June 29, 2014

Foam roller easy reference charts

If you're looking for a quick reference chart for foam rolling, here's something I found at my chiropractor's office. I love that he's so pro foam roller and self therapy. 

Pretty sure I'm setting a record for the shortest blog post of Yo Momma history.

How many days a week do you foam roll? I try and fit it in at least twice a week. 

What keeps you interested in doing it? For some reason I can only foam roll when a friend is doing it with me. Otherwise, I just don't do it. 

Where did you find your foam roller? Here's mine!

June 27, 2014

What to do when you lose hope

After a water aerobics class a few weeks ago, one of my students came up to me to tell me her story. She has MS (multiple sclerosis) and shared that her health had been deteriorating while her pain level had been skyrocketing. But once she found the gumption to get in the pool and try exercising in the water, she experienced relief from the pain and felt better than she had in years.

While she was telling me her story, I teared up a little bit. Here's a lady who was at home, in pain, with no hope of getting better, but she found a way to push past her hopelessness and try something new. And the new worked for her. She now makes it a point to schedule her work and life around this new exercise regimen because she knows that it will make her more effective at everything else she does, or allow her to continue doing it at all.

For me, this is one of the joys of teaching a class like water aerobics. We get a lot of people who have given up on traditional forms of exercise or cannot physically handle land-based exercise, and the water saves them. Because of its buoyancy and reduced stress on the bones, it is easier on the joints, but that doesn't mean that it is easy. Ask Michael Phelps. Water can give you a solid workout. But seeing these people keep moving even though their other options are reduced by injury or illness gives me hope. 

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I could never run again. If I injured myself beyond repair or if I got sick. What would I choose to do? Cry? Probably some, or a lot if I started Netflixing Life Is Beautiful or Marley & Me. But I hope, hope, hope that I would not let it get me down permanently. That after the sadness, I would pick myself up and find a new path.

For those of you who are reading this who haven't found your path, keep searching, keep digging, keep pushing forward.

You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.
E. O. Wilson

June 26, 2014

Race Against the Sun: for when you're hot for torture

Racing the sun can burn you. Kind of like the burn from your Aunt Dottie's fresh-off-the-stovetop soup. You know it's hot, but you also know it tastes like a miracle in your mouth. So you go for it anyway, even though with the creamy most deliciousness comes some pain. Race Against the Sun (RATS) lures you in with the promise of adventure and almost impossibleness to complete (that is appealing to at least 40 people in this area, judging by the limited slots filling up quickly), so you go in hopeful for the adventure portion and cringing when you almost inevitably have to drop before you complete the four required 9ish-mile loops. 

RATS is the brain child of Kyle Stichtenoth. "The inspiration started two years ago during a summer night time training run. It was fueled by my reading of an article about the need for more untraditional races written by Geoff Roes," says Kyle. The race is held on summer solstice, the shortest night of the year. Runners start at 8:01 p.m. and have until 5:38 a.m. to complete four loops that are somewhere between 9 and 10 miles. Those who complete the four loops receive the now-coveted RATS finisher shirt.

The hand-drawn course map was not released until about 30 minutes before the start of the race, and it included nine Xs that marked the location of nine books along the course. For each loop, racers got a number that corresponded to pages in the nine books, and they had to rip out that page at each stop. Skip/miss a book, and you either have to go back or drop out for not completing the loop. With each loop, you receive a fresh number and a fresh chance to fail at collecting all of the pages. 

On the other side of this map are clues to the locations of the nine books.

Kyle explains, "Conceptually I obviously took some inspiration from the Barkley Marathons." Or from hell. Between finding the books hidden in caves or at the top of ropes just around an abandoned mine shaft, climbing hill after hill on all fours, getting lost multiple times per round, and doing all of the above in the dark, this course is like a slow road to purgatory for some.

Cave injury en route to a book.

But at the same time, there was something irresistible about it. First of all, someone telling me that I'm most likely not going to finish something makes me want to push back and try harder. Like me, a lot of you runners are pretty strong willed and determined. It's just characteristic of our breed. So we push back against tough things, or we pay someone to put us through tough things.

