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Posts Tagged ‘women’

I got a great birthday package from Sara with an awesome workout gift…and after a month of half-iron training, I could use a little boost! Sara sent me an awesome SweatyBand for my hair. She included a sticky note telling me it would not budge, even on ‘our’ super fine hair. I tried it out while I was on my bike trainer and it really didn’t move. Then I sported the orange, yellow, and red band during a run; again, no slipping at all.

Zoe thinks I'm beautiful in my SweatyBand!

The bands are made of ribbon with a velvet-y backing and elastic that goes under the base of your head for a comfortable fit. I’m going to have to stock up on these, because I love wearing headbands during workouts to keep my hair off my face. Testimonials on the SweatyBands.com website include a girl whose band stayed in place even when she took a helmet on and off! Amazing.

– albledsoe

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One of my favorite non-fiction books of all time is Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, by John and Stasi Eldredge. On the jacket, it reads: “Life is harsh on the heart of a girl.” And I think any woman would agree that that’s true. We’ve all experience heartache, disappointment, insecurity…and if we’re lucky, we are stronger women because of it.

Life IS harsh, but the experiences I had growing up in sports, with coaches and mentors and teammates by my side, helped give me the tools to deal with what life hands me with integrity and grace. Studies have shown that girls involved in sports develop more self-esteem, which in turn helps them make good decisions to prevent such things as teenage pregnancy, drug use, and eating disorders. Involvement also can help with performance in school and promote a healthy self image.

Girls growing up right now have more pressures than ever at increasingly younger ages, so it’s so important they all have role models, friends, and a healthy outlet to develop confidence to face whatever life hands them. Enter Girls on the Run International.

GOTRI is a non-profit program designed to prepare young girls for a 5k (3.1 mile) run while incorporating curriculum that targets mental, emotional, and social aspects of their character as well. With chapters in the U.S. and Canada, the mission of GOTRI is “to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living.” It is a 12-week after-school program that brings in strong female role models and creates a safe environment for girls to learn to be themselves.

We are working to bring a chapter of Girls on the Run to Louisville, and I’m running the Derby Festival miniMarathon (13.1 miles) next year to raise awareness and support of this organization. To make a secure online donation, please visit my fundraising page at: http://www.active.com/donate/SoleMates2010/ABledso17. You can also send me the name of a women or girl in your life you’d like to honor, and I will pay special tribute to her at the race.

As for me, I’ll be running in honor of my mom, Tammy Lee. I’m fully aware that our relationship is special, and I appreciate having her to teach me dignity, grace, hospitality, compassion, and toughness.

– albledsoe

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Running off the Turkey

Actually, the run was before I ate the turkey, but I think it still helped. My running partner Valerie and I met up early on Thanksgiving morning for the Iroquois Hill Runners Thanksgiving Day Run. I like this race because the t-shirts have turkeys on them, hehe. It’s 5 miles, but the first two are straight uphill. Great warm-up!

I’ve always thought of running as therapy because the sweating helps ease stress and frustration and the monotony is conducive to thoughtful prayer and problem solving. And running with a buddy makes it even better because you get to talk about whatever is on your mind. This Thanksgiving run was a great way to get in the holiday mood since Valerie and I discussed family, traditions come and gone, and our favorite dishes.

As we headed into the downhill around mile 3, I also thought about how much I have to be thankful for as I pursue a healthier lifestyle. The people and opportunities that have come into my life make it a fun adventure, and even when my body doesn’t want to cooperate, I appreciate it nonetheless for carrying me through this crazy life!

I’m obviously lucky to have Valerie, the ultimate training buddy. We keep things on our calendar, hold each other accountable during training, and cheer each other on during races. I’m very fortunate to have a great friend and athlete who complements my style perfectly.

Iroquois Hill runners thanksgiving run 2009

Valerie and Amanda at the IHR Thanksgiving Day Run. Action Shot:)

My husband, Adam, is the best support team ever. Even though he thinks I’m insane for taking on some of the things I do, he not only cheers me on throughout training and at races, but he also puts up with my fatigue and crankiness when I’m sore or tired from training. Not to mention my weird eating restrictions and the seemingly crazy stuff I have to spend our money on (Gu? Body Glide?). He was my hero when I was training for the Memphis St. Jude marathon; every week when I came home from my long run, he’d greet me at home with one of my favorite recovery foods (usually thin crust cheese pizza or homemade guacamole).

