I Cried “Wolf!” with React Mobile (And The Response Was Awesome!)

I took this selfie on St. Joe's trail. Most of my runs are solo. I always carry my phone, and React Mobile adds another layer of safety and security.
A selfie on St. Joe’s trail. Most of my runs are solo. I always carry my phone, and React Mobile adds another layer of safety and security.

I recently heard about a cool new app targeted to runners called React Mobile that allows a select group of family and friends (or your entire Facebook community, if you’d like) to track your whereabouts. In an emergency situation, you can simply tap your smart phone screen and an alert message is sent out along with a map pinpointing exactly where you are.

The system sounded a little awkward to me at first. I’m supposed to pull my phone out of my waist belt, log in to my home screen, find the app, and then tap it? Precious minutes would tick by, allowing an attacker to do his damage and get away. But after playing around with it a bit, I realized it’s a very simple and effective process. You start the tracking function, “Follow Me,” at the beginning of your run, and the app is ready to go if and when you actually need it.

The React Mobile home screen is very user friendly—one tap is all it takes to ask for help.
The React Mobile home screen is very user friendly—one tap is all it takes to ask for help.

The first time I activated React Mobile I was sitting safely at my desk. Within seconds, my Dad called from across the country asking if he needed to book a flight, and my cousin texted from across town to let me know she was loading the babies into the minivan and coming over to help. Oops—I really should have warned them ahead of time that this was only a test. I also should have figured out how to turn the alarm signal off before activating it. (Here’s a video explaining how to do that and more.)

All in all, this app is great! I felt super safe—not to mention super loved—and I recommend it for anyone who runs unpopulated trails or paths alone. Oh, did I mention React Mobile is free? Go get it already!

Have you tried React Mobile? What helps you feel more secure when you’re running alone? 

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What To Pack For A Trail Run (Hint: It’s Not The Kitchen Sink)

This stuff comes with me on every trail run.
This stuff comes with me on every trail run.

I’m an efficient suitcase packer. I keep it simple, only bring the essentials, and make sure everything fits neatly into the overhead bin. But when it comes to packing for a nice little run in nature, I have an overwhelming urge to load my backpack with all kinds of “might needs” and “just in cases”— like a headlamp (even though I only run trails in daylight) or a poncho (it never rains here in Silicon Valley!). In an effort to cut weight, I’ve forced myself to come up with this barest-of-the-bare sundries list that acknowledges my paranoia but doesn’t indulge it too much.

The North Face Enduro Pack Hydration Pack Better than a bulky backpack, The North Face Enduro Pack was worth every penny. It comes with a bladder to store my water, and the small size forces me to fill the pockets wisely.

Badger Sport Sunscreen CreamSunscreen Burns, brown spots, skin cancer—no thanks! I apply SPF head-to-toe before leaving the house, and then every two hours when I’m in the sun. I like this Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream SPF 35, because it blocks out both UVA and UVB rays, and it’s 100% certified natural.

Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy PadsPoison Ivy Pads The best way to avoid a painful rash is to steer clear of over-grown paths. Still, contact happens. Last summer Michael K. Farrell stood knee deep in 3-leaf itchiness—these single-use Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy Relief Pads would have been super helpful.

GU for the trailEnergy Gel I’ll suck down a GU on runs lasting more than an hour, but I usually carry four with me on the trails—you know, in case I get lost and need a “meal.” (GU Peanut Butter is still my fave flave.)

Toilet paper in a baggieToilet Paper Mother Nature doesn’t always provide this for you. I bring mine in a baggie, and I pack it back out with me to a garbage can if I end up using it.

The North Face Women's Verto JacketLight Jacket Shady woods and Bay Area winds can make temps drop fast, so I keep The North Face Women’s Verto Jacket handy—it scrunches up (hence, all the wrinkles) into its own pocket! It also happens to be water resistant in case of pop up showers. (Seriously, this fear is unfounded. Weather.com shows a 0% chance of precipitation around here most days.)

I also carry along my cell phone, sunglasses, and car keys—those are necessary for actually getting me to the trailhead and then home again.