Glow-in-the-dark face paint to fight the night.

With the race being held at night, it's also perfect for people like me with young families. Why not fit in your 40-mile run while everyone else is sleeping? Of course, there is the whole you-will-be-completely-exhausted-for-the-next-three-days thing, but that's what caffeine is for.

Plus it was dirt cheap. Twenty bones (that's $20 for those who didn't grow up in the thuggish ruggish 90s) for the chance to torture yourself through the night, and it included a breakfast buffet at the finish/drop-out line. I would have paid $20 just for the after party.

Breakfast buffet that did not mess around.

Maybe because it was at night and we were all scared together that Ruffner Mountain is haunted (BTW, it is, especially by the water tower by yourself at 1 a.m.) or maybe because we were all trying to prove Kyle wrong about the finishing rate, the race was more like a team event, minus actual teammates, than anything I've ever run. We all worked together to find the book locations and navigate the course in the dark. One of my friends forgot his reading glasses, so I helped rip out his pages for him. When I would turn left when I was supposed to turn right, someone four runners back would yell out that we should be going the other way. It just felt like we were clinging to each other for the possibility of finishing and the hope of not getting lost. And since the dark took away our ability to blaze through the course or to even see the sparse flags clearly, we needed all the help we could get.

Finding a book station.

My sad race story is that I just didn't plan well on my second loop. Of course by 12:30 a.m. and two-thirds of the way through loop two, I already knew that my chances of completing the four loops was slim to none, but when I got to the top of Blood Chute, one of the gnarlier climbs of the course, and realized that I was out of water with three more miles to go, I was done, especially knowing that I had already drained my full Camelbak in the previous six miles and had just stupidly left the only water stop out on the course at the bottom of the previously mentioned gnarly hill without filling up. In my defense, that same pack lasted the full first loop. The humidity was brutal even though the temps had cooled from the 90s earlier that day, and I was taking in more fluids than I anticipated. The finish line was a half mile away if I cut the course, so I headed that direction, towards the dream of bacon and omelets. Even then, I questioned my ability to locate the trail at night and backtracked a couple of times before I finally found the right spider-filled trail back to home base.

By the time I got back, I had collected seven of the nine pages I needed, not enough for credit for the loop, but I was resolved to help improve, by not improving, RATS finisher stats. The fewer finishers, the more legendary the race will become. The sting of defeat didn't last long, as I effortlessly blended into the crowd of other drop-outs, with whom I spent the night eating everything in site, laughing, dancing, and general debauchery-ing. I will reveal that I forced someone into a hand stand contest just so I could win something that night and regain a smidgen of the dignity that Ruffner Mtn. and RATS stole from me.

As found at the after (or during) party.

The grossest baby pool that ever existed. At least it started out nice.

By sun rise, only four racers made it through four loops. Two of those runners actually ran 
the course, and the other two got creative and collected all of their pages via some secret awesome route they created but refused to reveal. There was no rule against not following the route, as long as you collected the right number of pages each loop. If I had thought about that before dropping out, I would have tried it, but I was thinking inside the box in a race that clearly demands jumping outside of the box and destroying all evidence that a box ever even existed.

The people who actually ran all night.

The face of a RATS finisher, Prince Whatley.

The happy dance of a RATS finisher, Vanessa Stroud. Also the only female finisher.

When I asked Kyle how it felt to see racer after racer drop, he explained, "As racers kept dropping out, I felt good but not because of their failure, but rather almost all of those runners were quitting despite the fact that they really enjoyed the race. Believe it or not, I was happy to see four runners finish. The race was hard, but possible, and those runners earned their shirts and the respect that comes with it. I'd love to give out more shirts next year, but I'd be surprised if I ever give out more than 10 in a given year."

The first RATS finisher, Dan McBrayer.

Out of 40+ starters, these are the top 13 finishers.

For myself and fellow racers, we can possibly take comfort in the fact that setting up the race wasn't all fun and games for the race director and his crew, aka Greg Wingo. "Logistically there were a lot of challenges in coming up with the course and the books for the course. The day of the race was a long day as well. Marking the course in the heat of the day and then staying up all night, but I doubt it was as hard as running the race," said Kyle.