Speaking of the marathon, I’m very thankful that I am a marathon finisher. It’s one of those things that I’ll always have, and can always think back on when things get tough. I mean, I made it through that, as painful as it was both physically and mentally, so I know that now I can handle just about anything.

I’m thankful, especially at a cool, damp November morning race, for great running and fitness innovations like disposable hand warmers and sweat-wicking ear covers. Genius!

Of course, I’m very blessed to have the greatest blog partner on the planet in Sara. Her smart, funny posts make me laugh, I admire her work ethic and creativity, and I appreciate her support in life in general. We’ve been great friends for years, and it’s fun to have this new adventure to share, too!

Mostly, I’m just thankful that I have the ability and desire to push myself. Our bodies are fragile and not everyone gets to use theirs fully, so if we’re blessed with good health we should fight to maintain it. I love feeling strong, feeling like I have some power over something. For that, I give thanks.

– albledsoe

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St. Louis Run for Congo Women

Women for Women International display.

This summer I decided to get back into running shape and tackle an organized race again. I already had the race in mind that I wanted to complete, the St. Louis Run for Congo Women. Run for Congo Women is a fundraising run that benefits the Women for Women International (WFWI) Congo program. Run for Congo Women started with just one woman, Lisa Shannon, running a 30.16 trail run in Portland, Oregon. She raised and astonishing $30,000 in a single run to help rebuild the lives of Congolese women.

Two years ago I ran/walked the 7K St. Louis Run for Congo Women, so I was anxious to get back on the trails and see how the event had grown. The first Run for Congo Women I participated in was nothing more than one registration table and a limited staff of about 5 volunteers directing race participants to the trail. There were only a few volunteers, but they took the time to talk one on one with the race participants about the the fundraising leg of the Congo Run, Women for Women International. WFWI provides these women with financial and emotional aid, job-skills training and small business assistance so they can rebuild their lives. Even though it was a small race in 2007, the energy and support showcased for the cause being supported was very humbling and stuck with me for the next two years.

St. Louis Run for Congo Women

The race site before we began the run.

The morning of the race was cool (about 40 degrees), dry and sunny; a beautiful day for racing. What a difference two years had made for this fundraising run. The single registration table had multiplied, and now there were at least 5 different booths set up for registration and information about WFWI sponsorship. Before the run began, a woman from the Congo spoke about how appreciative she was that so many participants came together to run and show their support for the millions of women in the Congo who need help rebuilding their lives. Her testimony was very emotional as she spoke about the tragic circumstances so many women are dealing with in the Congo.

Before I knew it, it was time to start the run. The trail was wooded and hilly which took us around the perimeter of the park. The runners quickly thinned out after the first half mile as everyone hit their pace. The quiet morning run gave me a lot of time to think about why I was running, and how lucky I was to live a life filled with so many things I often take for granted. As I ran, I thought about the innocent women and children who were facing brutal torture and rape on a daily basis. I thought of the women who have nothing, but still continue to take in orphaned children and bravely face each new day that will certainly be worse than the last. I’m taken aback by the adversity these women face everyday, yet they continue to have an unbreakable spirit that sustains them. These women deserve a voice. They deserve the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

St. Louis Run for Congo Women

Congolese women singing after the race.

I was so proud to be able to run that morning, knowing that the funds raised would help to support women and children who needed basic human rights like medical attention, food and schooling. As I crossed the finish line of that race, it was a bittersweet moment. I knew our efforts of the day were an accomplishment, but I couldn’t help but think about how much more still needs to be done. My somber mood was quickly shifted as I made my way over to the site of the event. Congolese women were singing and celebrating. The excitement about raising money and awareness for WFWI was everywhere. While we haven’t ended their suffering completely, we did do our part that day. Step by step we can make a difference in this world.

