Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Seeking Solace

It’s been a long and lonely 7 months since Jaymie got on a plane and flew to the opposite side of the world. This intermission in our lives has been longer than those before by at least 3 months. It’s difficult when such a huge part of your small family is misplaced for such a large amount of time, to a dangerous place, with minimal contact. Actually, we’re lucky to live in the age of technology where instantaneous email replaces weeks-long snail mail and online chat is possible provided we’re both actually awake and at a computer at the same time. But all the electronic interaction in the world can never replace the value to quality togetherness.
The past 7 months have been quite the experience for me. For starters, it’s the longest I’ve ever lived alone. In college I always had at least one roommate and my officer training at Ft. Lee only lasted three months.  Sadly (and amusingly), I spent the first few weeks struggling to fall asleep at night worrying about whether or not I’d locked all the windows and doors, my mind turning every little noise in the house into the possible footsteps and rummaging of a home intruder. I’ve had to grocery shop and cook for just one person, which is surprisingly hard to do. Everything is sold in such large packaging and most recipes make at least four servings instead of one or two. Never mind the fact that I really can’t cook in the first place. I’ve had a lot of mac and cheese and instant potato nights.
When the brigade left, so did most of my friends. Out of the kindness of their hearts, a roommate from college and her boyfriend, who are also stationed up here, have taken me into their home countless times, “forcing” me to eat their delicious cooking and giving me a couch to sleep on after that extra beer. But largely, I’ve had to make new friends in order to fill the void and gain companionship to avoid going completely bonkers from loneliness. As an introvert, making new friends isn’t easy for me, but I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people who make it so easy for me to feel comfortable and welcome.
Mostly I’ve found solace in the outdoors, mostly in the form of running. The outdoors have been a place of relief for me for several years now but I’ve found myself stepping out of the confines of my home a lot more lately. One of my biggest personal challenges is the fact that I tend to not be as intrinsically motivated as I sometimes wish I was. It takes a lot of internal persuasion for me to get myself outside on days when it’s cold and raining (so far this summer, that’s practically every day) or when I’m tired or frustrated with work (also practically every day). The aforementioned friends have helped me a lot in this regard as well, but not having energetic and enthusiastic Jaymie around every day to drag my butt on some adventure which I inevitably have fun on every single time  has taken some adjusting.
As I mentioned, most of my outings have been in the form of running. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve been “training”. To me, the concept of training seems too restrictive; a series of workouts that you have to do all culminating in one goal race and then you’re “done”. Instead, I decide each day what I, and my body, feel like doing, usually with a rough idea of what I’d like my mileage for the week to be, just to keep myself somewhat on track for my more concrete goals.
Running is not definite for me. Although there are certain goals I do have that will likely be transformative and life-changing, there is not one capstone running event that will define my time as a runner. To me, running is an evolving process of discovering who I am and what I am capable of doing. The goals are always different. Sometimes, it’s going out for three miles just to show myself that I can overcome the desire to just stay home and sit on the couch. Sometimes, it’s going out without knowing, or caring, how far I’ll go, just to explore and reconnect with the earth.
This weekend, I’ll be toeing the (most likely non-existent) starting line of the Resurrection Pass 50. If I complete this race, it will be my first successfully completed ultra-marathon event. I’m nervous and excited. 38 of the 50 miles run through a pass in the mountains and all of those miles will be self-supported. I have to carry all my gear with me and the majority of my fretting has been over what food and clothing to carry. The weather forecast is steadily improving and I have some wonderful friends helping me out with before and after logistics (thanks Lucy and Pete!) so things are falling together nicely. My job now is to rest up, eat right, and put one foot in front of the other for 9-11 hours.
In a way, this race feels like somewhat of a culmination of a journey. Of course it’s not the end; there are races scheduled and adventures to be had. But all the miles that I have spent seeking solace in a time with the ups and downs of life without Jaymie will now help me (or not) to achieve a goal. I’m loath to admit that some good has come out of the past 7 months, but there are pros and cons to every situation.
The way I see it, the remaining time apart is all downhill from here. When Jaymie gets home, our little family of three will hit the ground running with adventures and life will be good. The outlook for our future Army assignments is dismal but as it stands now, we have three months of time together to enjoy life and you can bet your bottom dollar we fully intend to do so.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Thank You!!

