Stranger Danger for Runners: How to Avoid Dangerous Situations

A friend of mine messaged me today that a female runner had been abducted yesterday on a road that she and I ran on during marathon training. A beautiful and bucolic road, it is the perfect road to relax and enjoy a long run. But alas, we do not live in a perfect world, and terrible things can happen. The runner was able to get away thankfully, and I want provide you with useful information to decrease risk for dangerous incidents and what to do if one occurs.

Being an ever-optimistic person, I always try to give folks the benefit of the doubt. It’s very easy to settle into a routine running similar routes at similar times, and forget that unfortunately there are some unsavory characters out there. My father was a police officer and SWAT team member for the City of Portland. He taught me a young age to be mindful of my surroundings. I remember him teaching me self-defense techniques at age 3, and still as an adult he reminds not to put myself in dangerous situations.

Be Mindful of Your Surroundings. This is just as true for your hometown as it is during a vacation in a new town. Often we are most cavalier in our own hometown, making us vulnerable to danger. If you must run with music, keep the volume low enough that you can still hear cars and voices. Be alert for cars slowing near you, and people changing direction on the street to walk behind you. Runners are increasingly vulnerable because prowlers perceive them to be fatigued and occupied, especially with earbuds in. “Watch your six” is a common saying for officers, indicating to know what is happening behind your back.

Run with others. Obviously, there is safety in numbers. A dog counts as a “someone”. If you must run alone, inform someone when you are leaving as to what route you are doing and when you intend to be back. Before I was married I would text a friend or check in with a roommate when I left for a run. That is what friends are for!

Change up your routine. We are not as discreet as we think we are. I see the same man with the same dog running the same route near my house at the same time each day. He is very predictable. Imagine what kind of information an unsavory character can gain by seeing the same swinging ponytail crossing the street at the same predictable time each day. Change up routes, days, and times if you can.

Don’t post your routes on Facebook! Mapmyrun and Runkeeper are awesome apps, and I love the camaraderie that they inspire when people can see your progress and cheer you on. But do not post those maps on Facebook or other social media. Brag about your time or your mileage and post a picture instead.

Carry protection. This will look differently to each person. It may be a phone strapped to your body. A small whistle attached to your keys or in a zipper is also helpful. Do not tie it to your shoe! Most likely there will not be enough time to get it off to use it. Bear spray and mace are a very good option. They need to be accessible and in working condition to be effective. Familiarize yourself with where the spray nozzle and the release button are. Other more assertive devices may be considered as well. A key strategically placed between your fingers in a clenched fist works well too.

Act like you own the place. Run with your head up, and presume confidence. If you are walking, walk with purpose and a little bit of swagger. When strangers come near, look them in the eye. Looking at them closely serves two purposes: 1) Perpetrators do not want you to know what they look like. They do not want you to be able to describe them if you get away. Also, avoiding eye contact portrays timidity, which actually makes you a target. Criminals do not want to work hard. They tend to choose people who look meek, and easy to overcome. Confident people kick hard, and they are not as interested in that. 2) If you do get away, you will be able to convey an accurate description of the person to the police.

Chose busy well lit, populated areas. Especially in the dark, well lit areas are helpful. Unfortunately it does not eliminate risk so please do not be fooled into thinking that you are safe simply because you are in a busy area. There was unfortunate incident in Queens, New York in 1964 in which 38 people witnessed the rape and murder of 28 year old Kitty Genovese. Onlookers when interviewed stated that they each thought that someone else would call the police and take control of the situation. She called for help, and eventually 1 of the 38 witnesses phoned police. Interesting psychology behind this, but lends to the notion that just because you are in a populated area does not necessary make you safer.


Aim to INJURE. Unfortunately it is not enough to simply kick an attacker and stun them. You need to cause them bodily harm in order to give yourself time to get away. Aim to poke eyes, kick shins and genitals. Hit as hard as you can with elbows underneath the chin. If someone has you from behind, try to hit them with the back of your head. Hit and kick as hard as you can.

Yell ANYTHING. There is some speculation that hearing “help”, or “rape” makes people uncomfortable, and more likely to assume someone else will help. There has been rumors that yelling “Fire” is helpful to attract people’s attention and make them call 9-1-1. On the other hand, hearing “FIRE” has been seen to induce action from bystanders but may result in a fire truck coming when you need armed police. There are no concrete statistics as to which cry for help elicits the best response in people. “Let go of me”, “help”, “I’m being attacked”, and high pitched screams are attention grabbing as well.