Sara at the 2009 Congo Run in St. Louis

Just after I crossed the finish line.

My plans for next year include more than just running one day for these women. I want to volunteer and help the race in St. Louis continue to grow. Do you have a Congo Run in your area? Will you be running for the women of the Congo in 2010?

-Sara

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Once we retrieved Valerie’s missing tire from the offending team and reassembled her bike, we were ready to set out for checkpoint (CP) No. 1 of the NSAAR! Rough start aside, we were still pretty excited and anxious to make up the lost time. The first bike leg took us out of Jameson Camp and through several neighborhoods, then down to a mall.

Some of the CPs were manned, and the staffer or volunteer would initial or punch our “passport” sheet. Others would be unmanned, but we’d have to answer a question from our clue sheet to prove we were there. Things like: Is the sidewalk on the N, S, E, or W of the intersection of such-and-such streets? How many light poles are between this street and this street? One of the clues really threw us off, because it gave us an intersection to locate and asked us to give the name of the company on the large blue sign at the NW corner of the intersection. Well, there was a solitary giant GREEN Prologis sign at that corner. We looked around, double-checked the compass, checked further down the street, and scratched our heads for several minutes (several other teams came along meanwhile doing the same). We finally determined it was a trick question, and our official answer for that CP was: No Blue Sign.

As a team, the Smarty Panties finally figured out how to coordinate three women on bicycles with a clue sheet, maps, compass, and passport/pen between us. It took some trial and error (and trust among partners!), but we finally settled in to a comfortable system just in time to jump into a canoe and right out of our comfort zone!

Valerie checks her gear at the transition area

Valerie checks her gear at the transition area

Gear was an issue the entire day, though I think we did exceptionally well for complete newcomers. Leaving our bikes on a creek bank and getting into the canoe was interesting; I think we’d been expecting these types of transitions to happen in the transition area (right?). That wasn’t the case. You pretty much keep all your crap with you all the time (backpack, helmet, shoes, food, pocketknife, duct tape, etc.). Getting into the canoe, our biggest concern was our backpacks. There was already water in the bottom of the canoe, and we didn’t want everything soaked. I wore my pack, and was able to keep Valerie and Marcia’s packs on my feet since I was in the middle. Valerie took the front position and Marcia steered from the back.

All of the Smarty Panties had some canoe experience, but these canoes and the creek we were in still proved to be the most difficult event of the day. We assumed it would be a chance to relax, eat and drink, review maps/clues, and gather ourselves for the next portion of the race. That assumption is pretty hilarious in hindsight, because we spent the entire time in the canoe (which was wobbly, yellow, and plastic, much like a Fisher Price toddler toy) stressed and frazzled, trying not to tip over and carrying the thing through areas that were too shallow to paddle through. We were one of the few teams that managed to not end up tipping, which helped us have a better rest of the day.

We had a small orienteering course in another park at the end of the canoe debacle, followed by a LONG walk back to our bikes. This trek included some bushwhacking, but I think we probably could have avoided that. Oh well, we felt very adventurous hiking through the weeds, and finally did make it back to the bikes (we even went over/under a chain link fence…quite Rambo of us, huh?).

Team Smarty Panties: Valerie, Amanda, Marcia

Team Smarty Panties: Valerie, Amanda, Marcia

The last bike portion was simple now that we’d mastered our system (and safety-pinned the strap of my backpack together after it broke), and we were soon back at the camp, where we received another map outlining a ropes/team-building course and another orienteering course. We completed several of the team-building challenges (one point for each team member that completed it), but the lines were very long, so we decided to tackle as many of the orienteering CPs as possible in the hour or so we had left. [Teams that finished after the 6-hour race deadline were penalized for every minute they were late.]

The weather ended up being perfect most of the day; sunny and clear, but cool enough that we weren’t overheated running around with backpacks and long pants.

We finished about 30 minutes before the deadline, the fourth team to cross the finish line. I was so proud of our team, we came in with no idea what to expect, and when we faced a problem, we made it work. Valerie, Marcia, and I were all happy with our finish, especially that we finished DRY, and are ready to come back next year armed with experience, lessons learned (like the importance of a better backpack), and great attitudes!

