Monday, March 31, 2014

Dress up and Have Fun Rocking Those Runs - Our Response to Tutu Shaming

Kalina and Rachel at St. Patrick's Day 5k

I have run several marathons as well as 10K's and 5K's. In every race, I see people dressed up. Sometimes it is for a cause and sometimes they are just out to have fun. I have never thought they did it to make themselves faster. However, many are much faster than me and every time they pass me in their silly outfits, it makes me laugh and gives me encouragement. In the end, I know darn well those costumed runners had twice as much fun as I did.

Recently, Self Magazine posted a pictured of two women in tutus on a page they called their "B.S. Meter" along with a mocking comment. This is a magazine that is supposed to be celebrating an active lifestyle and encouraging others to be their best self. One of those women they mocked was in the middle of chemotherapy for brain cancer. She had dressed up as Wonder Woman to run the race which I am sure was one of the hardest races she had run in her life. To top it all off with, the tutus they wore, they sell and give half the proceeds to charity.

Kalina with Team Tumor
Had Self Magazine known the incredible story behind the tutus, they would have thought twice about making fun of them. That is the problem not only with this magazine, but with society in general. Somehow it has become acceptable to hide behind a pen and say anything we want about anybody with no thought of who we hurt. I refuse to bow down to that level. Why? Because I always believed if we knew what went on behind the smiles of every person, we would be more kind, more compassionate and more loving.

This tutu story hit too close to home for me. My daughter, Kalina, who also writes for this blog, has been a runner for a long time. As a collegiate runner, she trained to be fast. Shortly after her last college track meet, she was diagnosed with stage IIIC ovarian cancer at the age of 22. After two harrowing surgeries and months of chemotherapy, her body could hardly get off the couch but her desire to run remained strong.

After years of taking running for granted, she wanted to feel good enough to run just for the sake of running. When she finally felt better, she wanted to run to have fun. Dressing up gives her a chance to laugh, to be happy and to celebrate life. She doesn't dress up because it makes her faster, she does it because it is a reminder to her to have enjoy the moment.

It is agonizing to watch your only daughter fight for her life. It is more agonizing to think her struggle could be mocked by someone who hasn't seen her pain. To top it off, my heart bleeds because I know she suffers from body dysmorphic disorder. No matter how beautiful I think she is, she will never believe it herself. Our society tells us we aren't beautiful enough, aren't good enough and aren't skinny enough even when we are. Magazines do way too much to promote this by featuring covers where 99% of the time, the person on the cover has undergone photo shop touch ups that change them into something they are not.

Magazines tell us what we should wear, how much we should weigh and even what we should eat.
Why do we listen? We shouldn't. We should set our own style, our own ideal and make it something that completes our life and makes us happy.
My response isn't to Self Magazine, it is to the readers of all magazines. Put those magazines away and live your life the way you want. Life is too short to try to conform to something that is not really us. Dress up your life. Add pizazz and make it fun.

At the end of the day, we should celebrate our accomplishments and all of those around us. The world would be better if we would build each other up instead of tear each other down.

My daughter has taught me to embrace life and live in the moment. After all, we don't  know what the future brings but we have today and today she teaches me to have fun. I'm so glad she's not afraid to rock those tutus because she looks pretty dang cute in them.

I run because I can.
I run because it's fun.
I run because it's hard
I run because it's an accomplishment.
I run to laugh
I run to cry.

Leave a comment telling us what you do to make life fun.

Travel in China: The Forbidden City

A trip to Bejing, China wouldn't be complete without visiting the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is the largest palatial structure in the world and is one of the five most important palaces in the world. The Chinese government takes pride in this historical monument and spends time and money in its preservation. It was home to 24 emperors stretching from the Ming to the Qing Dynasties which is a span of over 650 years.

The Forbidden City is a busy tourist attraction. Before my family visited, we knew little of the Chinese history regarding the Forbidden City. While I tried to read a little about it on the internet, I actually gleaned more from watching The Last Emperor.

My boys had more fun imitating art than reading about it but they still had an amazing cultural experience, even if they didn't appreciate it at the time.

The Outer Court is made up of three main buildings, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. We took so many pictures, I can't get them sorted which is which.

The Inner Court made of up three main structures. the Palace of Heavenly Peace, the Palace of Union and Peace and the Hall of Terrestrial Tranquility. There are also six Easter Palaces and Six Western Palaces. These were the living quarters of the emperor.

