Embrace Your Inner Adolescent

February 7, 2017

It was my first time skiing.

I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was too excited. I packed my bag: snow pants, an extra pair of socks, sunblock, chapstick. I forgot gloves, like an idiot. I laid out my clothes and programmed my coffee pot for 5:30 am. Then I laid awake, pondering deep, existential questions. Like how big is the bunny slope, exactly? And how does one get on and off the ski lift with what amounts to sleds on one’s feet?

It didn’t matter that I forgot my gloves. My friend brought an extra pair, along with things I hadn’t known I would need. A bank robber mask, for example, to keep my face warm, and goggles to keep the snow and wind out of my eyes. This wasn’t her first time skiing, thank God.

When we got to White Tail I took a lesson while she headed for the non-bunny slope area. I learned how to turn, how to stop, how to slow down, and how to get on and off the ski lift. The bunny slope was much bigger than I thought it would be. At one point I ended up skiing backward, and that was an interesting experience. I don’t recommend it, actually.

After my lesson, we hit the bunny slope again. I was pretty excited to show her that I could make it all the way down the hill without running over any kids. We cruised off the ski lift and I turned right, just like the instructor had shown me. Unfortunately, someone was already standing there, exactly where I wanted to be. I managed to stop a centimeter from his skis.

“Sorry,” I said, and since I was so close, it was more like I whispered it into his ear. But he just laughed and said it was fine. “Look!” I said, turning back to my friend. “I didn’t hit him!”

That was when I fell down. Somehow I forgot the skis were attached to my feet and I tried to turn my whole body. Obviously, that was dumb. I was laughing like crazy, which made it hard to get back on my feet.

On our last run, she decided I could graduate to Sidewinder, which was still a beginner, but not the bunny slope. By this point I was tired and the slope was icy. We spent a lot of time falling down and giggling like school girls when we couldn’t get on our feet again.

When we finally got down the hill, we were both done for the day. I turned in my gear and we ordered pizza.

“I’m tired. I was too excited to sleep last night,” she told me. She looked out the window. The snow was kicking up again, big fluffy flakes making the world look like a Norman Rockwell painting. “I don’t ever want to stop getting excited about things, just because we’re getting older.”

Because that’s what they tell us, isn’t it? Act your age. I suppose they mean don’t laugh so much or shout Whee! quite so loudly and go to sleep at a decent hour.

But what would be the fun in that?




Race Training Begins Now(ish)

January 31, 2017

I’ve probably said this before, but I’m a mediocre runner. I run to keep my heart healthy, my mind sharp, and my stress levels at bay. It also keeps me in shape during the off-season for things like hiking, and when I have writer’s block, nothing clears my head faster than logging a few miles. All of this, I have found, can be accomplished in three miles, three times a week.

But sometimes I wonder how far I can really go. If I actually tried, could I run five miles? Ten? A half marathon? (Let’s stop there, because there is absolutely no part of me that wants to run a marathon.) Every year, I ask myself this question as I register for the Cherry Blossom lottery. And every year, I register for the 5k instead of the full 10 miles.

Except this year.

I’m a little scared, to be honest. It took me forever to build up from one mile to three, so building from three miles to ten in only ten weeks is daunting. But it’s possible, right?

Hal Higdon says it is in his Novice 15k plan, and that’s the training plan I’m following(ish). I’m skipping the first two weeks of two mile runs and starting at Week 3, with the first bump to four miles. Then I’ll probably add a week at the end with the final bump being nine miles. I’ll also probably add an additional two-mile run every week, which makes it four days of running instead of three. There’s no speed work, which is fine, since my goal is to simply finish, preferably second-to-last or better. What can I say, I’m competitive.

I’m going to try to stick to the schedule and not think too much about it, because when I do think, I start to panic. I’m pretty sure I can run four miles or even five, but beyond that? Six miles is going to hurt. I can’t even imagine seven miles, and at that point I’ll still have three miles to go. Eep.

And there are hills on the race course. HILLS. Which means I’m going to have to suck it up and start running outside, where the hills are.

So. I’m excited. And also terrified. But mostly excited.


Like Thelma and Louise, But With Less Suicide (And a Cat!)

January 24, 2017

A few weeks ago I got a text from a friend: “Hey, want to drive across the country with me and my cat?”

Hell yes, I did.

So I booked a flight for January 13, which happened to be a Friday. I mention that because my plane had two flat tires. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one.

We started in California and drove east, hitting Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia before finishing our journey in Washington, D.C.

It was amazing.


