Wind vs Caribou

Caribou 1 Wind 0 … unless you count the fact I didn’t bike the next day because of the wind…..

DC has been having some odd weather.  Biking to work Friday night was nice, it had rained earlier in the day and was sorta gloomy out so no one was on the trail!  Stress-free Friday afternoon biking! No pedestrians aimlessly wandering around the paths, or stopping in the middle of the trail and angry when I tell them I’m passing…. I knew it wouldn’t be raining in the am, but there was nothing about extremely high winds, so when I biked home from work Saturday morning (boo night shifts) I was shocked by what the commute had in store.  The wind made it a heck of a lot colder than I expected, thankfully I had my rain coat to throw on under my reflective jacket.  Oh that goretex kept me warm!  What I was not prepared for was crossing the Potomac… As soon as I made it onto the bridge – whoooosh – I nearly get blown into the cement barrier separating me from traffic.  I was constantly directing my bike into the other wall, preventing me from plummeting into the river… Every time I thought I had figured out some way to be stable, the wind would drop for a second and I’d almost crash.  But guess what wind? I didn’t crash, in spite of your best efforts!  Caribou 1, Wind 0.

Granted, when I saw on that there was a high wind advisory for DC during my evening commute, I decided not to chance 30 mph gusts across the river and drove to work.  Not sure if that means Wind gets another point…..

This week has been a mixed review for biking vs. car.  Thankfully I did get a 6 mile run in after my windy commute, but night shift and sleeping haven’t been going so well.  Biking at 0530 when you are exhausted is not the best idea in the world either…so sadly I drove to work both Sat. and Sun. night… Hopefully this week will be better!

Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on tips and cross training to help combat wind and other things!  In the mean team, happy trails!

Caribou out.


A Plea: What Happened to Trail Etiquette?

I recently switched from day shifts to night shifts, which means my commuting routine feels a heck of a lot different.  No longer do I hit the trails at 0400 when its me and the lone runner who I cross paths with.  I won’t lie, I miss seeing this runner, he was a little late starting his run the other day and I started to worry about him!  We see intersect at nearly the same point on the trail every day.  Anyway, I digress.

Nigh commuting can be really nice, especially when the weather is beautiful outside – the sun is out, there is a nice breeze, the river shines…the downside?  The trail is crowded.  During the week its not too terrible, but weekends or holidays I almost prefer to drive or take the metro because so many of the trail users are clueless and stress me out.  As a runner, I use the trails and don’t want to get hit by over-zealous bikers.  Having both perspectives, I am a huge believer in trail etiquette and it drives me bonkers when people don’t.

Whether you are a biker, runner, walker, or whatever – trail etiquette applies to you.  If you wouldn’t act this way in a car, don’t do it on the trail.

  1. Stay in your Lane – the rules of the road apply to the trail.  Don’t run or bike in the middle of the trail.
  2. Signaling – Speak and Listen.  If I tell you I’m passing you on the left please do NOT move to the left lane, seriously. You would be surprised how hard this is.  If you are going to pass me, tell me – I’d rather you yell than ring a bell.
  3. Passing – If its not safe to pass, don’t pass – yes its annoying when you have speed going, but I don’t want to crash.  Similarly, if you are running/biking with multiple people go single-file when you see crowds or someone says they are passing.
  4. Be Aware – Smartphone users, please just have some situational awareness.  Don’t wander across the trails with your eyes glued to your phone.
  5. Don’t Stop in the Trail – something wrong with your bike? waiting for your trail mate? fixing your shoe? Great, just move off the main trail.
  6. Respect – if we all respect each other and show some common courtesy, no one will be stressed.  If you want the trail to your self, then run or bike at 5am.

Please people.  LISTEN and be RESPECTFUL.  I cannot stress enough the listening part.  “Passing on Your Left” should not indicate your need to move to your left.  I don’t know why this is so hard.  Also, what is with the dirty looks when I tell you I’m passing?  Yes, I yell, I’m on a bike, its windy, I want you to have time to stay to the right.  Don’t be annoyed at me.  If you want silence and solitude, do not take a walk around Gravely Point during peak hours.  Sigh…

Ok. I’m off my soap box…for now.

Caribou Out.


So…running…somedays it is just really hard to get out of bed and go for a run.  It is even harder when you have not really run in over 4-5 months.  When I was in Baghdad I ran 3-5 times a week and swam once a week.  Granted there was literally nothing else to do but work and workout and having 24-7 access to two gyms, that were at most a 5 minute walk from where you slept, it was hard not to workout.  But after Baghdad, I spent 2.5 months traveling, hiking, and backpacking, followed by moving, unpacking, and getting back to “real life.”  Somehow in the mix of it all running took a major back seat in my life.  On the “plus,” biking increased significantly and I started doing yoga.

