The quiet return

I was out running on Sunday.

Yep. Just stop, for a moment, and savor with me the awesomeness of that statement.

Can you feel it?

There was a little flutter as I started that old routine. Capris. Shirt. Hat? No hat. Favorite socks. Those new running shoes I bought in July? Yep. Time to bust them out. Double knot. Where’s my ID? Cash? Keys? Lock it up. Start the timer. Five minute warm-up, walking up the hill.

Those people on the street don’t know how long it’s been. They can’t see the ten years I ran before ever getting hurt. And the two years of slogging and fixing to get back. Chin up, girl. Chin up. Rounding the corner by the tube, and it’s gorgeous. There are fall leaves just waiting to swirl around my steps. Okay, so it’s a six minute warmup. I’m waiting for the path.

And then I’m across the road, and I want to run, but I’m smart. Two years of an empathetic but instructional running doc and physio – two years with guys who taught me smart rehab – and 8 years of time with great running coaches, and I know enough to start this one on a walk. So I walk. There’s soft, just barely wet ground under my feet. A well-worn running path circles Clapham Common and it’s kindly telling me to take my time. Step where I want. There’s no crown to manage, no branches to avoid.

And then, that little magic watch does its thing. And I’m running again. Only two minutes to start. The stride is the same – or is it? Step lighter? Maybe a little. Maybe it’s the 25 pounds gone that makes it seem simpler. But it’s cautious too. Roll through the toe, push off. But pace the breathing, just like old times – breathe in in time with each step – one, two three (in, in, in), one two (out, out)…wondering now how I have the stamina even for that, having not seen a run in 9 months. How is that possible?

And then it’s merciful beeping. Turns out, just as challenging as it should be. The common is busy with people getting yelled at – by soccer coaches, by parents, by drill-camp instructors who make me, just for a moment, miss my running coaches. I round through the gazebo, checking my watch (I’m running again) and head for home. After all, there’s only 30 minutes on today, with 5 warm up and 5 cool down. I resist the urge to beat up on myself. It’s 30 minutes more than I’ve done in a long time.

I motor back through the park towards the tube. It’s thinking about raining now, but I don’t care. I have a red face, and that hair that’s always in my eyes – but hasn’t been a problem for awhile (because how bad is it when you’re sitting still?) is suddenly real annoying.

I trek home, stopping for water. As I turn into my apartment and stop for a stretch, my watch keeps beeping. For the next 20 minutes, as I putter and putz, it beeps at me, every 3 – then every two minutes. It’s a quiet, but insistent reminder of the celebration a long time coming.

I turn off the watch, and think for a minute of the countless weekends I’ve spent in the last ten years, doing just this. Sailing through a park on heavy feet – but with some of the best friends I could ask for. I miss them today, but today life is uncomplicated and happy. I ran. It didn’t hurt. I’ll do it again.

Sometimes, the simple joy in grasping that one thing just out of reach is more powerful than anything you could have imagined.

See you on the path.

Chicago Marathon 2011: Fired up to follow your friends?

Hey kids –

It’s that time again – my favorite weekend of the year in Chicago.  Alas I’m not there this season, but you can be to cheer on your family and friends at their big day.

Follow this link to the 2009 Marathon spectator guide which I threw together – just cross-reference to make sure the map is still the same for 2011 (I believe it will be fairly close, as there are few changes year to year).  And remember the rules of spectating:

1) Wear layers.

2) Be prepared to help anyone you see! Water, gatorade, pretzels, aspirin, and bodyglide are all welcome. If it’s hot, pack a cooler with ice for your runner!

3) Great signs make runners feel like you’re there just for them – add some eye contact and they’ll smile for just a minute.

4) Noise is what you need in the slow spots – after 19th Street, especially.

Good luck to all running!!!

Sallie

 

Ode to Joy

Last night I had the marvelous opportunity to go listen to the BBC Orchestra play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Royal Albert Hall in London.  A very kind colleague had heard me mention that I wanted to go, and when an opportunity arose, he extended the invite.  I was thrilled to spend a great night sitting with he and his partner, listening to gorgeous music and that extravagant sound of a chorus belting out the tune we know as the Ode to Joy.

We walked to the show, and covered a variety of topics in our hour long trek from the office.  As I told my mother last night, I knew I’d officially become a Londoner when my friend asked if I would mind walking (in my suit, from the office) and I not only said “no, I don’t mind” but I meant it!  More than that, I was prepared with my running shoes (though I quickly changed back into my cute girl shoes once we got close).  The other way I knew I’d done okay was that I really did enjoy the walk – and even though we arrived slightly “misted” – it was a perfect way to spend the night.

As I walked back to the Underground after the show, I was whistling the Ode the whole way.  It was the second day in a row, you see, that I’d had a wonderful walk in the park – and I’d be lying if I didn’t say those endorphins weren’t making themselves known.