My dear friends, if you haven't heard by now, I've been asked by Jill at Geargals.com to be a columnist on her site. I'm super stoked about this opportunity because Jill's site is focused on, among other things, empowering women to get outdoors and try new things. It’s also a pretty popular site which hopefully means that my writing will have a lot of visibility. This is a wonderful opportunity to write for such an awesome site and hopefully advance as a writer.

I will still be maintaining my blog, though now my attention will be divided between writing for two sites. I still have plenty that I want to write about that I think would be more appropriate for my personal blog. But I will post updates when I’ve written for geargals.com in the case that you’d like to continue following me over there.

Jill will be launching a new site design in the next few weeks, but for now my blog on the site is a little tough to find. When you go to geargals.com, hover your cursor over the “blogs” link on the top menu bar. In the drop down menu, hover over “The Geargals” and click on “Morgan’s Blog”.

Jill interviewed a woman in Belize whom she rented a motor bike from while she was vacationing there. The woman, Emma, said that her business came about because she “just sort of let things happen”. She said that “life just happens… if you just allow it to happen instead of trying to control it”. I feel like this opportunity is very close to Emma’s ideal that life just happens. I did put time into establishing my own blog and networking with someone who writes for a living, but for the most part, things fell nicely into place and “just happened”.  

I owe you all a HUGE thanks for your encouragement and support of my blog and my writing. At the end of the day, I write because I love it. I don’t know where these new opportunities will take me but I will always have this blog to come home to. So, Thank You!

Friday, March 30, 2012

We're from Venus and We're Taking Over


“Madam, I apologize for addressing you and [sic] Sir.  Please accept apology.

Isaiah”

It’s an email I’ve gotten numerous times in my six years of military correspondence. In the Army, we’re identified by our rank, instead of Mr. or Mrs., and it can be confusing since Morgan is a unisex name which, in my experience, trends toward male. This email came after several in which he’d addressed me as “Sir” and I’m not really sure how he found out I am a she. I didn’t correct him. I stopped doing so, and stopped getting frustrated with the mistake, years ago. Instead, I just laughed and accepted his apology.

In college, I wrote a paper on Lt. Gen. Ann Dunwoody. General Dunwoody was the first woman to make the rank of brigadier general (the lowest of the four general ranks- a “one-star”) in the army. In her autobiography, she talks about her early army days and how, as a junior officer, she spent a lot of time chasing jobs that would advance her career. In response to this, most of her (male) superiors basically told her that a pretty woman’s only place in the army was to decorate the office. In 2008, Gen. Dunwoody became the first female four-star general. She showed them.

Gen. Dunwoody was commissioned in 1975. The army has come a long way since then, but as a woman in a male-dominated business, I know first-hand that there is still much work to be done.  When I showed up for my first day of cadet basic training at West Point in the summer of 2006, I was issued equipment that looked like it’d been around since Vietnam. The frame of the ruck was too big for me, so I could never get the lumbar pad to sit anywhere but right on my ass and the hooks that attached the suspenders to the weapons belt (worn underneath the ruck) caused chronic bruising on my back.

When we went on ruck marches, my 5’5”, 118lb self was expected carry as much weight as, and keep up with, all the guys. That’s exactly how I think it should be. However, I always considered myself a lot tougher than them since, when walking next to the 6+ feet tall dudes (whose rucks fit properly) I usually had to take five steps to their one to keep the pace. Eventually I took to jogging, since it was much less painful than walking. While every guy in my platoon walked the 13 mile march, I ran it. Whatever it takes, right?

