had no expectations on this race. I just wanted to finish. I am so glad that this was my only goal. I think if I was concentrating on getting a PB and not enjoying the ride, I would have missed out on so much.

The race started -as they usually do- with the hares at the front and the tortoises at the back.  I placed myself in the mid-pack, knowing that really thats not where I should be. This was the start of my life re-education:

Lesson #1 - life is fast. Control and determination is not about pushing every limit, but learning which boundaries to test.
As I started in the mid-pack, I became more contented as I let the hares pass me by and to run the race at a pace I knew would allow me to finish. Just because I wasn't running a 8:30 mile, didn't mean I wasn't determined, but that I had the courage to back off and run and live life at the pace that meant I got the job done.

Lesson #2 - Your life is an on-going series of personal connections. Embrace them all, but accept that not all of them will develop.  As I started the run, I used a few people as involuntary and unknowing pacers. I needed to keep myself grounded, and I needed to keep myself slow. I always feel guilty about using the person in front of me as an unknowing pacer; I know how irritating it can be to hear footsteps on your heel whilst you silently wish, "just overtake me already". So, I would always say 'Hi' to the person and apologise to them about what I was inadvertently doing. Today, these burgeoning interactions didn't create any connections. Meh, maybe next time.

Lesson #3 - As you flail, life throws you a line. Roger, what can I say about you? Thank you is not enough.  As I was doubting why I was running this race, Roger comes along and makes a comment about my awesome INB (InkNBurn to all you -soon to be hip- uneducated kids out there) calf sleeves. A simple comment,  changed a race I wanted to forget, to a race I really enjoyed and learnt from. It is safe to say, without Roger, I am not sure if and how I would ended my race today.

Lesson #4 - The most interesting people are those pushing their limits. Yep, Roger, it's back to you Mate.  I commented to Roger, that the reason I run races are to share them, not with the hares who run forty-minute 10K's once a week, but to share them who were pushing their own boundaries. I stand by that comment. Roger -I found out- usually runs a 5K once a week, but on Tuesday was offered a bib from a friend who was injured. He has only run three 10K's and his longest run is a seven-miler. He was taking on a challenge he hadn't planned and he was pushing his boundaries.  The most inspiring people are those who take on life -and instead of winning or running better than X,Y,Z- are there just to see what they can do.

Lesson #5 - An goal shared is a goal achieved. It is believed that -in the end- running a solitary sport. Wrong. Running is about taking your goals, your limits and your personal achievements and sharing them. Today, my goal was to run a 10K, my limit was to battle a broken body and my personal achievements were all the races I had run before. I shared all of these with the people I met today on the course and together we fought all our demons and we revelled  in every small success; together we shared and in the end we all achieved.

Lesson #6 - Slowing down to help each other is not a sign of failure. There are many runners out there who's aim is to get to the end in a certain time; to be better, quicker, faster, stronger. Wrong. so, so wrong. As I ran today, there were a few times I slowed right down. Sometimes I had to do it so I could keep going, but sometimes I did it because I knew someone else needed to take a breather, so they could keep going. It could have been someone who was using me as one of those involuntary pacers. It could be a new-found friend who was having an issue with a section of the course. My goal was to run all of the race, but then as I walked with someone -thereby failing in one of my aims- I realised that this was not a failure.  This is what racing should be, and now as I had failed in a goal, I came to remember, that this was the real reason I run.

Lesson #7 - Laugher is always the best medicine. At the end, my friends' partner mentioned I was too enthusiastic in my non-running exploits. High-fiving the kids as I passed, or making a comment to a volunteer.  I did probably spend more energy than I should being a goof than I should have done, but then I would not of finished if I had toned it down.  All of those over-the-top-goofball-theatrics were the reason I kept going.  Just to make someone smile, made me smile and I would not have reached that finish without it.

Lesson #8 - The only i in team is the hole in the 'A'. Okay, that made no sense unless you have seen the meme on the internet.  Write the word 'TEAM' in that old-fashioned 'Tetris' block type writing you used to do as a kid, and then you will find the letter 'i' in the middle of the letter 'A'. Anyway, I am digressing a little. The point is, you may be running the race, but you would not be there if it wasn't for everyone else out there. You may get your PB and pat yourself on the back, but think: Did you thank ALL of those volunteers who got up before you and then stood there in the cold, wind and rain and directed you onto the path of personal victory? Did you thank those people who unwittingly got you to that PB as you used them as pacers then raced past them? When you were low, did you thank the stranger who spurred you on? Did you thank all of your running buddies who trained with you two-three-four-more times a week and told you could do it?  If you didn't then you are the 'i' in the 'A'-hole. Get on FaceBook, Twitter, whatever and do it now. Without them, you couldn't brag about the shiny new medal and that glow of your new PB. (So, just to make sure I have covered everyone, here goes: Thank you to: All of the organisers and volunteers out there today; Everyone who helped me and didn't know it -I wish I had some of your names; To Roger, who got me to the end; To my friends, who sent me luck; To Nikki, who got me to the start; To Nikki's family who brightened my day; and to my Family. Thank you for being there at the end. So Am I covered now? Is that medal all mine now? *grin*)