So it should come as no surprise that tonight, when I turned up for my first “training” consultation at the local gym, I was still in a decent (if slightly nervous) mood.  An hour and change later, with our initial intake done, and the initial workout done, I’m still smiling.

So what is it exactly?  What is it about the prospect of a committed program for the next twelve weeks that has me giddy as a kid?

Well, for me, it’s a few things.  First, not to state the obvious, but I’d forgotten how amazing a workout is for your mental state.  Just this week, the New York Times reminded us of this when they shared the results of a recent study that said that for those suffering from chronic depression, exercise is as effective as drug therapy.  If that isn’t an indicator of what exercise can do for you, what is?   Now, I wouldn’t claim that I’m in anywhere NEAR that kind of funk, but if it’s that good for those who are struggling, imagine what it does for those of us who are just okee doke?  I mean, by all rights we should be singing Odes everywhere we go (don’t worry, no singing, just whistling here.)

Second, I think it’s the prospect of having a plan to follow – as my assistant likes to say, “a proper plan”.  It’s knowing what I have to do when (with some flexibility) to get me to where I want to go.  It’s taking the guesswork out of the equation by knowing that I have someone to report to – and also knowing that this investment is going to eat up a decent chunk of my cash.  I’m putting my wallet where my ass is.  And I’m okay with that.  But, as my friends and business owners of Chicago Endurance Sports always knew, (that’s you Jenny and Mike) getting people to commit by signing up for a set time with a decent investment means people are less likely to blow off the training group.  Trust me – I know that when I’m paying for these sessions that I won’t be willing to let them die.  According to the Evening Standard tonight, I’ll be buying a trip to Ibiza every week to see my new friend Jason, and though he doesn’t sing and dance, I’m going to make the most of that time.

So I guess that’s it.  I’m excited to have a plan.  To invest in my health.  To make some good changes.  I know, I know – we’ve all seen or done this before.  But I’ve never – literally – NEVER – done the training thing with a personal trainer.  The closest I came was the great help and guidance (okay, and ass-kicking) my PT Joel gave me last year at Accelerated when I was rehabbing.  I had great rehab results with Joel, who pushed me farther than I knew I could go.  So maybe that’s it too – maybe I’m hoping with some encouragement and regular accountability, I’ll get back to a level of fitness I’m excited about.

I think that means, kids, that we start today.  So get ready for mind-numbing updates full of good cheer about the newest adventure.  I hope you’ll join me for this ride, and that you’ll be working along at home too.  And when 2012 knocks on our door, let’s all kick it down with our new bad selves, eh?

See you on the path 😉

p.s.  In case you’re curious, the following goals have been set:

1) Lose 25 pounds. (I have a date in mind, but let’s not share that).

2) Be strong enough to be ready to run once the 25 pounds is off (ideally by February)

3) Olympic distance triathlon in early spring of 2012

There’s more, but that’s a start. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The unbearable lightness of adventure

When was the last time you went out for a run and didn’t know the route home?  The last time you got on a bike and didn’t plan how far you’d go?  The last time you set off for an open water swim and didn’t know what the beginning, middle, and end would feel like?

Been awhile?   Unfamiliar with the feeling of getting lost?   Used to feeling like every workout is like an old episode of “Friends”, where you might not know the dialogue by heart, but you’re pretty sure Monica’s going to be anal retentive, Chandler’s going to make you spit milk out your nose, and Ross will make you glad you stopped dating that guy from the museum?  Yeah, I know.  If you’re a creature of habit, or you’ve been training for anything – and training close to home – the answer is probably “yes, it’s been awhile” – because we always advocate that you know exactly where you are, at all times on a run, on a bike, on a swim.  In today’s safety-conscious world, and particularly as  woman runners, we say “know your route” and “be prepared” and all that stuff.

But that means life can get pretty boring.  It can stop feeling challenging.  It can make you forget why you started getting active in the first place.

So every once in awhile, I like recommend something radical:  Do something so different, so challenging, that it makes you throw your playbook – if not out the window – at least to the back seat.

I did this last week, and though it was one of the most challenging vacations I’ve had in awhile, it was by far the most rewarding, as I returned to an active holiday with absolutely no pain and no issues.

I sneakily convinced a friend to join me in Wales for three days.  There, with the help of Anna from Drover Holidays, we had picked out a three-day-tour of the Brecon Beacons National Park – a gorgeous landscape of the Black Mountains and green hills that offered the Beacons Way – an 80+ mile path that runs through three distinct segments of the park.  We started with the day 1 hike up The Skirrid just outside Abergavenny.

Where’s the adventure, you ask?

Climbing to the top of "The Skirrid" on Day 1 of the Beacons Way.

Hiking in Wales should have been pretty easy for me – I mean, I’ve been hiking now since I was 18, thanks to my dad and stepmom, who introduced us to the joys of Buffet to Prevent Bear Attacks while wandering through the western US national parks.  But I’ve never – not once – hiked using a back-country permit, or hiked where I didn’t have a clearly marked trail laid out in front of me with cairns or markers every 20 feet.  I’m a bit of a wuss that way (and hey, Colorado isn’t a place you go off trail if you’re only hauling a day pack.)  But as I found out while researching this trip, hiking (or “walking” in the UK) is different here than it is in the states.