During my junior year, we were lucky enough to receive new, “improved” gear. I anticipated this new equipment because I assumed that it would be more female-friendly (ie. could be modified to fit a smaller frame). I was disappointed to see that the rucksack frames were only bigger and frustrated to learn that not only had they not ordered any extra-small ballistic vests, but they’d run out of smalls, so I’d have to deal with a medium. The 175lb dude behind me also got a medium, and his fit him. If you’ve ever low-crawled through mud wearing your entire kit you’ll know that a too-big vest snags on EVERYTHING and becomes a major obstacle. Proper fit is crucial.

And the uniforms. Oh, the uniforms. I don’t know who was put in charge of designing them, but they must not have ever seen or “interacted” with a woman because they don’t seem to know that our anatomy is different. We come with hips and boobs. For me, the boobs thing isn’t an issue, but the hips thing is. The regular ACUs work well enough but we have special pants for the wintertime in Alaska which are straight cut down the sides. They come with Velcro attachments and zippers on the sides at the waist and ankles so they can be taken off with boots on.  If I wear my appropriate size, I have to Velcro the waistband, then unzip them slightly around the hips so my ass doesn’t look like it’s stuffed into a sausage casing. The next size up just falls off unless I cinch them down with a belt so there’s a foot of extra fabric bunched up around my waist.

And the dress uniforms? Oh, those make me so mad I won’t even go there. All I have to say is, I don’t even plan on wearing grandma-pants that come up to my rib cage when I’m 80. Why would I want to wear them now? And why would anyone think that looks professional?

Barriers are opening up for women. Technically, we’re not allowed to be in combat but it happens all the time. Military Police conduct regular patrols on streets and in cities, female soldiers included. Female Engagement Teams travel with infantry units into towns to interact with the local women and collect information. Transportation personnel, like me, conduct convoys between bases to deliver food and supplies. The army has come a long way and I only see things continuing to progress.

But it’s still tough. The ones of us who care about bolstering our image as tough, capable women work our butts off to be seen as equals in the men’s eyes. Unfortunately, all it takes is one lazy, weak female who manages to squeak by to ruin it for everyone. It’s happened to me and it’s frustrating as all hell. My hard work has paid off before though. While in Airborne school last fall, we had a crusty old Marine Corps major in our platoon who I respected because of his quiet but demanding presence. He was someone you innately hoped would approve of you.

During the final week of the course, we had to run to and from the airstrip from our barracks. The girl next to me could not run for the life of her. She’d drop back and begin to walk, which threw the whole formation out of whack. So I started pushing her. I did it going down the hill and going up. I didn’t want to help her, but this girl was going to pass the class because daddy was a colonel, so I simply tried to minimize how many people saw her fall out of every run and then watch her graduate (several soldiers, including men, were dropped from the course for falling out of the runs). At the end of the course, the major pulled me to the side and paid me some of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten from a person of his stature. The Marines are a die-hard group and here was a guy who’d been one for a long time complimenting me on representing myself and female army officers well. It was a proud moment.

The male-bias shows up in my outdoor recreations pursuits as well, although for the most part it’s not as bad and I’ve met many men, including my husband, who don’t really care how long it takes me to get up the mountain as long as I’m out there doing what I love and having fun. It’s not to say that I take my time. I still do what I can to not slow the group down, and to carry my weight, and I do an internal fist pump every time I skin or hike past a guy on the mountain. I’ve met a lot of tough guys out there, but I’ve also met a lot of hard-core chicks who could kick most guys’ asses.

My hope is that women will continue to make headway in male-dominated ventures and will continue to have more and more opportunities open to them. Technologies are starting to improve for us, putting us right in the ball-game with the men. We’re keeping up with them and we don’t intend on quitting any time soon. So guys, next time you see me coming up hot on your heels and decide to speed up so I don’t pass you, don’t bother. I want it more than you do.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Simple Things

Friends, life is busy. We get bogged down with things like work and taking the kids to soccer (or doggie daycare in my case) and standing in line for five days for Hunger Games tickets. It’s important that we slow down and take a moment to appreciate the simpler things in life.