I won’t lie though, the thought of starting to run again was daunting.  I kept wondering and fearing if I would get injured, had I lost all of my stamina, would running even be fun again? I started to psyche myself out of running.  “Oh, I’ll go tomorrow….”  “Next week looks good.” “If I get new running shoes, I’ll be motivated!” “Monday, I’ll start running on Monday.”  Sound familiar?  Yeah, that was what I kept telling myself.  I even signed up for an 8K race – yet nothing.  No rubber met the road.

So what worked? How did I get back on the running wagon?  Well, deciding to run a marathon and to run it for a really good cause was the main motivation.  An 8K I can run without much training and not get injured, but there is no way I could just “run” a marathon one day.  This requires effort.   Secondly, running to support soldiers and their families, running for those who are learning to walk again on prosthetic legs, is a whole new level of inspiration.  Third, finding running partners.  I was really fortunate to have found a fellow Team Fisher House runner.  I realized when I was running with her at 0700 this morning that being able to chat with someone while running makes the 6 miles feel like 2.  A training partner – even if you only train together twice a month – is key!

You will motivate each other when you are not training together and need to stay on track with mileage so you can keep-up for the next run!  My advice to you?  Go out and run with someone.  I did not know or meet my running partner until this morning and it was fantastic.  Use “Meet-ups,” running groups, facebook, race teams, a stranger stretching in the parking lot with a ridiculous yellow jacket.  Runners for the most part want to help and encourage other runners.  Ask if you can join them, even if for a mile or two – you’ll be happy you did.

Happy running!

Caribou Out.

Rain vs. Bike

**UPDATE:  Apparently I did something right as it drizzled at best – but read-on as these are the tricks I have used in the past**

Sigh. What every biker hates to hear from…a 70% chance of rain during your commute.  Its one thing to go for a ride in the rain, but quite another when you have a suit, heels, and your lunch in your bag.  As I’ve said, I use light-weight (REI) backpack to haul my work-clothes and if needed an extra layer for work.  I also have not seen any water proof bags that look worthwhile, some definitely will seal out that water, but are uncomfortable, small, and really pricey!  Working with what I already own, I have managed to keep my suits and shoes bone dry, and even my own bones!

Dilemma:  Its raining…and chilly (40-50 F).  I cannot play hookie.

Solution:  Plastic and GoreTex.  Line your backpack, panniers, fanny pack etc. with plastic bags.  If its cold or chilly, GoreTex or eVent fabric is your friend. First things first, if I get wet – no biggie – God gave us terry cloth for a reason.  Keeping your things dry is the bigger concern – thats where the bags come in.

Clothing:  If it is really cold or really pouring out – I highly recommend rain pants and jacket.  Cold and wet is never good – even if you will sweat a bit more.  The sweat can be more easily avoided by dressing much cooler than you would otherwise dress.  For your hands, you *could* spend a lot of money for pricey gloves that claim to be waterproof, but really aren’t….or you could use one of two options.  Deal with wet hands, or buy dishwashing gloves.  Yes, dishwashing gloves.  Its not high-tech nor “cool” but inexpensive and quite effective.

The Gear and Details:

  • Carrying your stuff:  No need to get some pricey-gear specific water-proof something or other, you need a good plastic bag.  A kitchen garbage bag works well, or if you want to recycle those grocery bags, you’ll need to double or triple wrap your things.  You can either line your bag of choice, whether it be a pannier or backpack with a large plastic bag, or bind your belongings in small bags.  If you are obsessive, liner bag + small bags = guaranteed dryness.  Caveat – you need to fold over the lip/closure of your bags to make sure that rain won’t go into the opening.  Roll, fold, whatever you need to do on the liner bag, on small ones, I like to place them “bum” up to keep the rain away.
  • Tops:  Here I definitely recommend a GoreTex or eVent jacket – pit zips preferred on GoreTex.  You’ll want something lighter weight and may only need a t-shirt underneath, even if it is just above freezing.  The one downside with GoreTex is it doesn’t really breathe, that is where eVent technology comes in – eVent is pretty water proof but also decently breathable.  Here is where I do recommend buying something more “gear” specific.  I love my GoreTex jackets (like Mountain Hardwear and Arcteryx) but I wouldn’t trade my eVent jacket for anything – and I’m glad I have both.  I’ve only used the linked eVent jacket so I cannot speak for the other eVent jackets/designs.
  • Bottoms:   I use Marmot’s PreCip rain pants.  The benefit of these pants is they fully open on the sides so if you adjust to your needs/heat level – although you’ll get a little wet if they are open on the hips.  The PreCip’s are also great for skiing and hiking.  If its not pouring out and cold and you don’t mind getting wet – just wear your leggings, shorts, capris.  You’ll be fine.  I find cold, wet legs are far more tolerable than arms and core.
  • Hands:  If its above 40, I’d wear biking gloves and suck it up getting wet, but I wouldn’t go without a glove, the fabric will still protect you from the wind and asphalt.  If its colder and pouring rain, dishwashing gloves.  Just make sure the end of the glove is under your jacket to seal out rain.
  • Feet:  Well, I think this may be a suck it up area or decide you are going to buy those bike specific booties.  Personally, I have just sucked it up and put dry socks in my bag.