Am I missing anything important? What do you pack for outdoor runs?

Tell the Boss I’m Not Coming In—It’s National Running Day!

Happy trails! I'm celebrating National Running Day in Almaden Quicksilver County Park.
Happy trails! I’m celebrating National Running Day in Almaden Quicksilver County Park.

I’m my own boss, so I don’t really have anyone to answer to if I decide to slack off work for the afternoon and go for a run—which is exactly what I’m doing today.

National Running Day is the best day of the year to be a runner! With organized group runs around the country, there are tons of opportunities to celebrate with others who love the sport. Or to introduce your passion to someone new—take a friend out for an easy jog around the neighborhood!

It’s also a great day to reevaluate your running goals for the rest of the year. The chill of winter kept you inside, spring got you back into your running groove, and now that it’s summer you owe it to yourself to set some goals! Maybe it’s time to add more miles, toss in a weekly track workout, or sign up for a fall race. The options are endless, so have fun deciding how to challenge yourself next!

My plan for the second half of 2013 is to keep up the momentum. I’m super excited for a weekend of racing at the end of this month: Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, Saturday Jun 29, and Sharks Fitness Faceoff 10K in San Jose, Sunday June 30. Then, I’ve got a half-marathon on the calendar in mid-July. I’d like to race in the fall, and I’m waffling between registering for another half-marathon or going all out and doing a full 26.2.

Scheduling work and personal life around a half-marathon is a lot easier than fitting in marathon training. Still, I’m pretty sure the boss would be OK with me taking a day off here and there to squeeze in extra miles or rest. Decisions… Decisions…

How are you celebrating National Running Day? What’s your running plan for the second half of 2013?

Exclusive Interview: World-Class Mountain Climber Melissa Arnot Runs The Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon

Lucky number 4! Mountain climber Melissa Arnot placed fourth in her age group in The Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon, and she’s been to the top of Mt. Everest four times. (Photo Credit: Kent Harvey/Eddie Bauer)
Lucky number 4! Mountain climber Melissa Arnot placed fourth in her age group in the Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon, and she’s been to the top of Mt. Everest four times. (Photo Credit: Kent Harvey/Eddie Bauer)

With four Mt. Everest summits under her climbing belt, Melissa Arnot holds the female record for most ascents on the world’s most challenging mountain. But she takes that achievement in stride, referring to herself as an “ordinary woman with extraordinary accomplishments.” Her latest endurance feat: Completing the Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon on Saturday, March 9, 2013. I caught up with Melissa after the race to chat about training for her first marathon in ten years and her plans for summiting Mt. Everest again this season.

How does it feel to be done? After deciding to do a marathon, completing all the training and actually staying healthy enough to race, I feel great. It’s a long goal to work towards, but I’m a used to working towards things like that.

Are you happy with your time? I wanted to finish under 4:30 and not be disaster at the end. I came in around 4:16 and I finished strong, so I’m really happy about that. I didn’t want to be a mess at the end. As a climbing guide, I see so many clients push really hard to get to the summit, only to completely flail on the way down. I didn’t want that to be me. I’m thrilled that when the race was over I felt like I could keep running, and I was able to enjoy the afternoon with my family and friends.

Why did you pick the Catalina Marathon? The timing was perfect—I’m leaving for Everest in a week, and I wanted to be able to train through the winter along with my normal training for climbing. It’s a beautiful course on dirt roads and it looked challenging online. I know I can run for 26.2 miles, but I wanted to be to push myself even more. This course was great for that.

Catalina is a small island off the California coast. What was it like getting to the start line? It was definitely an adventure. I traveled from my home in Idaho with my husband and two of our friends, Ivana and Neil, and our first flight was cancelled. We scrambled to get out on another one from a different airport, and finally got to California around 9:00pm. We slept for a few hours, and then caught a 2:00am runners-only boat to the island. I somehow managed to fall asleep again in the choppy water, but my husband felt seasick for the entire 2-hour ride. At Avalon, he disembarked with the other spectators and the boat continued on for another hour to the race start. It all felt like a weird dream, and I was relieved to finally see the start line and get moving.