Unlike the states, here there is a principle which allows any person to cross anyone’s land in order to get to the next plot.  The Right to Roam allows right of access across open lands, moors, national park areas (which may include private property within park borders) and several other areas.  What that means, in practice, is that you can walk anywhere in England and Wales, as long as you’re carrying a good map and you’re on the recommended route.

But as we found out last week, the route is not quite what you might think.  That route might just tell you that there’s a gate in the North East corner of that one farm on your map – but the footpath might or might not be visible to get you there.  The next farm’s gate should be through those woods, and over a creek – but you’ll need to read your map closely and find your way carefully.  In short, you not only have to be able to read the map – but you have to be able to translate what you’re seeing with your eyes (and feeling with your feet) into what’s on the paper in front of you.

So for me, this was the first bit of the adventure that was truly new.  Though I’d orienteered a few times before (and thank GOD for Jenny’s map-reading class and for the orienteering day with the girls), this was truly putting my skills to the test.  Second, it required a level of concentration I’m not used to bringing to a hike! We had set out on the first day for a 10.6 mile endurance fest – up two small mountains, with a large valley (and many sheep) in between – and a descent that would bring weaker thighs to their breaking point at the 10 mile mark.  But for the mid-point of the trek, where we wandered through the valley – it was a great and refreshing challenge (ahem, with occasional cussing and much sheep shit) to find our way through the farms.

It was also refreshingly, delightfully, sweatily difficult going.  It was vertical in ways I hadn’t done in two years.  It was, however, also beautiful.  In ways I hadn’t seen in two years.

So what’s the big deal about adventuring? 

On the second ridge of the day after Hatterall Hill

Well, the simple answer is this: it’s about doing something you thought you might never be able to do.  And succeeding.  I guess this week, so long away from running, and so recently back from surgery, I was worried about whether I’d be able to take it.  Would I be able to do the mileage?  Would I be able to handle the demands?  We built in a day of cycling after the first day – 30 miles of slight climbs and one very long descent – but even the cycling had its moments of toughness on the heels of a massive day of hiking.  And yet, I did it.  My traveling buddy and I both lamented our dead legs – but they kept us going.  And the third day, when we called an audible on our planned route but still did about 10-12 miles of gorgeous hiking along the Talybont Reservoir, country lanes, and one gorgeous canal – we were both pretty happy that we’d been able to get it all done.

And the hidden point in all of it is this:  we hadn’t done any of these trips before.  We let someone else do the planning – and she handed us the maps, the route, and the gear (for the ride at least).  Anna was our tour master and by giving up the planning to someone else,  we took a risk.  But it was a comfortable risk, a calculated risk, and in the end, we had the trip we needed to test our limits but still have a fun time.  We were happy to head home at the end of three days with more than 20 miles of hiking and 30 miles of cycling under our belts.

And part of the test, part of the challenge – was not knowing exactly what we’d find over that ridge.  Would it be another false summit?  Another thigh-crunching uphill on the bike?  A descent that would test our faith in modern braking technology?  It was, as my friend put it, like being on a rolleroaster you’ve never ridden – wondering what’s around the corner.  It was the best, most unexpected fun we could have had as two adults roaming around the countryside.

So the lesson I think I’m sharing today is this:  find a way to take off the training wheels if you can.  Go find a completely new trail.  Go do something you’ve never – ever – considered before.  Oh sure, have a safety net.  Take your phone and tell someone where you’re going.  Take your water and all that jazz.  But just once in the next thirty days, consider going somewhere that makes you nervous.  Make your palms sweat and your conscience ask “are you sure?”  Because if you do it smartly (and you KNOW how to do it smartly), you’ll find that you absolutely can find what I found:  you’ve still got it.  You have that sense that you had as a ten year old that there are adventures around every corner, and things that will stop your breath with their beauty.  I found mine in wild ponies and heather moors, in centuries-old ruins and green paths on mile high ridges.  But you can find yours closer to home, if you only look.

A little heather for our journey....wide open space, and a view of the mountain we came from in the distance.

Find your local park.  Find your closest National Park.  Get on your boots.  And get out there.  It’s an adventure you simply won’t regret.

Sal

 

 

Endurance for Life

Just a quick update here on a late Tuesday in London. How are you all doing out there in training land? Are you counting down to your next race? Getting in lots of miles on your bikes? I hope you’re dealing with the heat of the States with a return to the pool – and being smart, too…

Here in London, it’s been a busy week. Last Monday I successfully navigated the ride to the office on my bike without getting killed (and only getting lost twice). Wednesday I took off for Sweden for work, and spent the weekend exploring beautiful Stockholm.

I must say that Stockholm was gorgeous – water everywhere and an incredible looking city – but the golf course we played on Saturday took the cake.

