Gear, Review

Pretzl Kids Macchu Climbing Harness: A Review

January 17, 2017


Every time I take my kids climbing, inevitably someone asks me what harness they use and if I would recommend it. Since I don’t like to recommend anything that I haven’t thoroughly tested, I hesitated. But now we’ve been using the Pretzl Macchu kids harness for six months now, and I can wholeheartedly say yes, I absolutely recommend this harness.

The Macchu harness has two parts, which you can either buy as a package or separately. The main part is a typical sit harness, which looks exactly like the adult version. The leg and waist buckles automatically doubleback, and there is a buckle on either side of the waist belt, which keeps everything centered and symmetrical, regardless of how much you have to adjust for size.  There are two gear loops, which is great because even though my four-year-old isn’t going to be lead climbing any time soon, guess what? The Macchu harness is super adjustable.

That’s right! I bought the same one-size-fits-all harness for my four-year-old and seven-year-old, and it fits them both equally well. I do use the body chest harness on the four-year-old, though. This is crucial because children have shorter legs  and a proportionally heavier upper body, which means they have a higher center of gravity. And that can lead to a child flipping upside down. True story: I’ve seen this happen–not to my own kids, thank goodness.

The price is also good. It goes for around $50 at REI, but I bought ours for $40 at Moosejaw. Or Backcountry. Honestly, I can’t remember which one, but I do remember being super happy about it. So check around and you can probably find a good deal.

FWIW (not much, probably), I asked both my daughters if they liked the harness and they both enthusiastically said yes. Why? Because it’s pink.

Please note that it also comes in orange, but I’m not sure either of them would vouch for that.



What the #RWRunStreak Taught Me About Life, the Universe, and Bullshit Excuses

January 10, 2017

As a single mom, I roll my eyes anytime someone says “No excuses.” Of course there are excuses. Of course life can throw up obstacles so big you can’t climb them. Quite frankly, anyone who says “no excuses” when it comes to exercise is probably single, childless, works no more than 40 hours a week, and an asshole.

But there’s a difference between impossible and difficult. Every day the kids weren’t in school was difficult to find time to run because it meant finding a babysitter–my gym doesn’t have childcare–or putting them where I could see them and running the same stretch of road over and over again. The only time difficult became impossible was when ice was added to the equation, because I’m not suicidal.

That happened once. Once in 39 days.

Hell, yeah, I’ll take that.


Day 1 (Thanksgiving): Roll out of bed and run two miles. Am unbearably smug about it at dinner. Eat second slice of pie.

Day 2 (November 25): Hike Old Rag, 8.5 miles. Debate whether this should count and decide it does not. Run the last mile of fire road. It hurts.

Day 3 (November 26): Three hour class on climbing technique. Debate whether this should count and decide it does not. Run three miles on treadmill. It hurts.

Day 4 (November 27): My ankles are stiff and sore from a weekend of hiking, climbing, and running. Realize I am not in the shape I thought I was, which is annoying. Run one mile.

Day 5 (November 28): Monday. My regular schedule calls for three miles, so that’s what I do. It doesn’t hurt as much as I was expecting.

Day 6 (November 29): It’s raining, so I head to the gym. Everything feels good, which surprises me. I listen to the She-Explores podcast on diversity and before I know it, four miles are done.

Day 7 (November 30): Three miles. I’ve run every day for a full week, and I’m ridiculously proud of it.

Days 8 & 9 (December 1-2): Two miles each.

Days 10 & 11 (December 3-4): Three miles each. I drop the kids with my parents and run in Rock Creek Park.

Days 12-16 (December 5-9): Alternate three miles with one mile.

Days 17-18 (December 10-11): Weekend! Run two miles followed by climbing.

Days 19-23 (December 12-16): Alternate three miles with one mile

Day 24 (December 17): Shit! Woke up to streets covered with ice. No babysitter plus ice means no run today.

Day 25 (December 18): Shit! Totally forgot about running, which means that at 4 pm I sit the kids on the front porch and run up and down the long hill of our street until I reach a mile. It hurts. That hill is a bitch.

Days 26-30 (December 19-23): Alternate three miles with one mile

Day 31 (Christmas Eve): Run up and down my street for a mile before taking the kids to the Nutcracker and then to the National Christmas tree at the White House.

Day 32 (Christmas): After presents, run up and down my street for a mile before taking kids to see grandparents. Even though the run is short, I feel like this hill is getting easier. Hmm.

Days 33-34 (December 26-27): Parents babysit kids while I run three miles in Rock Creek Park. It’s drizzly, but not cold. It feels so nice to be moving outside.

Days 35-38 December 28-31): Back at the gym. Alternate three miles with two miles.

Day 39 (New Years Day): Run three miles. I feel good about this.

Day 40 (January 2): The #RWStreak ended yesterday, which means technically I don’t have to run today. I run because I want to.








The Year in Review: 2016

December 27, 2016

So. 2016. What an asshole that turned out to be.