What do we have to look forward to next year? Kyle shared, "The field will be kept small, 40 people is about the most I want running. Next year we will have a required 50k finish in order to register. I have some really cool ideas for next year, but all I can say is the course won't be longer, but it will be tougher."

Although the promise of an even tougher course guarantees that I won't finish, if I am at my computer in time to register before this one fills up, I am 100% in. Race Against the Sun, you can burn me, but I'll keep coming back for more.

June 21, 2014

A look inside our swag bags

As my head hit the pillow last night, I pinky swore with my myself that I would sleep in this morning to get extra rest for Race Against the Sun. No dice. At 7:30 a.m., I just couldn't take it any longer. My mind was churning through the day and all of the things I could be doing. Like making a longer playlist for the race and baking cookies for today's piano recital. And cleaning, but that item never leaves the agenda.

What did I actually do first thing? I chose music as the first order of business.

Shot At The Night is my official RATS theme song. It's perfect. "Give me a shot at the night." That's all I want, a shot at finishing the mileage before dawn. Realistically, not likely, but I'm gonna get out there and get at it (Alabama speak).

Even though the to-do list never ends, I could relax knowing that I already packed the car with gear for race one of tomorrow's double header, Sizzlin' Summer Trail Series Ruffner edition 8K/15K. 

My training team for this race will get their swag bags tomorrow at the race. 

Here's a look at the contents. 

Thank you to BANa Rehydration, Skin Sake, Resolute Running, Alabama Outdoors, and Swiftwick for contributing to the swag for the training team. 

"When life takes it out of you, BANa gives it back." I could also personally use something that helps when racing in 150million% humidity and 100 degrees takes it out of you. I've already packed my bag for tonight's race with some BANa. I'll let you know how it works out for me. 

Like an IV in a bottle

Here's some more info from their site:
Unlike the hundreds of other drinks that claim to rehydrate, BANa capitalizes on the scientifically proven hydrating property of sodium, while also replenishing the body’s store of other electrolytes all without loading you up with calories and sugar.

They also make a product for rehydrating kids, whether they're overheated from playing outside or sick with one of the fun things that spread through the classrooms at school.

I'm also excited that my trainees get to try out Skin Sake, my personal ointment of choice when it comes to ultra running and warding of the chafe monster. Tip: (I'm just going to come out and say it) you've got to get in there and put some ointment on your booty region. OK, so I didn't exactly come out and say it, but if you need clarification, please email me. Make sure to be near a sink for washing hands after (or use a glove), but you will not regret doing this in an ultra. Other races, you can get away with not lubing up there, but not the ultras. 

And I'm hoping that we can have a trainee come away with one of these awards for the race tomorrow. They are the most adorable medals I have ever seen -- actually made of cast iron. My kids were dying because they all wanted one of their own. Better get your legs moving then, kids, so you can win one. 

How have I been preparing food-wise for race weekend? My superfoods of the week are beets and watermelon. I will not confirm or deny that I will eat a whole watermelon by myself. It's hydration and carb loading in one. Right?!

Beets go with everything. Sort of. Almost.

Where is the most important place to apply lube when racing long distances? Help out your fellow racers by keeping it real.

What's your pre-race superfood? One that you always eat before races. I usually eat a sweet potato the night before too. 

How do you keep your electrolytes up during a race? Especially a really hot race. Gels, drinks, pills? 

June 16, 2014

What to pack for a night ultra (and the OrthoLite winners!)

I'm back up and running and over sickness, and it feels amazing. To prepare for the 36 (or 40, depending on how the race director feels when marking the course) mile race this weekend, I spent four hours exploring out at Ruffner Park, the site of my probable demise at about 3 a.m. on Sunday morning (it's a dusk to dawn race).

In those four Saturday hours, I ran across my first significant (long but fortunately not venomous, I think) snake ever on the trail. When I think about the total hours I've spent out there, I'm feeling pretty good about my odds of not seeing a snake again for a while.

Snikkity snake.