When you get free, RUN. Enough said.

While paranoia is certainly unhealthy, it is important to maintain awareness. There is a lot of good in this world. There are many beautiful and scenic trails and routes in this world. We can enjoy them without being overshadowed by evil- but let’s be sure that if someone chooses us, we do not let them win.
Make your day great and run safe,

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What are Guar Gum and Xantham Gum?

Those with Celiac Sprue disease or gluten intolerance may have already found themselves pondering the names of common gluten free thickeners found in their pre-made food or gluten free recipes. Xantham Gum, Guar Gum, and Corn Starch are relatively cheap substitutes for flour in everything from pastries to soups and salad dressing.


Let us discuss the differences between Xantham Gum, Guar Gum, and Corn Starch. All three of these ingredients are used as thickening agents, commonly in gluten free recipes to replace gluten itself. Gluten, the springy, large protein molecule commonly found in wheat and other grains lends to that wonderfully moist, chewy quality in bread and the wonderfully full bodied effect in soups and dressings. Thus for the gluten intolerant, we turn to the Gums and corn starches to recreate this effect.

Corn starch is generally cheap and easy to come by, yet many people exhibit sensistivity to corn, and thus experience gastro-intestinal disress similar to the effects of celiac disease and gluten insensitivity. Xantham gum is a similar agent in the polysaccaride family (translated “many sugars”, this agent contains 5 different types of sugars), however it is often derived from common allergen proteins such as corn, wheat, dairy, and soy, it too can lend to gastro-intestinal distress. It has also not been recommended for use in infant products. Additionally, it was linked with respiratory issues in workers exposed to xantham gum dust.

Guar Gum is derived from the guar bean and has almost 8 times the amount of water thickening ability of corn starch. It can be used medicinally to treat constipation and flare ups in diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowl syndrome. It has also been shown to increase calcium absorption in the large colon, which lend to a more efficient storage of the important element. Due to the fact that it is not linked with derivation of common allergens, it is commonly more easily digested, and thus a more attractive choice when considering food thickeners.

Guar gum and Xantham gum are commonly found in the baking section of a health foods or whole foods store. Surprisingly I found both in the “healthy foods corner” of a local thrifty grocer. Corn starch is a more common ingredient and often found in the baking isle of most grocers.

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Brooks Cascadia 8: Trail Shoe Review

IMG_5197 The Brooks Cascadia 8: One Grippy Trail Shoe

Brooks Women’s Cascadia 8 Trail Running Shoes, Color: Aquarius/Hibscs/BearingSea/Blk, Size: 8.0

Last week I shared my review of the fabulous Silver Falls Half Marathon:

I purchased the Brooks Cascadia 8 specifically for this race as the race director had recommended trail shoes. Up until that point, I had gotten by doing trail running on fairly well groomed trails in my Brooks Women’s PureConnect 3 Lightweight Running Shoes, Color: White/Poppy/Midnight, Size: 7.5. But the thought of slipping on wet leaves or injuring myself on roots and rocks was enough to motivate me to buy trail shoes.

Going from the lightweight semi-minimal Brooks PureConnect to the 10 oz moderately high profile Brooks Cascadia 8 felt awkward during my first few training runs. While trying to break the shoes in, I immediately noticed the increased weight of the shoe. My running mechanics changed slightly and I could feel my hamstrings working harder with these changes. This was over-shadowed by the benefits of the shoe the minute I started running fast down a rocky trail. The tread on this shoe is extremely grippy, and forms a stable platform to run on while negotiating uneven trail terrain.

The true test came during the race when the shoes were put through the gauntlet on short spurts of road, steep up and downhill trail, wet rock, mud, roots, rocks of all sizes, and switchback trail. The shoe handled very well. I felt well balanced, and most importantly did not fall.

Research has shown that heavier shoes increase the energy output of the runner. You can learn more about this in my previous post on the benefits of minimalist running and minimalist running shoes:

At the end of the day, we sacrifice some running economy in the way of a heavier shoe in order to get stability on the trail. The Cascadia is an excellent choice for men and women looking to navigate intense terrain.