Ride safe and happy trails!

Caribou out.

24 Degrees and Biking

Post One:  The Inspiration.

First things first, my commute is approximately 7 miles one-way with some minor ups and downs.  Second, my goal is not to arrive at work drenched in sweat as the hot water isn’t so hot.  Third, I bike with a pack on back, its light, but its there.

Dilemma:  It is officially cold outside.  February aka Winter have finally hit the city.  What does the car-free dieter do with these freezing temperatures?  If you guessed master the art of layering, you have won a gold star!  If you are an aspiring bike commuter, like cycling but not the cold, and don’t like spending money for new gear (as much as we all love new gear)…you should read on.

Solution:  It was 24 degrees at 0415 when I left my house, expecting to freeze I layered up.  My legs were covered (in order) light-weight wool capri-length long johns, knee-high ski socks, and my running fall tights.  I don’t own heavy running tights because it never gets that cold in D.C.  On top, sports bra, medium-weight wicking long sleeve shirt, wicking t-shirt, the sleeves from my REI primaloft jacket (but not the vest portion), and my lightweight reflective jacket.  The paws had biking gloves with ski mitts over.  A buff doubled over on my ears and Smart-wool gater on my neck.

Ups:  My hands were toasty hot. I mean they sweated a little.  I have Raynauds aka horrid circulation and my fingers turn white and numb quickly when cold. Hot hands are a blessing.

Downs:  My core was warm! I was expecting to be a little chilly on the commute, but nope. I was warm…dare I say, hot?

Lessons Learned:  I could have done without the t-shirt, and possibly without the sleeves.  Leg layering was a perfect ten as were all the digits!  Gaiter and buff kept me warm and protected.

Summary:  A great commute that was warmer than anticipated.  The great thing with layering is when its 34 degrees for your commute home you simply don’t wear the long-johns, t-shirt, sleeves, and open the reflective jacket a little bit.

Details:  I am a huge fan of REI. I could blog all day about them, but I won’t…yet.

  1. Jacket with removable sleeves and/or hood:  This is an essential for any cold-weather adventurer.  Primaloft aka synthetic down, is durable, keeps you warm when wet, and is a good price alternative to down.  I love this jacket because you can remove the sleeves and have a great vest.  Or, as I learned, wear the sleeves without the vest to keep your arms cold when biking or running.  Yes it sounds odd, but trust me it works.
  2. Running Tights – Use what you have rather than buy 3 kinds of running tights:  My running tights have a sheer spot behind the knee, great for keeping me cool in the 40’s and 50’s, but not so great for freezing weather. Solution? pair them with light-weight wool long-johns, or actual tights.  Personally, wool just keeps me warmer/cooler than silk or synthetic. Do what works best for you. If it was below 0, I would have worn mid-weight full length long-johns.
  3. Ski-socks:  Wool again is ideal for the wicking.  I am using socks that no longer work for skiing, they are just too old to keep my toes warm for 8+ hours, but now have a new lease on life.
  4. Gloves:  Again, ski mitts that were going into retirement as technology got better and I got new ski mitts.  Mine are DaKine, insulated, and fit over my full-finger biking gloves.  25-40 degrees I use ski mitts or gloves, over 40 I can typically get away with my bike gloves, but occasionally my hands will go numb.  I’m guessing 0-25 the dual glove will do wonders.
  5. Reflective Jacket:  I will look up the name of this thing, it is awesome as the ENTIRE jacket is reflective and its not obnoxiously yellow.  Actually its a nice blue although with a somewhat 80s retro feel to it.  It is very light weight and has some wind-breaking power.  When its in the 60s I sweat wearing this half-way open and a t-shirt.  It is a great running jacket too. Since I commute when its dark, reflection and safety are my priorities.
  6. Eye-Pro:  Since its really cold, its dark, and in the evenings there are headlights to deal with, I bike with plastic yellow-lenses.  You can buy range/shooting lenses that come in oranges, yellows, and clear.  I’m sure cycle shops have something similar.  The yellow makes it easy to see in the dark while still muting a little bit of those harsh headlights.  If you don’t deal with headlights you could go with clear, but having some eye pro is nice and helps eliminate the “damn its cold” eye tears.

Happy Trails and ride safe!

Caribou out.