For instance: I just bought a brand-spanking-new Thule cargo box for my car and I paid exactly $21.50 for it. Awesome, right? I used my REI dividend and 20% coupon and Bam! Cargo box purchased for less than it costs to buy a gallon of gas! For those of you not familiar, the REI dividend is a 10% return you get on all the purchases you made in the previous year. I consider it free money. It doesn’t matter that my cargo box was basically free because we spent over four-thousand dollars at REI last year. Minor details.

Back to the box. I am so stinkin’ excited. About a cargo box. But hey, it’s the simple things, right? I can’t wait to slap that sucker on the car and fill it up with stuff. All kinds of stuff. Once it’s full of stuff I’m going to take it for a drive around Anchorage so people can admire how beautiful my new box is and so my box can become familiar with its new home town.

Sophie is excited about the box too, she just doesn’t know it. No more stuffing the car full of a weekends worth of camping, skiing, climbing, and soap-making gear for two people and forcing her to decide between sitting on the 1/16 of the seat that’s still exposed or on the skis. She usually chooses the skis. The reasoning behind this is completely beyond me.

I’ll invite all my friends over to see my box. No, you can’t come in my house because it’s a mess, but you can stand outside for hours admiring my box. I’ll sit in my warm living room, look out the window, and admire you admiring my box.

Or I’ll just come to your house so you can see my box. I’ll drive up and honk the horn so you know I’m there. I’ll honk it several times, just to make sure you know I’m there. I’ll be sure to come at the most convenient time, like right when you sit down for dinner. Or just as you’ve put the kids to bed. HONK! Except that I don’t have any friends with kids so that wouldn’t really work. Hey! Any of you reading this that have kids! Want to be my friend?!

Also I can’t wait to cover it in stickers. I have a Nalgene bottle that I’ve decorated with tons of stickers that I get from gear companies and stores.  It’s my most favorite. My box will be like a really big Nalgene! And I can get WAY more stickers on it. I can go to a gear store, buy stuff, put the stuff in the box, and then slap the store’s sticker on the outside. You know, the one they give you free as a thank you for giving them your whole paycheck.

I’m looking forward to my life together with my box. It’s going to be a beautiful relationship.


Disclaimer: I have a confession. The title of this post may be a tad misleading. I didn’t write it to remind you to appreciate the simpler things in life. I wrote it so I could tell you all about my box.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Cheechako's Guide to Alaska

Last Thanksgiving marked my one year anniversary of living in Alaska. There’s a lot to learn about Alaska and the learning curve is pretty steep. I’d visited several times the year prior, but really you don’t learn the essential lessons unless you’re here full time. This is all well and good for me, but what about those who come to visit Alaska and don’t have the time to hone their Alaska-surviving skills? As awesome as this place is, it’s not really practical to just up and move here on a whim and, quite frankly, I think there are enough people here already. I’m sure that’s what they said before I got here, too.

With this in mind, from one beginner to another, I’d like to impart a few facts I’ve learned about Alaska that will benefit you should you choose to visit in the future.

Moose- It’s the state animal, and for good reason. They’re everywhere. The other day I drove past one standing on the sidewalk on 36th Ave chomping on a tree in front of a bank. Just like that. When it comes to crossing the highway, a moose is like a honey badger: it just don’t give a shit. They’ll go when they’re ready and you better be, too. You DO NOT want to run into these suckers. If you’re going fast enough, you can drive your car right under their long legs and end up with 1,000 lbs of moose body on your windshield. Imagine your head hitting a brick wall at 65 MPH with nothing but a pane of glass in between. Not a good day.

And for the love of Pete, DO NOT try to pet a wild moose like this lady. A moose sees you the way you see a fruitfly; small, annoying, and easy to squish. Unfortunately, natural selection was on lunch break when she attempted this stunt. She got lucky.

Bonus hint: Moose poop is like crack for dogs. At least for mine. I can hardly pull her away.