Make your day great,


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Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Loaf

How do I love pumpkin? Let me count the ways…


Just one more way for me to ingest cinnamon and nutmeg! This recipe is not terribly sweet, and is more bread-like. With faint pumpkin qualities, it makes an excellent breakfast. Check out my previous post on how to make your own gluten and dairy free pumpkin puree:


1 ripe banana

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup maple syrup

1.5 cups almond flour (any gluten free flour will do)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tbs. coconut oil


Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Use a papertowel and spread the 1 tbs. coconut oil  on the bottom and sides of a bread pan.

In a large mixing bowl, blend banana, almond flour, and pumpkin puree. Once this is thoroughly blended, add nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and maple syrup. Pour into the bread pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a fork test provides a clean fork.


Enjoy, and make your day great!


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Acetaminophen and Low Back Pain

A recent study in the medical journal Lancet suggests that the use of acetaminophen for acute low back pain does not decrease recovery time. The study participants were divided into various groups: a regular dose group, an as needed group, and a placebo group. Median recovery time for all three groups were nearly identical.
The researchers conclude that regular dosing or as needed dosing of acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not effect recovery time compared with placebo, and that universal endorsement of the drug should be questioned. 1

Conversely, there is evidence to support the use of physical therapy including manual therapy and specific exercise to treat acute low back pain. 2,3.

1. Williams CM, Maher CG, Latimer J,et al. Efficacy of paracetamol for low back pain: double-blind,randomized control trial. The Lancet.24 July 2014.

2. Hides j, Jull G, Richardson C. Long term effects of specific stabilizing exercises for first episode low back pain. Spine. 2001;26(11)243-248

3. Flynn T, Fritz J, Whitman J. A clinical prediction rule for classifying patients with low back pain who demonstrate short term improvement with spinal manipulation. Spine. 2002;27(24)2835-2843.

Make your day great!

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The 5 Best Gluten Free Cookbooks

I am a sucker for a beautiful cookbook. I love trying new recipes, tweaking them to fit my own allergy and lifestyle needs, and then sharing them with you all. I also love gorgeous food photography. So, here my friends is a little book review of the most wonderful and mouthwatering gluten free cookbooks. Just in time for holiday cooking, and the busiest time for entertaining our friends and family, these are sure to provide you with the perfect dish!


1. Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes:As the title proclaims, this is a delicious gluten free cookbook with a sweet back story of how Gluten Free Girl Shauna James Ahern was courted by professional chef and now husband Daniel Ahern. Chapter titles include “the foods we used to woo each other”, and “Eating through the seasons together”. They include wonderful tips on cooking gluten free that are appropriate for both novice and experienced gluten free cooks; from braising to preventing garlic burn, they have you covered. Be sure to check out  the carrot cake with ginger frosting.

2. The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: Over 300 Delicious Whole Foods Recipes, Including Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, and Egg-Free Dishes: What I love most about this book, is that it thoroughly covers major food allergies. It is written by a nutritionist, and provides a thorough glossary of healthy ingredients, information on how our health is affected by what we eat, disease prevention, and how to shop for healthy ingredients. From smoothies and granola to delicious entree meals, this is a truly all inclusive allergy free cookbook. The mouthwatering “Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls” are my absolute favorite recipe in this book.

3. 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love: This one is a must for families looking to eat unprocessed, whole food. This book is the story of the adorable and highly inspiring Leake family. They took a vow to eat unprocessed whole food for 100 days, and the habit stuck. They have created a dynamic “how to” book complete with recipes and advice on packing easy and manageable children’s lunches. They provide a solid explanation of how to preserve seasonal foods, and while not all the food is gluten free, many of the recipes are intrinsically gluten free.

4. Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime: The talented Daniel Walker has two gluten free cookbooks available. The above title and her paleo installment: Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great. What I appreciate about Daniel is her honest story of illness that lead her to the paleo diet as a method of healing herself. After a very rough bout with autoimmune disease she is radiant and provides delicious allergy free recipes. My favorite recipe is her Chile Verde Chicken Enchiladas, and the food photography in this book is unreal folks.

5. 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes (1,000 Recipes): Author Carol Fenster provides a highly eclectic and unique variety of gluten free recipes. If you are prone to food boredom, and tend to enjoy trying new recipes frequently, this is the book for you. With 1000 recipes available it will take a very long time to cook your way through this book! I am particularly fond of the fact that she provides several Indian and Thai dishes, as these are crowd pleasers in my home. Try the Honey-Glazed Salmon with Pineapple Chutney!