Wow! Were you tired during the run? Surprisingly, I felt great. I wasn’t tired despite the crazy travel arrangements, and I was prepared for the challenging course because I’d researched it ahead of time. The first four miles were up a big hill. Ivana passed me and I ran solo for a bit, but the island was so beautiful that my spirits were high. By mile thirteen I was really hot and starting to lose my good mood, so I took the advice of a friend and dedicated that mile—and each difficult one after—to someone special. I spent the entire mile thinking about how grateful I am to know that person. Soon all the pain went away, and I was running happy again.

Runners love talking about food. What did you eat before the race? Nutrition was tough for me during training. I don’t typically eat a lot of complex carbs—I’m into fruits and vegetables, so I had to make some changes. On the way to the start line, I had a homemade whole-wheat scone with strawberries. It was the perfect amount of food to get me going. Mid-run, I fueled up with a special energy gel that I’m helping to develop, a few squares of dark chocolate, and a handful of gummy bears from an aid station. Those were good choices for my body. I think people can get anxious at races and end up over-eating. I know my body really well, and I gave it enough to get by, without giving it the additional task of digesting too many snacks.

What’s the funniest thought that popped into your head during the run? I actually wrote a poem—which is something I really enjoy doing, and said it all out loud as I ran. It was in one of those gratitude dedication miles. There was no one around and I was just sort of laughing to myself.

What’s tougher: Summiting Mt. Everest or crossing a marathon finish line? That really isn’t a fair question, because they aren’t the same at all. Summiting Everest is extremely dangerous and it takes everything you have for a ten- to twenty-hour day. A marathon is only a few hours of pain—it’s difficult, sure, but in a very, very different way.

That’s fair. How is training for an Everest trek different from training for a marathon? This is something I really think people should know. Over the years I have climbed with clients who’ve had marathon backgrounds and they were often too cocky. They thought if they could run 26.2 miles, they could do anything. That’s a great attitude for life in general, but it’s dangerous when altitude is involved. The training needs to be very different. For climbing, I train by hiking uphill for an hour, three times a week with a fifty-pound pack on my back, and I work out at the gym to keep all of my muscle groups balanced. For marathon training, I run. Running doesn’t give you an advantage for climbing. Sure, the cardio can give you a slight endurance edge, but it’s important to train specifically for what you are doing. It would be like riding a bike to train for a marathon. Your legs might be strong enough to get you to the finish, but your body would pay for it after the race.

Melissa Arnot ran four days a week on trails near her Colorado home to train for the Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon. (Photo Credit: Mark Oliver)
Melissa Arnot ran four days a week on trails near her Idaho home to train for the Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon. (Photo Credit: Mark Oliver)

What did you do to train for this marathon? I don’t love running the way I love hiking, so my training was a lesson in discipline. When I was out for a run, I would remind myself that being out there was important even though there were things I’d rather be doing. I started marathon training in November, with three days of 3 to 5 miles per week, plus a long run on the weekend that started at 7 miles and gradually increased. My longest runs were 18 and 20 miles. I also hiked three days a week, practiced yoga, and hit the weights twice a week. I took two weeks off in January to guide a climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, which gave my legs a nice break. It’s not the typical training plan for a marathoner, but it worked for me.

Aside from reaching the top, do you have any other goals for 2013’s Mt. Everest trip? This year I’ll be working with the Juniper Fund, a non-profit organization I started with my climbing partner. We are helping to provide supplemental life insurance and rescue support for Sherpa guides who become injured or killed while tirelessly helping tourists climb in the Everest region. It’s a project that is very personal and important to me, and I’m excited to watch it unfold!

Melissa heads to the Himalayas next week and will be attempting her fifth summit of Mt. Everest. Coincidentally, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the first female to reach the top. Way to go, girls!

Everyone has a seemingly insurmountable goal that can be attained through hard work and training. What’s your Everest?

For more on Mt. Everest, check out the recap of my Himalayan Adventure.

Tryin’ To Catch Me Runnin’ Dirty?