You might recall that in my former life, I played a bit of golf. In fact, I played a lot for awhile, until training took up my Saturdays. But lately, I’ve been off the course. So the chance to play in Sweden sounded super cool.

And play we did. I managed to hit the first few drives nice and straight, and even hit my irons well. And then, disaster! I realized rather quickly that the last time i had walked 18 holes, I was very poor and in much better shape. By the fifth hole, I was gasping to keep up with the boys (one of whom has about 8 inches on me, the other who rides his bike to and from work every day.) I was definitely behind.

And that was an okay thing. As my colleague pointed out, it was a great way to spend a Saturday – walking around a course, getting actual exercise, and having a good time. I wasn’t hitting the ball well, but I was sweating, and for the first time in awhile, I could actually claim that golf was a workout!!!

Saturday morning I was up early to explore the city – and by early, I mean “five hours after the sun came up” – I left the hotel at 9. And in a good 90 minutes, I walked about four miles, took dozens of photos, and worked up another good sweat – are you sensing a trend?

So, aside from the fact that I spent my weekend sweating through Sweden, I can honestly say it was what I needed – the chance to explore and enjoy it, and to remember that as always, anywhere new is best seen on foot (or, at worst, by boat!)

Here’s to exploring weeks, wherever you are!!!

Where did THAT come from?

So I got on the scale yesterday and realized I’d lost about 15 pounds since moving to London in April.

If you’re like me, you might be asking how the hell that happened?  Was there Dexatrim in my wheaties?  Is Greek Yogurt really laced with some sort of fat-burning protein I’ve not heard of?  Am I sleepwalking through nights (that would explain why I’m never rested?).

Perhaps.  But the real revelation came when I was moving the “I brought these to London but I won’t wear them” clothes to the front room’s dresser (because they were borderline obscene sausage-fests when I tried them in April).  Turns out, on a whim, I threw on a pair of REI hiking pants that I had been mortified to try on (note, not KEEP on) in April – and they not only zipped, but they fit.  And looked decent.

What. The. Hell?

I’ll be honest kids – it’s been a bit bleak here.  I’m averaging some pretty long hours at the office, I’ve worked out once in the last six weeks, and my bikes just arrived ten days ago (they stare at me, balefully, from the living room, giving me a stink eye every time I download a book from Amazon with the excuse that the Left-hand drivers are going to run me over like the American tourist I am.)  I’ve been dogging it – only swimming once.

I also made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t run again until I had lost some weight.  Actually, quite a bit of weight.  Because as much as I know that my weight wasn’t the sole cause of the last year’s injury, I know it didn’t help.  So, no running.  Swam once.  No cycling.  What gives?

Well, here’s the thing about London – I have no car.  It’s a big city.  I walk everywhere.  Sometimes, I walk quickly.  Everything I do, suddenly, after about 8 years, is under my own steam.  And turns out, “under my own steam” burns some calories.

This is a good thing, right?  Well, yes.  For starters, I’ve noticed that because I run (er…I mean, hurry) down the left-hand side of all the tube escalators, I’m getting quads of STEEL people.  I land lightly, and my hips stay centered, and Joel my PT would be SOOOOO proud of how I’m transferring weight from one leg to the other!  (This is also a skill you can test by standing on one leg and trying to put on a sock without holding onto anything.  If you’re not successful, might I suggest descending some stairs – wide ones – regularly?)

Anyway, I think that this Tube tactic, combined with the fact that I’m just walking everywhere – is just really doing a little bit, each day, to help.  And who am I to complain?

Don’t get me wrong.  According to my standards, I still want to drop another 30 pounds before I run again (and yes, I’m serious as pie on Sunday).  But I’m feeling better about getting moving.

Anyway, that’s the update from here.  I’m sorry the posts have been sparse lately, but next week I’ll have internet service at my home again for the first time (with a computer that can keep up) since I moved here, and then we’ll be back in business.  For those who are new readers, thanks for stopping by – and those who have been with me all along, thanks for sticking by.

 

See you on the path –

Sal

Inspiration Monday

Happy Monday kids!  I wanted to call today’s column Inspiration Monday because well, it’s a place we all know well.  Monday – also known as the day on which our dreams sometimes begin (and sometimes end) for our weeks of healthy activity, good eating, and finding life balance.

It all sounds so impossible sometimes, doesn’t it?  I say this as a woman who is currently sitting in a hotel room, working for the 10th hour in the day, about to go to a (I’m sure wonderful) working dinner with colleagues, which will terminate sometime before I begin sleeping in my soup.

But if I manage to stay awake, tomorrow morning, I’ll be cruising (early. very early) to get a glimpse of the Arch de Triumph or maybe just the Seine.  It’s a good life I’m in right now, and I’m looking forward to exploring Paris a bit on foot.