My best idea was to retrace our steps and not get anywhere near the snake, but the brave souls in the group below had better ideas. 

The crusher.

Xing (far right in above pic) picked up a stick to see if he could prod the snake into slithering away. Turns out that makes snakes really mad and coil up to strike. So he went to plan B, use the stick to pick up the snake in the middle of his 6-foot-long-ness and deposit it far enough away from the trail for us to run by. That plan worked and left us untouched by snake fangs. 

When I turned to the people of the internets with my snake pic, I got some really great snake advice that will make me feel better about jumping it next time. 

Thanks, Elizabeth! I've been contemplating this theory all weekend to psych myself up for snake jumping, at least if I'm runner numero uno in that scenario. 

Also, Saturday was my friend Diane's (red shirt, blue tights below) first trail run! She is feeling really great about that fact that she left right before the snake sighting. Some things you just don't need to see on your first trail run -- a giant snake is one of those things. 

Runners in the quarry. 

But if you see this view instead, you are sold. This view reminds you how awesome it is to live in Alabama. Sure we've got our problems, but we've also got this.

Ruffner Mtn. panorama. 

Because I stayed long enough at the park on Saturday to see all the people, I ran into Kyle, our Birmingham Ultra Trail Society leader and brains behind the Race Against the Sun. He is also the keeper of our latest BUTS accessories, the buff! Find Kyle if you want one. $15. I have never felt closer to Survivor than I do now that I own an actual trademarked Buff. And you know that show has been my jam since 2000 (how many of you feel sad for my life right at this moment?). 

This buff will be in my race bag for Saturday. And here's what else I'm making sure to pack.

What to pack for a night race: 
  • Lights. Very important in the darkness.
  • Food! This race will have one aid station for the 9ish-mile loops, so we are required to bring a lot of our own aid. I'm filling my bag up with Honey StingersShot BloksHammer gelsSkratch to drink, Endurolytes pills, and maybe some Hammer Fizz (if I can find some locally). 
  • Batteries. For my headlamps (bringing two) and for my handheld flashlight (bringing one). Also bringing a charger for my phone in case I need to plug it in at the pavilion near the aid station. 
  • Headbands. I will definitely be taking my new enduracool headband. These things are the best. Official review to come. I actually end up wearing it around my neck more than my head, but I like that it's looped so I don't have to worry about tying it or it falling off. 
  • Hats. To keep the ticks out. 
  • Tylenol. In case I get a headache like at my last ultra. 
  • Poison ivy deflector. This will include long socks and some of the official poison ivy block. Not sure if it works, but it's worth a shot. 
  • Baby wipes. I have friends who swear by wiping down with these right after runs to help clear out the poison ivy oil. 
  • Phone. For calling in the rescue team when I fall off a cliff in the dark. 
  • Extra shoes. Bringing the Hokas, Pearl Izumis, and Brooks Cascadia

Happy Belated Father's Day to my dad, who still rocks the shiny suit. 

My sister, my mom, me, and my dad. Circa 1996.


And we have three winners for the OrthoLite X-40 inserts! Sarah Jordan, Lori Connors and John Gash. Shoot me an email to yomommaruns(at)gmail.com with your mailing address so that we can get those out to you ASAP.

What would you be sure to pack for a night race? I need all the ideas I can get!

Do you have any good snake stories? 

What would be your first instinct if you happened upon a snake on the trail? 

June 11, 2014

Sickness, be gone. And an OrthoLite giveaway!

Would it scare you to get the email abut your upcoming 40-mile night trail race right after your missed your long run because of a bout of 104.4-degree fever and strep followed by a bout of vessel emptying (the less gross way of saying that, maybe) virus? That happened to me today, and I don't know whether to laugh or ... ok, so that is the only option. Being sick, especially after a long sickness draught, really makes you appreciate wellness. I'm used to running-induced sickness, like wanting to throw up after running 20 miles in 100% humidity, but I can't remember the last time I was this sick from communicable illnesses. Thankfully, we weren't all down at the same time with the virus, and I think I caught the strep early enough that no one else in the family caught it. 