One of my favorite places inside the Forbidden City was the Imperial Gardens. Here, thing look a little different with more color and different aesthetics. As much as I loved the Forbidden City, it starts to all look the same in the courts until you get into the Imperial Gardens.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rock Climbing in Utah: Ferguson Canyon

inner light, lead climbing, top rope, rock climb

With the close vicinity of so many canyons near Salt Lake City, Utah it is no surprise that a slew of good rock climbing sites abound. What's nice is that there are spots so close, if you only had an hour or two, you could still get a good climb in.

Ferguson Canyon, which I also featured as a hike, has some great climbing. The climb we did is called Inner Light. It is not a sport route so you need trad gear if you want to lead climb it. We don't have trad equipment so we hiked up the backside and top roped it. The climb is rated a 5.7 but as an avid climber, I would say the bottom half is much more technical than your average 5.7. The holds are small and crimpy and for a 5'5" gal some of them are a big stretch. Once you get to the crack halfway up the rest of the climb is a breeze. But I would say the bottom of it is more similar to a 5.8+ just because of the small size of the holds.

To get to Ferguson Canyon: The canyon is off Wasatch Blvd. in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. To get there, take Wasatch Drive to the four way light at Bengal Blvd. At the light, take a left and head east to Top of the World Drive. Take a left on Top of the World and a right onto Timberline Drive. There you will find a small parking area at the base of the trail. Dogs are allowed in the canyon and a lot of climbers bring them along.

While a few places have anchors already set in the walls, be prepared for traditional or "trad" climbing. While there are some great crack climbs, those will require all equipment.

Some of the walls with anchors already set are flat and challenging. Many of those walls are accessible from a scramble behind to set up anchors from up above. However, be careful. Climbers fall every year attempting this without ropes. Be safe, not stupid.

Grab your climbing ropes and harness and pack your climbing gear. It is about a half mile hike to get to the walls. However, the trail head is within city limits so you can easily go after work and get a couple of good climbs in. From the trail head, you will hike to the water tower, down some steps and then up a good incline into a rocky area where you will find a variety of cliffs.

This area gets crowded on the weekends even in early spring.
That makes it fun to watch other climbers. I learned a lot about lead climbing just by watching.

Next week, we'll be climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon so stay tuned.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

What I Love About the Benefits of Rei Membership

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REI Crestrail 65 Women's Backpack $239.00
 YAY! Look what I just bought with my annual membership 20% off coupon. Yes, I have been waiting for months just to purchase this backpack. I have been planning a week long backpacking trip to hike the Great Western Trail for about three months. I went into REI and had my a backpack fitting. Then I looked at all of the backpacks to decide which would work best for me. A hard decision but it all came down to comfort. When I finally made my decision, I decided to wait and wait until I could find the backpack on sale. It never did go on sale but the awesome sales assistant told me about the REI Membership. For a one time $20 fee, I could join the club for life. Once a year I would get a dividend check with 10% back on qualifying purchases. I would also get a 20% coupon for one full priced item. I did the math and figured my backpack purchase would take care of the the membership fee and still give me a discount. My husband just received his membership dividend in the amount of $22.00 to use on anything in the store. That more than paid for his membership as well.

 Now through April 13, members can save 20% with coupon code SAVE20. It's easy to become a member. When you join, you will be able to use the coupon code for 20% off one regular price item and 20% off one outlet item. I used it for both and saved money on items I was going to purchase anyway.

To find out more about the benefits of an REI Membership, visit the REI membership page.

Friday, March 28, 2014

TRAVEL TIPS: Ten Things NOT To Do When Traveling Abroad:

During my travels, I have seen tourists do some stupid and inappropriate things. I watched an entire family miss a flight because the father was too intoxicated to make it through security. Not only did he embarrass his wife, his young children cried because they were so scared. I watched a Middle Eastern couple get very rude and demanding of a flight attendant, nearly making her cry. I have seen both Europeans and Americans ignoring guards at tourists sights and taking photos in places they have been asked not to. I feel strongly that as a tourist, it is my responsibility to learn about local customs before traveling to make the trip more pleasant for everybody. Here is a list of ten things I think are important not to do.

1. Do NOT carry a large amount of cash. Yes, credit cards are still the safest way to travel. However, some of the countries I have visited do not accept credit cards in very many places. For those situations, be prepared to visit an ATM to get cash as needed. You can go to a bank or currency exchange but the fees are usually higher.

2. Do NOT leave the country without leaving a copy of your passport and credit cards with loved ones. Also, keep an extra copy of those things in your hotel room when you are away just in case they get stolen.