As many of you know (and are probably tired of hearing), losing a little bit of mobility has driven me to the slight edge of insanity over the past twelve months.  Arriving in London bike-less and unable to run, it’s been even harder for me to find that balance.  And yet, I found myself so very, very grateful these last few months just to have that simple act of walking become a part of my daily life again.  When I think of the joy of walking without pain – well, it makes me so much more aware of everything we stand to lose.

Do you ever wonder what it might be like to lose that mobility we all take for granted?  Does it ever seem unimaginable?  So it’s doubly hard, then to imagine what it must be like to have lost it – and found it again.

Today’s Health section in the NYTimes profiles one such athlete, John Carson, who was struck while training a few years back.  Diagnosed with a severed spine, he took his inspiration from Lance Armstrong, Grete Waitz, and Alberto Salazar, and committed to racing in whatever way he could, whether that meant wheel-chair, hand-cycle, or – as it currently does – on two legs he can’t quite feel.

He is, quite simply, an amazing man, with an amazing story.  And yet – keep reading.  Because somewhere in that brief summary by Tara Parker Pope is an athlete like the rest of us – (or some of the more dedicated ones we have known) who is now transitioning to find a quieter, more manageable way to fit training into his life.  He’s finding he has limits, and he’s going to work within them.  He’s done with Ironmans this weekend (I know, right?).  He’s going to spend more time with his wife, maybe start a family.  He’s going to go back to “average” training, and an “average” life.  But he’ll know what we all know – and sometimes just forget: that every day we have where we are healthy and able is a gift.  And that we should use it to the best possible means we have.

So get out there.  Go for a walk, or a swim, or just challenge your kid to a game of soccer.  Get sweaty and red-faced, and maybe even pull a muscle or two.  You’ll survive. Your body is built for it.  Take advantage of it.  And then say thank you.

See you on the path…..

 

Putting on your wetsuit: it’s not for sissies

I’ve been getting quite a few questions about wetsuits lately, and thought it would be helpful for those of you who don’t train in a group to see a demo of the best way to put on your wetsuit.

My best experience putting on a wetsuit is always at dawn on a beach somewhere, when no one else is around and the suit slides right on.  The worst are usually mid-morning, on a beach somewhere, when there’s an audience of non-athletes who are just trying to find ways to amuse themselves. 

Now, fair warning:  this model (provided to us by Xterra) seems to just slip right in to her suit.  I can honestly say that never, in my 12+ years of racing, have I “slipped in” to a wetsuit.  But she’s got the idea right.  It’s like pantyhose, only tighter. It’s like a hot, thick, pair of leather pants with a chubby liner.  Right.  It sounds appealing, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not all bad.  Just remember the following tips before you try this at home:

1) Never, ever ever, ever ever do this when you’re hot and sweaty.  At least try to start from a position of cool, calm dryness.  If you can’t, well, just be prepared to be dripping when you’re done.

2) Consider using Body Glide around your ankles to help with the on/off of legs (I glide up the back of my calves).  You can also use something called “Suit Juice” which is a godsend if you can find it. 

3) Body Glide the underside of your arms (the part that lays flat against the rubber by your bra) if you’re wearing a sleeveless suit. 

4) Body Glide the back of your neck where the suit ties up – this is especially true if your suit is a bit big on top (as mine is because I had to size up). 

5) Don’t get into your suit more than 30 minutes before your start.  Otherwise, it’s like a sausage-fest-bakeoff in the morning heat and you’ll have worked yourself into a hot state before getting in the water.  Put it off and then put it on.

6) Take one last bathroom break before getting in the suit.  Yep, didn’t think of that, did you?

7) If the suit is a bit short for you in the legs, that’s okay – the most important part of hte fit is to not have a gap underneath your crotch.  Pull the legs up if you must, but if there’s space between the suit and your crotch (the low-rider syndrome), shimmy the suit up until it’s even, and then test by connecting the back closure.  If the suit is pulling on you in the front, try to adjust, swim in it once for testing, and decide if it’s the right size for you.

That’s it from here.  Enjoy the video.  I’d put one up of me doing it, but I just can’t afford the hassle of becoming the wetsuit pinup model 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL7iJcOuBo0

Plus Size Triathlon Clothing: Summer 2011 Edition

I am always amazed this time of year how the stats start bumping up at PlusRunner.  I’ve been live here for a couple of years, and without fail, every summer, there’s a mad dash to the site for people looking for plus-size triathlon apparel.

It’s not easy finding these items in your local multisport store, where most small box retailers don’t see the kind of foot traffic in “our” sizes to “justify” expanding the line.  I understand the concept of buying for the market, but it still smarts a bit when you find that you’re not quite a member of the club you know you’ve earned entry into.

So, with that in mind, welcome to the Plus Runner’s Third Annual Triathlon Apparel preview.  This is, largely, a web-based exercise.  There are rules for those of you who want to buy cute stuff in the right size, and it pays to keep them in mind:

1) Try to buy with enough time to return something if it doesn’t fit.