One thing that was hard to do was tell myself in that scenario that it's ok to let some things go when you are sick. I ended up teaching a class Friday morning outside in the blazing sun, sweating bullets and jumping around, when I knew I was already getting sick and probably had a fever (found out that night it was strep) because I couldn't find a sub. I've had strep before and have not been as sick as I was this time, which leads me to believe that pushing too hard when I shouldn't have increased my overall sick miserableness. How do you juggle sickness with the demands of life? 

Even though I don't mind at all missing a run in general, missing this many runs in a row is taking its toll on my overall mood. Or the mood bomb may just be because I have been cooped up in my house a large percentage of the last five days. I was able to get out for a couple of runs during my well spell, the day and a half between illnesses. Thank you, Red Mountain and Dawn Patrol. 

Red Mountain run with Sally and Jimmy.

Hill repeats!

Other things to do when you are in bed, geek out on more running. Have you read this book? It's not at all what I would call a fun read, but it's informative. You should probably balance this reading out with a few episodes of Modern Family.

And before the descension of disease on our home, we were able to check off one more summer to-do list item. Bruester's! If your kids are short enough (twins' height or shorter), they get a free ice cream cone. So go now before they grow.

One other good nugget mingled in with the bad. I had an immediate solution when I received my new Karhus and saw that they had two-part insoles, a feature I universally do not love because I inevitably get a hot spot or blister where the two parts meet. 

Thankfully, OrthoLite had just sent over a pair of their X-40 high rebound insoles for me to test. 

Here are the details from OrthoLite: 

  • OrthoLite developed the X-40 High Rebound formulation in response to customer demand for a foam with higher rebound properties.
  • This first of its kind foam boosts the elasticity rating to over 40%.
  • X-40 is ideal for shoes used in high impact sports or minimalist footwear.
  • X-40 is also great for dress shoe applications due to high levels of cushioning in thinner layers of foam.

And I liked that the cut was a perfect fit for my Karhus and didn't require any trimming or cramming, just slide in and go. (Trying so hard not to add "that's what she said.")

The cushion felt perfect on my test runs so far. I hope my feet will appreciate the high rebound elasticity over time. These insoles are not for arch support, but for overall foot comfort and added interior cushion.
If you have some shoes that included insoles that aren't living up to your expectations, I have three pairs to give away that can be your replacement! You have until Monday, June 16th, to enter to win. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

June 8, 2014

The Factory: add it to your summer must-do list

Every summer we make a list of all of the fun we want to accomplish in our short yearly escapade of together-all-day-every-day time. This year's list looks like this.

What have we done so far? One of the activities that all of the kids unanimously agreed on: The Factory, which is like the trampoline gym on crack. 

Did you know that trampoline jumping will wear you out in a few minutes? Especially when you are challenging a bunch of 8 year olds in trampoline dodge ball. There is no mercy! Every adult needs to bounce around surrounded by kids on a giant trampoline at least once a quarter. It is good for your heart. And they should call it The Smile Factory because everyone there was so happy while they were jumping. 

The rest of the building is filled with fun too. From the lighting to the wall art to the black light dance room to the junk robot building competition to the batting cage to the air hockey to parents being able to chill in the lobby while watching a live feed of their kids jumping. 

I kept taking pictures for decorating ideas at home. 

Idea for painting the twins' room.

In summary: The Factory is the perfect prescription for kids who are bouncing of the walls anyway. Why not just give them some walls that double as a trampoline? Also works as a sleep aid.

Next was VBS!

Plus we learned how to do a side braid. Seriously, I felt like I won Pinterest when I figured this out. Based on that last sentence you can correctly infer that I am not a hairstylist. Even simple hairstyle accomplishments amaze me. BTW, I cut everyone's hair in my house except for my own, which might make you feel sorry for them after reading the previous sentences. Who cuts hair at your family's house? An amateur or a pro?

Of course I have running to accomplish that didn't make it onto the official summer list. One thing that is not helping that plan is that I got really sick this weekend with strep throat. When I went into the doc, they called my 104.4 temp "remarkable for an adult." And I got the booty shot of penicillin that hurts even worse the next day. Oh, but in all of the feverish stir, I missed my long run that was going to prep me for that crazy RATS race, and now I'm feeling less confident about that whole scenario. 