The Wildcat Loop Trail at the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve offers a little bit of everything—meadows, woods, single-track, and plenty of climbs.
The Wildcat Loop Trail at the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve offers a little bit of everything—meadows, woods, single-track, and plenty of climbs.

It felt like spring in Northern California on Sunday—with clear, sunny skies and temperatures creeping up to the mid-60s, so I decided to celebrate the incredible day with a trail run in the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. (I googled “best trail runs near San Jose, CA” and this one was at the top of the list.)

Looking pretty while getting dirty!
It got warm out there in the woods, so I stripped down to my pink t-shirt, which just so happens to match my sunglasses. Looking pretty while getting dirty—love that!

A short, 25-minute drive from where I live, the preserve boasts more than 23 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.  The website said the Wildcat Loop Trail was great for running, and it wasn’t kidding! I got in a fantastic 3-mile workout (plus the warm up and cool down jog from the car to the trailhead) and counted several other runners burning up the track out there, too.

Pretty Muddy $10 OffOn a high after running on dirt, I signed up for another messy kind of experience when I got home. I’ve been invited to join Team Pretty Muddy and participate in the Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, CA on June 29. This will be my first obstacle mud run ever—and I’m psyched to be able to share the experience with you. But instead of just reading along, I’d love for you to join me! You can get $10 off the registration fee if you sign up by March 1. Click to it already!

Did you discover a new trail this weekend? Have you ever done a mud run?

Bear Mountain Half Marathon Recap: The Camera Loves Me!

Politely jockeying for position at the start of the race.

Have you ever been in one of those races where everything just goes right? The conditions are perfect. You’re solidly trained. The weather couldn’t be better. The course is a dream. Well, The North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon in Bear Mountain, NY wasn’t one of those races. But the photos of me participating in it would certainly lead one to believe otherwise. (What can I say? The camera loves me!) Still, I have to admit those smiles were 100% genuine. I loved this event!

The morning started out in a bit of a panic. Our GPS device sent us to the wrong address and we ended up on the wrong side of Bear Mountain. (All together now: “The bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see!”) Luckily, we planned to be at the start 45 minutes early, so we had time to correct the mistake. It took 22 minutes to drive west, find the right exit, and get to the parking lot—and I was an anxious mess.

The laid-back start line was nerve-soothing. Unlike road races where directors line you up in corrals based on your pace, this was a free for all. Runners casually milled about in a grassy area in front of an inflatable archway that demarcated the start/finish. Instead of feeling like we were about to embark on the toughest trail half marathon in the region, the atmosphere was as calm as a backyard barbecue. Thank goodness—after the hectic drive, I couldn’t have handled a stressful line up.

Early miles were no indication of the intensity to come. I got into a decent mid-pack position within the first two miles, knowing that the trail would turn to single track soon and I wouldn’t be able to easily make passes after that. From there, the course wound around through the woods, progressively getting steeper, the ground changing from dry to muddy, and the terrain becoming increasingly treacherous. I was prepared for roots, rocks, and the occasional branch across the trail, but there were sections of this course that we were simply unable to “run.”

Lively conversation made the death-march climbs bearable. There’s an unwritten code among trail runners that if you can’t see the top of a hill, you stop running and walk up it instead. My signature is all over that imaginary document! Hiking up the inclines that make the Bear Mountain course a five-out-of-five for overall difficulty and a five-out-of-five for technical terrain, would have been daunting had I been alone. But chatting with the girls just behind me made the climbs fly by. (Have you ever seen people hiking with a pair of caged pet birds? One of these girls had! Hilarious!)

Minutes after taking a tumble—you can just make out the bruise beginning to form on my lower left quad.

Wiping out hurt, but I kept going. With a little less than three miles to the finish, the trail opened up and I found some speed. It felt good to pump my legs harder. But at that point I was mentally fatigued, and I wasn’t concentrating enough on where I was planting my feet.  I hit a rock in the center of the path and went flying, crashing hard onto my left side. Momentum and a slight decline caused me to roll forward, so I ultimately finished the fall on my back with my head pointing down the trail. I got back onto my feet a little dazed, and started moving forward immediately. A man in front slowed to make sure I was okay—I was, mostly. A guy behind clapped and shouted, “You’re doing great! Your pace has been even this entire time and you’re almost to the finish.” I shouted my thanks to both of them and went back to a slow jog.