3. Do NOT join protests or demonstrations or even hang around a protest area in a foreign country. This will most likely get you arrested and it may be years before you can get out of the country. Avoid any place where demonstrations will be taking place. You may be accused of inciting the riot just because you are a foreigner.

4. Do NOT disrespect foreign customs and dress. Read about the customs of the country before visiting. What you wear at home may be inappropriate in other countries, especially the middle east. Even in some Asian countries, you will invite trouble if you dress a certain way and may be inviting unwelcome sexual advances or even rape.

5. Do NOT wear or carry a lot of name brand clothing or accessories. You will set yourself up for thieves.

6. Do NOT leave the hotel without a card with the hotel address on it. Yes, I have been lost in a foreign city and it is very scary. I did have the hotel name and address with me, thank goodness, because I could never have found my way back on my own.

7. Do not carry valuables in the outside pockets of a backpack or leave valuable in plain site. I traveled with a group of teenagers as a chaperone to Europe once. The group was instructed not to do this, especially in the very crowded cathedrals. For those in our group who didn't listen, they lost cash and cameras in a very short time. Try not to carry extra bags or items then you won't tempt thieves in the first place.

8. Don't expect everyone to speak English. I have traveled to several places where very few if any speak English. Hire a local tour guide if you have to.

9. Do NOT become so intoxicated you lose your judgement. This is one of the most serious problems I have seen with American tourists in foreign countries. Not only will it leave you vulnerable, it may cause you to lose your better judgement by becoming obnoxious and argumentative. I have seen tourists get beat up, miss flights, have to be carried back to cruise ships in shopping carts and the list goes on because of alcohol. Unless you're in your hotel or on a cruise ship where you know you can make it back to your room, better to just leave it alone.

10. Stay away from places where Americans are known to congregate in hostile countries. These are the places that are targeted by terrorists.

Okay it was supposed to be 10 things but I'm adding one more.

11. Do NOT stay past your visa date or try to cross into a country without a visa. Some countries don't require visas but it is your responsibility to check. Be careful about crossing into other countries, especially when the borders aren't obvious. Americans have been detained and sent to prison for years for illegally entering countries they did not have visas for. Sadly, some of them were hiking and were unaware they had even crossed the borders. Be vigilant and hire a tour guide if adventuring out into the wilderness areas of a foreign country.


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Bike Ride near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wherever we travel, I am always trying to talk my family into renting bikes. It's a fun way to see the country we visit. Our tour guide in Chiang Mai, Thailand icon had bikes he used in his eco tours and we got to venture out for a few hours.

Biking was a great way to see the rice fields and watch the locals working. I was amazed at the number of elderly Thai women still working well past what we would consider retirement age in the United States. The Thai people are beautiful and friendly. We had workers wave at us as we drove by. They were probably laughing but we were having so much fun we didn't care.

We also got to see how the people lived and it looked like a great place to live and work. The homes are well kept and the countryside is clean. The only thing we didn't like is that the farmers were preparing for planting season in the hills by burning their fields. This caused a smoky overcast that made it harder to breath. Our tour guide told us they weren't supposed to do this but nobody enforces the ban.

Thailand is hot and muggy so I would suggest bringing water. We only had one water bottle each and it was barely enough.

The whole family loved the bike ride. Our tour guide met us in town with his van right next to a convenience store. This was one time on my trip that a cold Coke was a welcome sight. I would definitely recommend seeing the Thailand country side on a bike. It is also nice finding a private tour guide so you don't have to spend the time with a large group. It cuts down on wait time and allows you to see more.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hiking in Utah: Mt. Olympus Trail

Mt. Olympus, on the east side of the Salt Lake Valley is one of the Wasatch Front's most popular trails. The trail is steep and well deserving of its strenuous rating, but it is well marked and easy to follow. From 4500 south, head west on Wasatch Boulevard. About a mile and a half past 4500 South a parking lot off of Wasatch. From the south, the trail head is just past the Old Mill Golf course. The trail head is marked with an easy to see sign.

The trail starts wide with a series of steps and is wide. Most hikers can handle the hike as long as you take it slow and easy.

The views of the valley are impressive at many points along the trail. 
The first part of the hike offers little shade and can get hot in the summer. On the day I hiked, it was in the seventies and I was glad I had a full hydration pack as I got hot enough to drink most of my water.

Dogs are allowed on the trail, but there is only one place for them to drink so pack enough water for your dog. The small waterfall area we found water is usually dry in the summer.

After you crossing the creek bed, you get to the south side of the canyon, known as Tolcats Canyon. This is the longest part of the hike because of how steep it is.