Not on any list but one more thing I found interesting, Scott Jurek was the feature story of the Costco mag, which I always put straight in the trash, until this month. Did any of you see/read this? 

What's on your summer fun list? 

Favorite place to visit that will be so much fun that it will makes kids fall asleep on the ride home? 

June 1, 2014

Memorial Day Trail Race 2014: Hills Bells

If this was your first trail race (which it was for some) and you loved it (which they swore they did), you are meant to run trails. The Memorial Day Trail Race gives you the extremes of trail running, meaning you're mostly going straight up or straight down. If you make it through that yo-yo of a course and are still in love, you are to trails like chocolate is to peanut butter, specifically in a Reese's Cup format. 

Thanks, Dean T., for this trail's elevation profile.

I knew it was going to be a little of an off day (queue my excuses dialogue) when I somehow missed the exit on my drive to Oak Mountain. My husband was out of town for the weekend, so I scheduled a baby sitter to come over and help with the kids during the race. She got there nice and early, which I had arranged because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't late to the race. So much for extra time gained by advanced planning. I managed to waste it all by driving ten miles past the exit.

Starting line huddle.

When I got there, I had about ten minutes to hit the toilets, always a pre-race must, and run over (I'm counting that as my warm-up jog) to pick up my bib. Because the lines were long for the restroom, I took it to the woods instead. This is way of the trails. 

Starting line panorama. 

At least I had my shoes on. I recall people lining up to start the Run for Kids 12-Hour, and I still hadn't decided which shoes to strap on my feet. So I wasn't totally unprepared at the start. 

Pre-race. When it still felt easy to be happy.

But before I even had time to mill through the crowd and chat with a handful of people, it was time to start. Off to the woods we went. I felt good on the first loop, promising myself not to push too hard on the uphills, so 50% of the race (see chart above). 

This course is two 6-mile loops, so you know what you're getting into the second time around. There are definitely portions of this course that don't even look like an actual trail. 

Thanks, Ima B., for these trail pics!

Take a left ahead -- up the boulders.

This one takes some scrambling for sure. 

This is a race that teaches you that hiking uphill can be as/more challenging than running. On the second time around, I could start to feel the effects of the heat. I was having trouble catching my breath and just feeling slightly light headed on the climbs. At yoga class the day before, we had used some mantras during class that I started to use at the race. They were something about loving the world and sending out peace to the universe, but those quickly got tossed out the mantra window when all I could think about was my breathing struggle. So I changed my mantra to reflect that. Every inhale I said "big lungs," as if by saying that I could force them to expand to meet my increased oxygen demands. On every exhale, I said "efficient heart." At the time I was sure that this mantra would help trick my body into working the way that I wanted it to. Turns out that it takes more than mantras to expand your lung capacity, but it did give me something to focus on the last half of the race.

In the struggle zone near the finish line. Picture by David Christy Photography.

Finish time 2:28, 5th female, 20th overall.

Pretending that I feel like smiling. Picture by David Christy Photography.

So I learned that I still need to work on acclimating to the heat, or I've learned that I just don't excel in running in the heat. Also, after some very basic Google research, I've concluded that you are more susceptible to episodes of heat stroke and heat exhaustion after experiencing it once. Here's a good read that includes that idea. That is what I would have assumed, but I'm hoping that through training, I can overcome some of that. Study of one about to commence.

But I recovered completely normally after the race, no lingering out-of-it-ness.

Bob and me post race. Picture by David Christy Photography.

The rest of my weekend alone with the four kids ended a lot like I felt in the second loop of this race: wanting to be passed out on the ground.

Passed out on the grass from fun: actual event of the weekend.

To do before this race: hill repeats. As many as you can eat for breakfast, and it still might not be enough.

Overview: Do this race if you are looking for a hilly trail challenge before the deep heat of summer sets in. Refer to Hotter 'n Hell if you want the full heat challenge that Alabama summers can provide.