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Adventure Race Day! It was very exciting to finally be starting the NSAAR. It was a cold morning–I believe high 30s–but in all the hustle and bustle we stayed pretty warm. My team grabbed a prime spot in the transition area near a tree. Easy to spot, built in bike rack!

An adventure race bike rack

An adventure race bike rack

If you’ve done triathlons, the transition area for an adventure race would crack you up. It’s really just a marked off area where you stake your claim to piece of ground. No bike racks, nothing marked by your number. We had large garbage bags to mark our spots. I was glad we didn’t have to throw our bikes on the ground, but that’s what most teams did, and I guess it wouldn’t have been that big a deal.

We were given the maps and clue sheets one hour before the 8 a.m. start. We immediately began marking out our first few steps. It was a bit confusing, because there were several maps (we were expecting just one). Now we know!

All along, we’d been wondering how the event planners manage to keep everyone from just following each other the whole time. Did you get different clue sheets so you visited checkpoints in a different order? We’d heard from repeat racers that sometimes you start in the canoe, which naturally separates teams, or they’ll do a running challenge to spread out the pack. Ours was a hide-and-seek! The race director announced that one person from each team would take a tire of their bike to be hidden by the race staff. Tricky! Before the race began, they revealed that the tires (which had been marked with tape and the team number) were at “the barn.” So our challenge was to locate the barn on the map, run as a team to retrieve the tire, put it back on the bike and have it inspected by race staff, and THEN begin the race.

Marcia studies the clue sheet before the race

Marcia studies the clue sheet before the race

Team Smarty Panties made it to the barn pretty quickly, especially Marcia, who is tall, leggy, and pretty quick. All three of us had laid eyes on every tire there, and none was ours. Um? We had to wait until every single team had retrieved their tires and only one was left, and we finally realized another team had grabbed our tire instead of their own. So we immediately began the race in last place, and a little wary of how the rest of the day would go…

– albledsoe

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After about two months of training, team meetings, and gathering supplies, the day of my first adventure race was here. Although we had very little idea of what to expect (despite our best attempts to weasel information out of the race coordinators via e-mail), my Smarty Panties teammates and I practiced our mountain biking and orienteering and prepared as best we could to take on a brand new challenge. We were only slightly concerned about what exactly bushwhacking is, and what we might need precisely 3 yards of duct tape for.

The No Skirts Allowed Adventure Race (NSAAR) is held outside Indianapolis and is for women only. This was the third year for the event, and it doubled in size from 2008. The 2010 race is already scheduled for October 9 “somewhere northeast of Indy,” so check it out if you’re interested.

Departing Louisville for NSAAR

Departing Louisville for NSAAR

We arrived at Jameson Camp on Friday night in the pouring rain, and checked into some pretty nice cabins (I grabbed a top bunk, as always), and then headed to the nicest campground lodge I’ve ever seen for registration and meetings. As the women congregated, the buzz and excitement grew, and I almost forgot I’d been sick all week. The event staff remained quite adept at dodging our questions and left us clueless about any details of the race. We did have a required ropes clinic, where we learned fun tidbits like “if you see red (on the harness buckle), you’re dead.” The group was amazingly attentive during that session…

My Smarty Panties team of Marcia and Valerie were joined in the cabin by four other ladies from Louisville, most of whom know Marcia and her husband through their Rogue Racing Project. More on that (very cool) topic another day. We were all bunked in the same room, and spent the night trying to set out all our supplies and make sure each individual and each team had all the required gear. Luckily, everything worked out and we were all good to go with few complications. Bags were packed for the following day, clothes were set out, food and water were gathered, and we settled into our bunks.

NOTE: Trying to figure out the concept of 3 yards of duct tape and how that would work? Some smart gal figured out to wrap it around a water bottle!

None of the seven of us had any adventure racing experience, so there was a lot of unknown. Luckily, the forecast was clear for Saturday, and we were prepared to have fun, learn some new things, and, if all went well, spend as little time bushwhacking as possible!

– albledsoe

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