Other Animals- While we’re on the subject of wild life let’s discuss ravens and bears. If you hear obnoxious squawking or a strange clicking noise that sounds like a creature out of Star Wars, it’s probably a raven. They’re big black rats with wings and they’re annoyingly smart so it’s almost impossible to hit them with your car. I’ve tried. Many times.

Bears, for the most part*, are skittish and will leave you alone. Make lots of noise and don’t come between mamma and baby and you should be fine. Bear spray is advisable but know how to use it. You do not want to be on the receiving end of that stuff.  And for the love of god don’t try to feed them. Or send your kid to pose with one. I wouldn’t say it if it hasn’t happened. I can’t make that sh*t up. Stupidity kills. And it usually kills the bear, because once they're comfortable around humans they're a threat and have to be shot.
*Bears are dangerous, whether they're scared of you or not. Be smart.

Breakup- The season between winter and summer, commonly referred to as spring, is called breakup here in Alaska. During breakup, seven months worth of snow that’s accumulated on the streets and sidewalks, melts. The streets turn to rivers, everyone’s car is the same color (brown), and you fill up washer fluid more than you fill up gas. If you visit during this time you’re going to want a good pair of waterproof boots (see below) and if you plan on frequenting the sidewalks, I’d recommend a rain coat. It’s likely that you’ll be sprayed with cold, muddy water by a car driving by. I witnessed this the other day: Two high school girls in jeans got absolutely drenched by a passing car. Instead of walking faster to get out of the way, they stood there shrieking and got doused AGAIN by another car. Hi-freaking-larious.

In Alaska, the roads are graveled instead of salted in the winter. This is nice since we don’t have to replace our cars every year because they’ve rusted out from seven months of salt. However, during breakup, all the gravel breaks free from its icy prison and wreaks havoc on windshields. Intact windshields are a rarity up here and Alaskans are way too practical (and cheap… or is that just me?) to replace a windshield every time it gets a crack. As a result, you’re likely to see windshields that look like non-stained, stained-glass windows. If you look long enough, you can usually figure out what the picture is supposed to be. (Report back with how long you stared at someone’s windshield before you figured it out)

Subaru- The unofficial state car.

XtraTuffs- The unofficial state shoe. I went to a concert in Hippytown, AK (Girdwood) with my friend Jill and in a crowd of about 100(ish), we counted something like 20 people wearing them. To a concert. And that was just the people on the dance floor. (We also got to watch Frodo get his groove on. He’s pretty cute in real life.)

Microbreweries- Ah, one of my favorite things about Alaska. If you’re a beer connoisseur, this is the place to be. Alaskans take their beer seriously. What else is there to do when its -20F and dark for 23 hours but drink? Even my cheap, Rainier Beer-drinking friend will throw down for whatever microbrew is on tap. And trust me, it’s worth it. If you visit the breweries, you can buy growlers (half-gallon size jugs) of beer to take home with you. Ours occupy the milk and juice spaces in our refrigerator. It’s a fair trade. Raspberry Wheat has raspberry juice in it, so it’s practically the same thing.

Drivers- Watch out. That’s really all I can say. Alaska drivers are horrible. Lane lines are a suggestion, especially in the winter when you can’t really see them anyway. Remember how I mentioned that Alaskans take their beer seriously? All too often, once they’re done being serious, they get in their car and drive home. Again, watch out.

So there’s your Alaska 101. And if you’re still wondering what a Cheechako is from the title of this post, look it up.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Matter of Time

If you've been following me at all, you'll know by now that I'm passionate about several things including running, the outdoors, and my husband. But there's another thing I'm passionate about, that may not be so apparent. That thing is writing. I get the urge to write at the most random times and if I'm lucky enough to be near a computer or piece of paper (and sometimes the notepad on my phone) I'll write down the thoughts in my head. Many times this amounts to just some jots on a page or an incomplete story. Most of the time it amounts to non-fiction; I'm just not creative enough to design an interesting, readable work of fiction.