Lesson #9 - Everyone is pushing their limits. Today a Canadian Facebook friend of mine, reminded my in his post that this weekend is 'Terry Fox Run' weekend.  I am not sure if there is anyone outside of Canucksville who will know who Terry Fox is.  He is a Canadian legend. At the age of 22, after having his leg amputated due to cancer, he embarked on a run across Canada to enlighten others to the struggle of those battling Cancer and raise funds at the time.  His goal was to run a marathon a day and to show that disability was not a hinderance.  He died before he could reach his target, but that does not mean he didn't push his -and everyone who watched him-boundaries. Every year around the third week of September, people run in his name and raise funds for Cancer research. His legacy and reminder is still poignant thirty-plus years later.  Everyone is pushing their limits. You may not know it, or even understand it, but everyone you meet has their battles to fight. Respect that.

So, did I learn something today in my race? You betcha! Was this race a 'life-marker'? Hell, yeah. Was I reminded why I race? Definitely. Would I do it again? Probably, but ask me when I have sobered up - that medicinal alcohol is bound to wear off soon.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

FlintLand Review : Camelbak Ultra LR Hydration Vest

  • Type : Hydration
  • Use : Long-distance running
  • Price : $130

Camelbak and I go way back. When I started to run-commute, I opted for a SnoBlast bag to carry my stuff around and hydrate at the same time. Since it’s a downhill skiing / snowboarding bag, it seemed like an odd choice and many runners commented on it. When I wore it for my first ultra, people started telling me I needed a vest. I thought my SnoBlast did an awesome job, and although I still wear this bag every day for other purposes, I have to admit my world changed when I tried a hydration vest.

My model of reference for hydration vests is the Nathan Endurance, which I have worn so much it’s half-torn apart. I have tried a couple other alternatives, but never found anything I liked. When Camelbak sent me a Marathoner and an Ultra LR, my eyes got set on the latter in an instant.

Trail test
I took the Ultra LR out for a first unforgiving test on a cold winter afternoon. Frankly, I didn’t think it would last more than 10 minutes in the sub-zero weather. I was very pleased to discover it didn’t freeze, as long as I blew back some air in the drinking tube. The vest itself felt comfortable and barely-there. The weight distribution at the very bottom of the vest makes it feel very light.

Road test
I took the Ultra LR on several long winter runs, but was curious to see how it would perform when warm weather would settle in and I’d ditch the extra layers of clothing. So when spring came, I made sure to bring it to all my longer races. I ran two half-marathons, a couple long runs on my own, a full marathon and a 50K ultra wearing it.

Quick Link Tube Assembly System
Definitely, the best part about Camelbak vests is the tube assembly. It starts with a coupling at the bladder that you only need to push the tube in to connect. When the tube is disassembled, the bladder will not spill or leak. This means you don’t have to undo the whole vest to get the bladder out and rince / dry it after your runs. It also means you can carry more than one bladder (say, in a drop bag) and swap them with a simple click of the drinking tube. Pretty awesome. But it doesn’t stop there. The bite valve is also very well-conceived, with a simple slit that opens up when you bite it. If you’re worried it might drip or get squeezed-open when transporting the vest, there is also a cut-off valve to ensure liquid flows only when you want it.

The Ultra LR is the roomiest vest I’ve ran in, with multiple front pockets and accessible mesh stashes over the straps where you can easily slip half a dozen gels, a Clif bar or two, your keys, a pair of arm warmers and a couple other small items. The belt portion also features two large waist pockets for even more storage that’s accessible while you run. The back of the vest offers a large mesh stash that will easily contain a light windbreaker or other pieces of gear you might need. It has a built-in whistle, which is an obvious safety feature, but moreover will allow you to tick a mandatory item off the equipment list of many mountain ultras.

Bite valve with cut-off mechnism
The shoulder harness and waist straps are fully adjustable and will fit runners of almost any size. Although there are neat “compression straps” for the bladder, I’ve never used them and question their purpose. The belt goes all the way from your right to buckle on your left side, which felt a bit awkward. Why not use double adjustments like everyone else?

Space also comes at the price of weight. The Ultra LR is also the bulkiest vest I’ve ran in, and that difference is way more noticeable when running in warm weather, where it almost feels like a backpack with a lot of fabric touching your skin. It weighs in at over a pound, too.

The Ultra LR brings a lot of innovation to hydration vests with the unique lumbar bladder, the awesome valve and tubing system and the creative use of space for storage. I think it offers very interesting features, but would benefit to undergo a drastic weight and bulk reduction effort, which would bring lighter and more breathable fabrics, and reduce the contact points with the runner’s body. Overall, this is definitely a piece of gear I will use in my running.

High points
  • Possibly the industry’s best valve and tubing system
  • Clever lumbar bladder puts the weight on your waist, not your shoulders
  • Extra roomy
  • Fully adjustable

Low points
  • Feels bulky, more so in warm weather
  • Heavy at 1.15 lbs

The equipment for this FlintLand review was supplied by Camelbak free of charge, without any conditions.