2) Look for technical quality if you’re going to spend some cash.  For us, that means: flat seams to reduce chafing, technical fabrics which dry quickly, and for tri shorts, silicone or similar leg grippers and multi-panel construction (multi-panel means the short is more likely to move with you – and not tear or rip if it’s overstressed.) 

3) If this is your first season, and you have a budget, buy things you will use again if you stay interested in one of the sports – but maybe not all three. That means rent a wetsuit if you can, and focus on sportsbras, shoes, and shorts which will be re-used if you’re cycling or running. 

So, for this season, a few old favorites and a few new finds.  My favorite manufacturers are, in no particular order, Danskin, Nike, and Pearl Izumi (which I actually haven’t featured here today).   Secondary favorites include Junonia and Athleta.  And finally, Aerotech Designs makes a plus-size tri short and suit which you can use, but reader feedback has been mixed (sizes are very large, and the pad can feel diaper-esque). 

Tri Shorts

Danskin makes two different shorts which tend to sell out rather quickly each year.  Offered in a Size XL and XXL, their sizing starts where Zoot ends.  Both a 5″ and 7″ inseam short are offered, and this season’s have (as always) a contrasting panel on the sides of the legs which looks super cute and coordinates with all of their other apparel.

Danskin has long been an advocate in the triathlon market for women becoming more active, and their size offerings reflect their commitment to the idea that plus-size women can use triathlon to be more fit.  They also sell a variety of shorts at Wal-Mart (though that line tends to be more “light active” with cotton, etc.)

Danskin’s Triathlon Short Blocked 5″ Print Style – compression style, flat seams, drawstring waist, mesh pockets, and silicone grippers.  Retails for $48, but some sale items at $24.    They also offer a 7″ inseam solid black style, (which is what I wear, and love).  Finally, for those who need more room than Danskin can provide, check out Aerotech’s tri shorts – up to Size 5X.

Danskin's 5" short

If you’re doing a short race and don’t need a chamois (and by short, I mean most sprint triathlons, where you will be on the bike for less than an hour) I would recommend purchasing a standard compression short.  These shorts can be used for anything you want to do that’s active – particularly walking and running – and you will wear them for years.  Moving Comfort offers, I think, the best short in this market right now for our size (even Nike only offers a longer walking short – which can be far too warm on the hottest days of summer). 

Moving Comfort for Women Compression Short – available in size 1X and 2X.  $38, flat seams, wide no elastic waistband, and 9″ length.  For larger sizes, I recommend Junonia’s compression short.

    

Finally, if you’re not thrilled with wearing compression shorts for an entire race, check out some of the great butt-covers on the market this year.  Athleta offers a CYA skrit in a 1X and 2X in both print and black; ($39) Terry offers its Wrapper ($50), and Danskin also offers one.

 

Terry Wrapper – $50, Good prints, and this stuffs in your bike bag for quick toss-on after a ride or workout. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tops

The top question plagues us all every year.  Working backwards from the run, many of us plus-size women can’t possibly complete a 3-26 mile run without a bra.  I mean, I like minimizing equipment, but this is one I can’t live without.  I’ve talked plenty about bras elsewhere in this site, so I’m not going to do it here, except to remind you to SKIP THE COTTON.  Oh, and BodyGlide all around for a triathlon.

But, working backwards, if you need to wear a bra, you’re likely going to have to also swim in that bra – because there’s no point in losing 10 minutes trying to delicately put it on in Transition (wet. in a hurry. Yeah, right?).  So, assume you’re going to be in a bra.  Then, if you’re going to be in a wetsuit, you need to have on the lightest tank you can get your hands on.  Typically, these are second-skin, swimsuit-type tops for the skinny and regular size girls out there. 

If you want to wear a more body-hugging tank (either alone without a wetsuit or underneath one) you can buy the Danskin top featured below.  I have never worn this only becuase I’m a bit conscious of the winter survival pack which I wear around the midsection which somehow always seems to last through the summer (see tire, spare.)  But if you’re not body-conscious, or you just don’t care (something I advocate but in this case can’t do myself), try this:

Danskin’s Tri Top $52, mesh inserts, shelf bra, flat seams, back stash pocket for your Gu.

New Balance Lightweight Tank (up to 2X)

New Balance has offered quite a selection lately because of its affiliation with the Susan G Komen and Avon 3 Day programs, and we’re better for it.  Though the sizes only cover up to a 2XL, their lightweight tank is a good option if you’re looking for something to throw on after the swim – or even wear in the water.  It’s much lighter, for example, than the Nike counterpart.  There are several more to choose from if you don’t like this style – simply do your own apparel search at New Balance in your size.

Junonia’s Quick Wick Tank – less body-fitting, very cute, and would be great for yoga. Not sure of the fabric weight – looks heavy to me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nike’s Border Tennis Tank  – $45

This is a tank that will have plenty of room, wick well, and look good.  I’ve now got three of the Nike tops and I love their weight and look.  They’ll be a bit bulky on the swim, so if you’re going for this one, assume you’re swimming in just your sportsbra.  For a closer fit, check out the Dedication Long Top, which you could wear in the water.