 If you’ve never been to Joshua Tree National Park, put it on your list. This place is awesome. Joshua trees look a lot like Dr. Suess’s Truffula trees, so that’s cool. And then there are the gigantic monzogranite boulders that beg to be climbed. Which you can actually do! I didn’t see a single “stay off the rocks” sign, and I took full advantage of that. I didn’t have my climbing gear with me, but I scrambled up anyway.


We did zero research for this trip. We knew we wanted to take the southern route to avoid winter storms in the northern states. We were vaguely aware that there was an ice storm crossing the country, but we weren’t at all clear on where and when. Obviously we survived, because I am home in DC typing this, but if you are planning a cross-country drive, I don’t recommend this method, and that is entirely because of Arizona.

You see, sometimes Arizona looks like this. I expected that.

And sometimes it looks like this, which I did not expect at all.

Shortly after this photo was taken, there was suddenly a lot more snow. I didn’t get a picture of that. Visibility was almost zero.

“Roll down your window and take a picture,” I said.

“No,” she said.


More than any other state I’ve been to (with the exception of California), Arizona is full of contrasts. There are sandy deserts and red rock formations and lush pine forests. One minute we were admiring the cacti in Tonto National Forest, and the next we were driving through the snowy Mogollon Rim. It was crazy.

Both places, by the way, are gorgeous and worth a more in-depth visit. I am definitely planning to go back, although maybe I’ll check the weather first, because that shit was scary.

 This picture was taken through the windshield and in no way does it justice. I couldn’t stop staring out the window and shrieking “Holy shit, this place is gorgeous!”–which really freaked out my friend because the road was super curvy and there were cliffs involved.

Me: “I can’t believe this place! They should tell people it’s here.”

Her, reading from phone: “The Tonto National Forest is one of the most visited in the United States.”



New Mexico was so incredible that it was hard for me to believe it was a real place. The rock is so colorful. Even though it was cloudy and overcast–because yes, we hit that damn ice storm–the reds, pinks, and yellows were brilliant.

I can only imagine what this looks like at sunrise or sunset–or even on a clear day.

The storm, oddly enough, did not deter this person from a hot air balloon ride.

We stopped for lunch at a place near Bucket of Blood Road on a reservation.

“Why is it called that?” I asked the waitress, in the half-anxious, half-curious way white people do when we think we’re the answer.

“Bar fights,” she told us. “They were so bad the street was full of blood.”

Not the answer I was expecting, but still exactly what I was afraid of.


There’s really not much to say about Texas, because we only drove through that very top chimney-shaped part. It was an incredible sunrise, probably one of the top five I’ve ever seen. I was happily surprised about the windmills; I hadn’t thought the Texas oil industry would allow that. We didn’t see any cows, which also surprised me.


Not gonna lie, Oklahoma was long and and boring. I took a picture, not because it was worth looking at, but so that I would have a picture from every state. So now you know what Oklahoma looks like. You’re welcome.

Oklahoma was long and boring. Yes, I already said that. It’s monotonous reading the same line again, isn’t it? That’s Oklahoma for you. It’s reading the same line over and over again for all eternity.

But if someone were to ask me to take a road trip to Okema, Oklahoma, I would say yes. This is because of Papa’s BBQ. It is amazing.

We listened to Episode 107 of This American Life while we drove through Oklahoma. It’s about twin sisters who drive along the Trail of Tears, where their ancestors were forced to walk. It was funny and heartwrenching and also depressing as hell. Yay for a new face on the twenty, amiright?


Every place has good people. It’s important to remember this should you ever find yourself driving across Arkansas.


I’ve always like Tennessee. I love the cities here: Nashville of course, but also Memphis and Knoxville. I don’t particularly like blowing up mountain tops for coal and God knows what else, but there are still lots of good views here. We spent most of Tennessee in the dark. We crossed over from Arkansas after the sun went down, and then started driving again super early in the morning. I would have liked to see more of the Smokeys. I’m hoping the fire damage isn’t too bad, but I plan on visiting again in the summer regardless.


I spend a lot of time in Virginia, either hiking, camping, or just visiting friends. Honestly, I thought the six hours we’d have to drive through would be pretty boring, because I’ve seen it all before. But it wasn’t. It really wasn’t. I was happy to see my mountains again. I spend a lot of time wishing I was west of the Mississippi, where the “real” mountains are, but I guess Dorothy had it right after all: My own backyard isn’t a bad place to be. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing. What she actually said was, “I won’t look any further than my own backyard” but that’s not going to happen. I’m too curious not to look.)

It’s January, so the mountains are chocolate brown. And somehow, even though they top out at 5000 feet, they don’t look that small to me. I can’t wait to get back in them.

And I think maybe that’s half the point of an adventure: Coming home again.

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.