The trail is treacherous this time of year if you don't have the right equipment like a good pair of micro spikes for snow. This part of the trail can also be deceiving. There are several false summits and the since the trail was covered with snow, I wondered if I was actually on it. I plan to hike it again when the weather warms up to make sure I stay on the trail.

The trail will level off at the saddle. Unfortunately, I decided to turn around before I got to that point because of the snow. Not worth the risk when you're hiking solo. Once you make it past the saddle, it becomes a scramble up the rocks to make it to the summit. The rock hopping to get to the summit can be dangerous. Be careful, hikers get injured every year.

The top of the summit is 9026 feet with an elevation gain of 4100 feet over 3.75 miles. That is a lot of elevation gain so be prepared for steep.

Additional Dangers: Rattlesnakes are known to frequent the rocky areas so tread lightly. Also, hikers become dehydrated often. Be sure to conserve water for the hike down. You will about 3 liters of water.

Round trip: About 7+ miles

Why You Should Hike With Poles

I find as I get older, I get less steady on my feet.
I love to hike and I often go solo. The last thing I want to do is fall and break something. I need to get myself off the trail. Since I started using hiking poles, I've found that I have an easier time with balance.

 With rocks, water and ice, trails can get treacherous no matter what season. The biggest thing that has added safety to my hikes is getting a good pair of hiking poles. I have found many ways poles help me. However, there are three things that stand out.

Safety - This is by far the biggest reason I use poles Using poles is like having an extra set of legs. When I slip on a trail, I can anchor the pole into the ground and it keeps me from falling. This is especially important in winter and early spring conditions when I encounter icy trail conditions.

Comfort and Stability - While poles help stabilize me on  treacherous trails, they also provide comfort. I have something to do with my hands and it keeps my hands moving in a natural flow with my body. I have disc problems in my back and I found when I move my hands while I walk, it keeps my spine moving in a more natural way.
Weight Distribution - A good hiking pole helps reduce the weight we put on our legs and feet and distributes the weight evenly on our entire body. The arms actually bear some of the weight. When I am carrying a heavy backpack, this is especially important. Poles keep me from falling forward from the weight of my pack.

I have also found that I can hike a bit faster with poles. I can pace myself better when I feel more confident of my footing.

I have to admit, sometimes poles get in the way and have some disadvantages. I like to take photos when I hike. Carrying poles make it hard to use my hands for taking pictures, eating snacks, or adjusting clothing. For this reason, I have my back pack set up so I can attach one or both poles if I want a free hand. It doesn't add much extra weight on my backpack and it's nice to have my hands free on easier parts of the trail. Sometimes my arms get tired if I put too much weight on my poles. However, I have found the shocks in the poles really help with that. That is why it is important to get poles made for hiking and to not use ski poles.

I don't bring my poles on short hikes with easy paths but I always bring them if I'm going to be hiking more than two or three hours and if the trail is steep and rocky.

I love to make it to the top and if I need a little extra help, I'm not embarrassed to bring poles along.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Indoor Climbing Gyms

As much as we love the outdoors, we can't always be outside. Bad weather and dark nights don't have to get in the way of adventure.

Climbing at an indoor gym has become one of our favorite Friday night activities. Forget the movies and popcorn, my son often will ask me if we can go climbing. It's not often that a teenage boy actually asks to spend Friday night with his parents. Score a big one for climbing gyms.

A wide variety of climbing exists at different gyms. While smaller gyms may specialize in bouldering or may only have a few small walls with limited routes, the bigger gyms usually offer both. Our favorite indoor gym is Momentum Climbing Gym as it is the biggest indoor gym of any others. It is also the most expensive and though more fun than a night at the movies, it costs quite a bit more. There are several locations near us. I like the beginner routes on the walls and my son and daughter like the more challenging routes. With a large bouldering room, there is something for everybody.

Friday nights are busy. I've never seen so many young adults in one place. I like to tease Kalina that if she can't find a date at the climbing gym, I don't know where else to look.

Indoor climbing gyms are a great way to practice climbing skills before heading outside. In fact, I wasn't even sure I wanted to climb outside until climbing in a gym. It took me a while of learning to belay and climb before I felt I could be safe outdoors. Now I'm ready to buy my own climbing harness. I'm just waiting for a good sale.

While climbing gyms let your rent equipment, it helps to have your own.

I would suggest the following basic equipment for indoor climbing.

While it is nice to have climbing shoes, I would suggest climbing a while to get an idea of what you want and what would be comfortable. 

Indoor climbing gyms have become quite popular in Utah but may be harder to find in states that don't have as large as an outdoor sports presence.

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