And for now, kids, that’s it for this preview.  Let me know what you think – do you want more options? More color? More sizes?  What are you wearing this summer?  Let me know – and get moving!

See you on the path…

The Royal Wedding Post

Kate Middleton and Prince William married today at Westminster Abbey.  I am an American who recently moved to London.  So where else would I be on this day off than watching the festivities in the park? 

Sure, I had the option to skip it.  But it’s an event.  And really, what else did I have to do?  So I looked.  William and Kate were scheduled to ride down a well-publicized route which was bordered on at least one side by a large park, and on another side by loads of side streets. I can read a map.  I can ride the tube.  How hard can getting close (where there were miles upon miles of access?) be? 

Oh, silly, silly girl.

This, this is the story of a day that was all about finding another way, making friends, and occasionally reaping the benefits of some good planning.

Yesterday, before leaving the office, I’d printed off the official “schedule” of events and the procession route.  Last night, I pulled out the squeaky-new guide to my new camera and figured out how to shoot in “sport mode” – because I knew today would be a day of No Second Chance.  Man was I right!

This morning, I left the house, picked up spare batteries, and walked across the river to Canary Wharf tube, hoping to shortcut the tourists by sneaking into a nearby Tube – or even hopping out at Westminster Abbey.  Plan #1 required a change when they announced over the speaker (at 9 am) that Westminster Tube was closed due to overcrowding.  Okay! I can manage that, I thought, deciding (after some map consultations) that the best bet would be to stay North of the park and hit up Charing Cross, which would dump me a bit farther away near Trafalgar Square.

Hopping off the tube at Trafalgar, I quickly jumped through security, heading South through the Square, hoping to get across.  But even at 9:30, I was hearing that the square would be locked down in 10 minutes.  Ten minutes! ACK!  I plowed across, hoping to find another exit which would let me wander freely in the streets.  Already, I was getting the sense that the Brits do things a bit different for big events.  We might require a ticket to get INTO an area in Chicago, but we’d never pen people in, and then not let them out!

After being turned away at the South end, I hauled North, then found an exit, heading down a street parallel to the Mall.  Turning left again, I went back towards the Mall, wandering until I found myself behind Clarence House.  By now it was late – 10:15 – and I consulted the schedule.  Though there were people lined up at the gates (Clarence House is where Prince Charles, Camilla, William and Henry live), I realized William had already left for Westminster. I had missed him by minutes.  And though we could see we were only a block away from the Mall, there was no guarantee that the street would be re-opened at 12:30 (as was the rumor).  After chatting with a nice boy and his dad (who had family in Winnetka), a tall Greek guy who was hanging out behind them followed me as I walked away.  Okay, so he wasn’t my type, but who was I to argue. “I’m going to follow you since you seem to have a map and know where to go” he said.  Sure, it felt a bit like the first day of law school, where you’re not sure that you want to get into the study group wtih THAT guy – but he was nice. And tall.  And I was going to Greece in two weeks. I could use his height and local knowledge to my advantage, I figured. 

We consulted the map and headed West again, finding ourselves turned away.  Should we try that alley?  Nope. People were streaming back towards us.  Alright, let’s try Picadilly.  Left we went, past The Ritz, towards Green Park.  Why was it blocked? I wondered.  It’s a huge park. It’s near the mall.  Why weren’t they letting people through?

Britain’s locked parks reared their heads again.  Green Park, with acres of open space, was locked, and thousands of people were flushing down the street (expectedly) turned away again from any attempt to get near the mall.  It was quite funny, as the police kept telling people to “get on the pavement, please” because the road was still open.  Open! What exactly did they expect with thousands of people turned away from direct access to the mall?  Goofballs, I thought.

We could hear the ceremony being broadcast in Green Park and people were climbing the walls to see over the fence and get a glimpse at the screen.  We pushed on, rushing down the North edge of Green Park to hang a left at Grosvenor’s Place (at least, I think that was it.)  We were shocked to be able to make the left. As we neared a key intersection, we were surprised, too that it was still open.

We had to make a call – stay on the left side or cross?  Suddenly, the left side started queing up and we skipped across the street.  Good thing, too, as it turned out we were already on the back side of Buckingham – and the carriages used to ferry the party back to Buckingham were leaving their homes to go get the bride, groom, and royal family.

Then, however, we were stuck again.  As we moved further South, we hit blockade after blockade.  We were still a good four blocks away from the ring aroun the palace and we needed to get close.  But how?

We doubled back, heading away from the Palace, then heading further South, then coming in from the side.  Greek made a suggestion that we  try going in.  I followed, ready to call it a day and get a pint.  But then, daylight!  We found a gap in the side of the pavement and followed it, then ran into a real blockade as angry Bobbies tried to keep people on the sidewalks.  Unfortunately, people were streaming onto the street at any point they could find, and we were standing like lemmings.  When they finally turned their backs, we all just flew through the gates, surging to the end of the block. (If 1,000 people can surge.)  With some finagling, we ended up about 30 feet from the ring around the palace (on the backside) – we were on Buckingham Gate road.