These are my top 5 favorites, what did I miss? Which gluten free cookbooks are you loving these days?

Make your day great!


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Silver Falls Half Marathon: A race review

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then let’s begin with this:


Living in Oregon and willing to travel to run, I have had the privilege of running some beautiful race courses both near and far from my home. I treasure each racing experience, and try to seek out new and spectacular races each year, finding delightful redundancy in my exclamation of how  “gorgeous!”, “amazing!” “etc!” many of these races are. This race, however is truly exceptional. I ran this half-marathon in the rain with two sprained toes and did not want it to ever end.


The Silver Falls Half-Marathon winds through the Silver Falls State Park, just outside of Salem, Oregon. It is predominantly on a trail that runs behind and around several majestic waterfalls, and a serene creek.



The trail runs behind two large waterfalls, with slick footing and low clearance that lends to a sense of adventure.

IMG_5181 This is the trail winding behind the first large waterfall.


And this is the view from behind the first waterfall.

IMG_5169There are large majestic trees

IMG_5162And some bottle-necking on the trail, but only intermittently, and the trail’s beauty distracts from the foot traffic. There are several points during the race that were extremely slick, and footing was unsteady, often causing significant slowing and heavy trail traffic as runners negotiated the terrain, but this is a non-chip timed event, and there is really no hurry. At one point, the trail descended up several (5 or 6) flights of very steep stone stairs. I wore a sturdy pair of Brooks Cascadia Trail runners and I’m extremely glad that I did. The race director sent a set of instructors recommending trail shoes-when a race director comments on foot wear, I listen. As a physical therapist and a human being, it is imperative that I recommend trail shoes for this race. There are several rocky steep ridges, and if you do this race you will need stable and grippy shoes.

IMG_5197Brooks Women’s Cascadia 8 Trail Running Shoes, Color: Aquarius/Hibscs/BearingSea/Blk, Size: 7.5 saved my hide! I’ll do a shoe review on these later, this was my first time breaking in and racing in a pair of trail shoes and I’m very glad that I did. This trail is slick as snot, with wet leaves and slick rocks interspersed throughout the trail.

Here is the second waterfall that we ran behind


And here is what it looks like to run directly behind a waterfall


As I said, this was a truly unique experience. All you can do in a race like this is run around with a big dumb grin on your like the running nerd that you are

IMG_5183Big running nerd, sopping wet.

Which brings me to my next topic: it’s wet. This race is run during the first weekend in November, with the Marathon, Ultra Marathon, and 7 mile race on Saturday, and the Half-Marathon on Sunday. Rain in northern Oregon is de rigueur. It can also be chilly. I wore full length running tights, a long sleeve T-shirt, and a lightweight water resistant running jacket and hat, and felt the Goldilocks running version of “just right”. There were runners in less than that and runners in more, but I highly recommend bringing layers. There is a clothing drop point at mile 3.3 if you feel ready to loose layers at that point, but I did not, and there was a very light sprinkle throughout the race, in addition to the precipitation that splashes on you while running behind the waterfalls.

The final mile of the race is crudely yet appropriately named “Nutcracker Hill”. This might also be renamed “Mud Luge”. It was steep going up, and equally steep coming down, and comprised of a thick wet clay-like mud. But alas, hot stew, local brewed coffee, and micro-brew beer await the finisher. The finisher medal is a unique memento of the truly unique race, and one that will bring a smile to my face when I see it, and remember my morning with the waterfalls.


One happy runner


Some travel ideas if you go:

The state park has both tent and trailer camping available with full electricity bathroom and shower facilities. Camping in Oregon is cool, but you had best be thick skinned and well-tarped to do it in November.

Salem is the state capitol and only a 40 minute drive away. There are several hotels right on the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 22 leading to Silver Falls State Park. My husband and I took the hotel route with our 10 month old, no longer the sturdy camp in the rain folks we once were.

Salem has an excellent selection of food and a very walkable downtown area. If you are a “sushi the night before a race” runner, I recommend Fuji Japanese Restaurant. This amazing traditional sushi fare is exceptional and fairly priced. We ordered takeout and took it back to our hotel room to relax.

This is fast becoming a cult classic race. Last year the site crashed and the race closed in 15 minutes. This year, there were two waves of runners, however the race still closed within a day or two of opening. It is worth it to be waiting at your computer the morning that registration goes live. This is a bucket list race, and one I will never forget.

Take care, and make your day great!


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