Working the camera and crossing the finish line mats—all in a day’s work.

My heart soared when I heard the cheers at the finish line. “Finish strong with a smile,” is a mantra that I use during the last mile of every race. And it was especially helpful for this one. Half a mile from the finish my body was starting to realize that it was in pain—from the fall and from the intense workout that I’d just put it through. I came out of the woods onto a parking lot that stretched towards the grassy field where the journey began, and I started to sprint. I was done, and I was happy.

And I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Have you ever fallen during a run? What helped you get back up?

 

Guess Who’s Not Feeling Ready for Her Half Marathon Next Weekend?

My mind isn’t there yet, but at least my feet will look confident in The North Face Single Track Hayasa sneaks!

Surprise, it’s me. (Not really a big shock there, huh.) Between stressing out over work for the past month and coming down with a chest cold (gotta thank the boyfriend for that one—every time he gets on a plane he comes back with the sniffles!), I’m not feeling super confident going into what should be a taper week for the upcoming The North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon at Bear Mountain. But thinking back on every single significant race I’ve ever participated in, I’ve never felt ready.

The morning I toed the line in Hopkinton for the 2011 Boston Marathon, I was full of dread—I didn’t think I could handle the hills. Minutes before the gun went off for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon I briefly considered crossing the barricades, finding my dad in the crowd, and telling him to drive me back home—I wasn’t sure if I had put in enough mileage. And in the first mile of the 2009 NYC Marathon I almost pulled over to throw up on the Verrazano Bridge—the anxiety over not being positive that I could complete 26.2 miles was making me nauseas.  I finished all of those marathons. Clearly, my body was ready and this is all mental.

Still, going into my first ever trail half-marathon presents new hurdles for my head. Did I run enough on actual trails to prepare my legs, ankles, feet, tendons, and muscles for the inconsistent terrain? Should I have practiced carrying my water bottle more? Was my training enough? Am I enough?

My mantra for this week leading up to the race: “Yes, I am enough.” I have no doubt that I will finish all 13.1 of those woodsy miles on Sunday 6 May. It just might not be pretty. And I might be sniffling on the way home.

What helps boost your pre-race confidence? Got any trail running tips? 

Beyond Base Camp: My Mt. Everest And Annapurna Circuit Adventure

Trying to sum up 34 days of trekking in the Himalaya is pretty tough, which is why it’s taken me almost two weeks to write this post. The actual hiking wasn’t too difficult—if you can run, you can walk up (and down!) a few thousand meters. It was dealing with everything else along the journey—cold sleeping accommodations, cold showers, cold travel companions—that often proved challenging. Still, I managed to smile more often than not and I will always remember this trip as one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Here are a few note-worthy memories:

Bonding at 17,598 feet

Picnicking at Everest Base Camp You wouldn’t believe how great a peanut butter sandwich tastes when eaten after tip toeing through a rockslide zone and crossing a glacier. Dining with my FFEs (Friends For Everest’s) made the moment even more filling.

Om mani padme hum

 

Meeting a Buddhist monk Lama Tashi is 96 years old and lives at an altitude of about 4000 meters (13,120 feet) in a monastery carved into the side of a mountain. (Ahem, hill. In Nepal, it’s not a mountain if it’s less than 6000 meters.) He charged me Rs 100 to pray for my trek, and then I gave him another Rs 500 to bless the rest of my life. Best $7.68 I’ve ever spent!

I’ve got my hands full

Counting to five Experts say chatting with locals is the fastest way to pick up a foreign language. So when a couple of little girls decided they needed my help to walk home from school, I took advantage of the opportunity and got them to teach me a few words. I will always think of their smiles when I recite: Ek, Dui, Tin, Cahr, Panc.