But it was only 11:45.  We were going to be here awhile.  I made friends with a lovely family in front of me, whose son was playing in the orchestra at Westminster today.  Dad later revealed he was part of the organizing committee, so when he told us the road would open up, we should have believed him.  Daughter and mom were super nice and were so courteous to be around.  Behind me there were two dapper dudes with their own champagne.  One hoisted the other on his shoulders at a point – only to confirm what we already knew – that there was nothing to see!

Above us, an adorable little girl played with a Union Jack on the balcony as thousands below her watched for some entertainment.  Finally, the guests began arriving.  It was a bit funny to see them in huge coach buses – like they were going on some bad holiday tour – but hey, I guess if you have to get 300 people to the palace when the city’s shut down, that’s the only way to do it, eh?

One of the interesting things about standing – by now it’s 12:30 – was the incredible quietness of the street.  I’m not exaggerating when I say there were thousands of people standing behind me.  Yet people were chill.  They eventually began pushing, but they all had a sense of humor.  I was standing behind some dude with (not exaggerating) a 3 foot high periscope made out of a cardboard box.  It was like showing up for the playoffs and finding you’ve bought the scalped ticket behind the pole!  When we got some space for a “surge”, I was giddy with the idea I’d get around him.  Yeah right.  Again, felled by the lack of space.  But it wouldn’t matter – we still couldn’t see the balcony on the palace yet, and that was my only goal now.

We were getting antsy when suddenly, there was a mellow yell from the Bobbies – they were going to open things up, but we MUST NOT RUN.  I could feel the crowd pushing up from behind, and could only imagine what would happen if people really did run – I kept hoping there were no kids around – but really, they were everywhere.  Then we were free – space and open air, and suddenly my new friends were saying “hold on to us!” and we were walking – politely – through the open space, trying to to trip, not to be tripped on.  We rounded the edge of the palace and my friend said “we can’t get too close or we won’t see anything – gotta stay back behind the gates a bit” – they had done this before. And when I next looked – we were in what I’d call Right Center Field and her dad was dropping five buckets on the ground – BUCKETS!!! To stand on!!!  Who knew?

They graciously offered one up to me – which I promptly crunched to oblivion.  Then another. No really – they could keep it.  But my friend convinced me to step up with feet far on the edges.  I wanted to decline, but why bother?  Up I went – and up I stayed for at least 30 seconds before weight beat plastic and I toppled down.  But hey, the fun just started.  Suddenly there were fresh strawberries (Dad had picked them from the garden) and champagne (a nice lady down the way).  The balcony was open, I had a clear view, and life was GOOD!

When William and Kate came out on the balcony, I threw my camera in the air and hit the shutter button.  It was the best I could do – and I just kept shooting.  My friend took the camera briefly to get me a good shot or two (I’m sure it was she who owns the “real” good shots of the day) and we laughed as we missed the kiss. 

To be fair, from where I was standing, I could see little with the cameras up – but when people dropped their hands, suddenly the royal family was there!  I could see William and Kate – and Harry and Charles and the Queen!!  I know I’m just a dorky American but they were all there, and they were waving and it was kind of cool.

The thing about being in a big crowd is that when you don’t know what’s around you, you just sort of exist in a small bubble.  I was in that bubble here – and it was awesome.  Tonight, watching footage of the millions who were standing behind me in the plaza – I wonder about how that all went down. 

The thing about the day is this – it was very cool – but also very, very different.  There was no notice that streets would shut by a certain time. There was no clear way to get around – or to get out – of any situation you were stuck in.  I was almost penned in at least four times today, and that is something I have NEVER felt in any situation in Chicago, which hosts a fair share of events.  (I take that back – leaving the U2 show in 2009, the first night, there was no way out on the West side of the park.  But that was 60,000 people.  This was a million.) 

After the couple went back inside, I expected all routes out of the palace to open – that the millions would just stream down the Mall or go through St. James Park.  But for reasons which made no sense, we couldn’t go down The Mall. We couldn’t exit West.  There was one small exit near St. James which was open – but there really wasn’t any leaving that space.

I waited about 45 minutes – and finally confirmed an exit route with a police man and headed out.  Going through St. James Park to try to find toilets (which I could see across the lake) I found a bridge – but alas, closed again.  No getting through.  This was crowd control at its most ruthless. 

Eventually, I found my way out of the park and to a pub with a short line for the ladies.  Phew!  The transit station was open (yay!) and I hopped on the first train without incident.  It was, in the end, easy to leave once you did the leaving.

And in the end, I got what I came for – I got the experience of being a part of the wedding day  – and of capturing some great moments for posterity.  I got to represent for my friends at home – and share an “on the ground” feeling.  I had fun. I made some new friends.

Not bad for a day’s work, eh?