I mean, of course, for other people. Here’s a list, if you need a refresh. But none of that affected me personally, a fact which makes me feel supremely lucky and also hella guilty. I didn’t lose a loved one in Istanbul or Orlando or Aleppo. I avoided Zika and other viruses, for the most part–in fact, I think I only got sick once this year. Politics are a disaster, but that’s a fight for 2017.

All in all, 2016 was good to me. So good, in fact, that an old friend messaged me on Facebook: What’s going on? Are you doing a bucket list challenge? Are you dying?

No, I’m not dying. I’m living, which sometimes looks a bit like dying to people who aren’t doing much of either.

Here’s what 2016 looked like for me:

Best moment: Assateague Island


I was flipping through photos, trying to decide what was the overall best thing about 2016. Was it hiking my first fourteener? Backpacking Roan Mountain on my birthday? The first time I climbed a 5.8? I almost went with climbing in the Garden of the Gods, and not just because I can now say, “When I was climbing in the Garden of the Gods…” like a total asshole. But when I really think about it, the best moment didn’t come with a photograph. It was our Mother’s Day camping trip at Assateague Island. The rain had stopped, the kids were asleep, and the waves pounded against the sand like thunder. I opened the tent and stuck my head out. Above me the sky was littered with stars–so many that there were more stars than sky. I stayed like that for a long time, staring at the stars, my girls snuggled up against me. It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t a daring adventure or physical accomplishment. But it was the moment I was happiest, and I had everything I needed.


Best decision: Climbing

Signing up for the Intro to Climbing class at EarthTreks was without a doubt the best decision I made all year. Even better? Dragging a friend with me. We loved it so much that we convinced two other people to climb with us, and my kids love it too. Climbing has pushed me and strengthened me in ways that I couldn’t even imagine when I started this journey.


Scariest Moment: Assateague Island

Did you know the winds there are really strong? Well, they are. Add that to the fact that the campsite is sand and it’s a potential disaster. I spent the first night listening to the rain and howling wind, praying that I had secured the tent well enough to withstand the storm. We survived without leaks or other damage, the anchors held (we used these), and all was well. (I use the Quarter Dome 3 for camping with my kids, and yes, I would recommend it.)


Best Meal: Jambalaya and Fog Cutter


There’s something about the combination of being freezing cold and starving after a hard walk that makes food taste better. That was the case for both Roan Mountain and San Francisco, but I was slightly colder and hungrier from backpacking than walking there and back again across the Golden Gate Bridge, so that wins but the Fog Cutter comes in a close second.


Biggest Regret: Torrey’s Peak

Last summer, I hiked my first fourteener. It was awesome, but I wish I had stuck to the plan and done Torrey’s with Gray’s. I’m still kicking myself for that one. Next year, Torrey’s. Next year.


Dear Self Magazine: WTF?

December 20, 2016


Dear Self Magazine,

It’s been a long time since I saw you last. You were a staple of my gym rat days–along with Fitness and Shape–in the late nineties and early aughts, providing me with monthly workouts that defined my muscles and kept boredom at bay. Good times! But somehow we lost touch over the years, so I was surprised to find the January 2017 issue in my mailbox this afternoon.

But hey! The cover declared “It’s On!” and promised that the New Year’s Challenge was 28 days of fun workouts, so I flipped it open and started reading. After 45 pages of Birchbox ads, I finally found it.

And…Are you kidding me? Maybe I just don’t understand your target audience. Are we talking twenty-something, pack-a-day hipsters? Seventy-year-old grandmas recovering from a hip replacement? Because you can’t be talking to anyone who wants “OMG results” no matter what your headline says.

The plan consists of two cardio sessions a week–the longest of which is a whopping 13 minutes!–and three sessions of strength training (which is admittedly better than the “cardio”). The worst cardio session is ten minutes long and includes three sets of planks, interspersed with one-minute rests. That’s right! Keeping your body static for 20 second intervals now counts as cardio!

Why am I bothering to write this, you ask? It’s your last in-print issue, clearly I’m not a subscriber, and I’m not so ignorant of health and fitness that I could be fooled into doing this workout. But that’s the thing: I’m not ignorant and I have you, Self Magazine circa 2002, to thank for that. What about the person who has no knowledge of fitness, who picks up Self Magazine for the very first time? Is she going to believe that two ten-minute “cardio” (quotation marks for obvious reasons) sessions a week are going to improve her heart, her lungs, or her overall health?

Yes. Because you, Self Magazine, told her so. And you’re the expert.

And before you argue that, when it comes to exercise, something is better than nothing, let me remind you that you didn’t promise a stop gap workout. You promised changes. You promised a challenge. But the truth is that no one is going to get stronger or fitter on your plan. What then? Completing your “challenge” only gives someone yet another excuse to believe she can’t be healthy, because she followed all the rules and still couldn’t get results.

I’m tired of so-called experts setting women up to fail, either by telling us that we can achieve impossible results if we only work hard enough, or that we can achieve results without really working at all. Neither is true. I can’t imagine a men’s magazine printing such garbage–they would be laughed off the newsstand. Women deserve better than this. We deserve honest, research-backed information on how to improve our health, not gimmicks and false promises.

Something like Self Magazine, 2002.