Days 90-92 – 9,712 feet

2 04 2010

I traded my running shoes for skis this Spring Break week and counting a few hours of snowy runs as daily exercise. When the kids are skiing with us, it’s stop-and-go fun, so I treasure my one-hour-at-a-time turns when I sneak out for speedier solo runs.

We’ve been coming to Copper Mountain (elevation 9,212 feet) for nearly a decade, so I could ski this mountain with my eyes closed. I can strategically get to the very top — 12,000+ feet — just as the lifts close at 4 p.m. Then — me and the few die-hard snowboarders who were probably out there since 8 a.m. have the slope nearly to ourselves.

Nonstop from top to bottom has my quads feeling the burn by the end and looking forward to the hot tub and cocktails waiting at the condo. It’s not quite the same mental escape as running. I am very conscious of my form and the changing terrain under my skis the whole time — not to mention dodging the flailing skiers who threaten to take me out near the crowded bottom of the slope. I don’t like to fall, so I’m totally cautious even when I’m flying at top speed.

Like Chi Running — I try to let gravity do the work with muscles just keeping balance and rhythm. It’s a constant learning curve to ski with the most efficiency possible to conserve your legs for more runs — ski runs that is.

Anna — who has skied for four years now — is rocking the blue slopes. I told her she was skiing like Lindsey Vonn and she said, “No Mom. Lindsey broke her finger at the Olympics. I’m skiing like Julia Mancuso!” Either way, she’s got Scott’s ski-all-day-long spirit.

Zach, on the other hand, is happy to ski with us for about an hour and then is all about hot cocoa, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and the fireplace. I’m good for that too — along with the games of Crazy Eights and Go Fish we have logged together. All too soon, he will be one of those snowboarders who blows right past me and takes off to find his own trail. So for now, bring on more marshmallows…

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Days 58 and 59 – Reading about running

28 02 2010

Wow what a wonderfully loaded weekend — with Saturday skiing at Copper Mountain. Although we spent nearly as much time in traffic as on the slopes, the conditions were great — warm, some sun and plenty of snow — and the kids had a blast.

We hadn’t been since Christmas, and by the end of the day Zach was mastering his first blue run telling us he was “born to ski.” He can now make it down by himself with just a few falls. And Anna, who is a cautious but capable skier, was skiing off into the tree trails on the green hills. So for the first time, our whole family skied the whole day together!

On the l-o-n-g drive up, I skipped to the final chapter of the Runner’s Body on aging and running performance. The changes working against you as you age are numerous, including less lean muscle mass and strength (you lose as much as 2 percent a year), less bone density and a declining metabolic rate that makes it hard to keep weight off. There is a lot of worthwhile info. on long-term damage from running that certainly reiterates I don’t ever want to train for more than a half-marathon.

The good news at the end is that running helps slow down the physical declines that come with aging. It says “…runners live longer, are less likely to have heart disease, to die suddenly from a preventable disease, to develop conditions like diabetes (Type 2 that is) or hypertension, and generally report a better quality of life…”

I also learned some interesting things about foot striking, speed and balance that I tested on today’s 7-mile run. Long ago, I knew I was a mid-foot striker vs. hitting the ground heel-first. Scott and I ran together for a brief time (when he was slower) and he used to make fun of the way my feet made a slapping sound on the pavement. Turns out that may be a good thing for my whole body vs. heel-striking, although there are proponents of both sides for this one and every body is unique, of course.

A simple thing I learned is that to go faster, you shouldn’t change your gait which can lead to injury. I have a pretty even pace, but when I do want to pick it up (when the finish line is in sight) I know extend my legs to cover more ground faster and get that pavement behind me. The book points out how this and/or lifting your knees higher are bad for you. It makes so much sense that to go faster you just need to move your feet faster, keeping your body aligned as usual.

On my 72-minute run today, I practiced this at a few points to pick-up speed to compensate for some hills on a new route I tried. On these hills, I followed the book’s advice to lean forward from your hips, not your shoulders, again to keep the right body alignment and prevent injuries.

My knees and hips were actually a bit sore this a.m. already — not from running, but from yesterday’s skiing with kids and all of the starts and stops that came with it. Or maybe it was sitting in the car for all those hours!