Flushed with fever

Catching pneumonia Getting sick overseas might seem like a bad thing, but it really wasn’t that terrible. I learned that even when I have a fever, can’t stop coughing, and might have fractured a rib (the pain was insane!), I could still hike to the next guesthouse… and the next one… and the one three days later. I feel nearly invincible! (Nearly. My body was so wrecked that I slept for four days straight when I finally got home.)

Biking to Bhaktapur File this under: “What was I thinking?” Even though I had been diagnosed with a lung infection and was on medication that warned against operating heavy machinery, I still felt the need to spend my last day in Nepal doing something exciting. After pedaling through rush hour traffic (terrifying!), avoiding potholes the size of elephants on back roads (impossible!), and huffing and puffing my way up some killer hills (spin class doesn’t prepare you for this!), I made it to the medieval town of Bhaktapur. There, I took in views of ancient temples and enjoyed a calm cup of tea. The thought of traveling the treacherous 22 kilometers back to Kathmandu was almost too much, but I channeled my inner NYC bike messenger and completed the round trip.

Now that I’m home, I’m looking forward to lacing up my running shoes and getting back to my normal routine. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Looking Hot (And Feeling Cold) On The Annapurna Circuit

Squinting in the sun above Manang.

I’m a week into my trek on the Annapurna Circuit and my legs and spirit are still holding up. I was a bit worried that after climbing to Everest Base Camp I’d be sick of gorgeous mountain views and not being able to wash my hair (so sexy!). But this region of Nepal has been keeping me entertained and I’m getting used to the basic accommodations. (Though I must admit, I’ve been having dreams about sudsing up with Head & Shoulders shampoo.)

Today I’m in Manang, a village in the Manang district that measures in at 3600 meters. Low enough to breathe comfortably, but high enough to get winded walking up a steep hill. About 500 families in this village consider the peaks of Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Gangapurna, and Chulu East to be their neighbors.

Days are warm(ish) here–I’m hiking in pants, a t-shirt, and a light sweatshirt, but the temperature drops dramatically at night. I sleep in thermal long underwear and keep the case for my contact lenses snuggled in my down sleeping bag with me. (Waking up to frozen contacts is not fun.) Still, I’m thankful for this experience.

Speaking of being thankful… I’ll be missing out on my favorite holiday this week. Have a slice of pumpkin pie for me!

Countdown to the Thorung La Pass (5416 meters): 4 days!

Photo Update: I still haven’t been able to upload pictures, and it looks like I won’t be able to until I’m back in Kathmandu (fingers crossed) or NYC. I promise, they’re worth the wait!

Everest Base Camp, Baby!

Giving out hugs at Everest Base Camp.

Standing at the bottom of the world’s highest peak, 5364 meters above sea level, makes you feel pretty small. But it also makes you realize how significant you are in this world.

Last Sunday I made it to Everest Base Camp in one piece with a big smile, and not even a blister to complain about! (Photo to come ASAP.) It’s taken me a while to process the experience and internet connections in Nepal’s Khumbu region are spotty and expensive—which explains why this post is a week late.

Climbing up hills that on any other part of the globe would be considered mountains was physically tough (duh), but it was mentally challenging too—something I really wasn’t expecting. I found myself relying on running mantras to get me through hours of grueling ascents. I repeated the simple-yet-effective, “I feel good,” when I thought I couldn’t go any further.  (Thanks, Tim Catalano!) And at one point the words “I run marathons. I don’t quit!” floated through my head. That’s when I remembered how truly loved I am.

In all three of the 26.2’s I’ve completed, I’ve had the endless support of my family and friends. I couldn’t have crossed those finish lines without them. So up there, just a few meters away from the base of a mountain half a world away from the people who mean the most to me, I tapped into those connections and felt a sense of warmth and love. It was exactly what I needed to pull me out of the oxygen-deprived stupor and convince me to keep moving my feet.

Today, I’m heading to the Annapurna Circuit where I will encounter 18 more days of hiking at elevations up to 5400 meters. And you can bet I’ll be soaking in all of the good vibes you send my way. Love and Namaste to all!