I like to think of my writing as a diamond in the rough. I think it has potential to be great but it never quite arrives. It needs some polishing. I often question whether or not my grammar is correct and wish I would have kept my Blue Book after college. I spend a lot of time spell checking because, as my 3rd grade teacher made it traumatically clear, I just can't spell. Thankfully modern internet browsers and document programs have simplified the process, but still it takes time. I also spend time making sure that my facts are straight so that I don't look like a blabbering fool by posting something that makes no sense or has no factual backing. These things, I think, are what make a good blogger and a good writer.

Time. It's what I wish I had more of (don't we all) because it's what I think would take my blog and my writing to the next level. You may think that I've neglected my blog for months, but really there's a handful of posts sitting in the Drafts folder because I haven't been able to refine and complete them to my satisfaction. I've come to realize that blogging can be a full time job. Only, developing and advertising your blog to make it lucrative enough to be a full time job requires time that you don't really have if you have a full-time job (and prefer to spend your after-office hours not behind a computer). It's a self-perpetuating problem.

Fear thee not, I have posts pending that I hope to have out soon. You'll read about things I don't understand, my passion for running, and a more personal piece on what I've learned about love since getting married. My eyes will be PRK'ed next week and I'm not exactly sure what that will do to my computer-viewing abilities, but I'm hoping I'll at least be able to see from arms-distance away so I can sit two feet from the computer and type like Frankenstein (or borrow my external keyboard from work... that sounds like a better idea). I'll have a week of convalescent leave so my only excuse will be I just plain can't see (and the piles of clean clothes I STILL haven't folded).

Hold out hope my friends. I will have posts for you to read, criticize, and pretend to like. It's only a matter of time...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gear Review

I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the great gear that I used at my Weymouth Woods race (review below!). As much as I hate to admit it, gear can play a huge role in how well (or poorly) an event goes. These are a few gems that kept me going.

La Sportiva X Country

I did what they say no runner should do. I bought a new pair of running shoes three days before my race with the intent of using them fresh out of the box. I took a gamble and I won with the La Sportiva X Country trail shoes.

My first impression of this shoe when I saw it on display was that it looked fast (which I am not). The flashy yellow with swooshy black designs caught my eye and at this point I'd tried on a hundred other trail shoes so I decided to give it a try.

The image I got in my head immediately upon putting this shoe on was that of Cinderella having the glass slipper (which has always looked more like a high heel than a slipper to me) put on her foot by the Prince. It fit my foot like a glove. I was a bit worried about it being too snug once my feet started to swell and they didn't have the next size up, but removing the foam insole solved that problem (that flimsy piece of foam is only there for asthetics anyway). I still can't get over how comfortable these shoes really are. I want to wear them everywhere!

I was really happy with the flexibility of the sole. I'm a minimalist shoe wearer and finding a trail shoe that meets my personal flexibility standards is hard. Personally, I don't agree with the concept that a stiff sole protects your foot on the trails. They've always just made me roll my ankles on rocks and roots. Having a flexible sole allows your foot to feel the ground and form around the inconsistencies in the ground. That's why I love running trails in my FiveFingers. That's just my personal opinion though. I digress.

I was slightly skeptical of the fact that this is a unisex shoe. Men and women's feet are different. There, I said it. Glad we got that out in the open. That didn't seem to be an issue with this shoe though. And the really cool thing is, there are several varients of this shoe that fit slightly different but still have the same overall concept. The Crosslight 2.0, a women's specific with a more supple heel and stiffer sole, and the unisex Crossover, which had a narrower fit, were two very similar models.

The only (nitpicky) problem I had was the built-in gator over the laces. Its intent is to keep sand and mud off the laces and out of the shoe, which it does well. However, it limits access and visibility of the laces so you just kinda have to trust and feel that you've tightend them uniformly. I did find that when I pulled the ends of the laces things seemed to tighten up pretty evenly on their own though.

At $100 bucks a pop, these kicks are a must have for any minimiaist or near-minimalist trail runner out there.

Hammer Perpetuem, Endurolytes Fizz, and Recoverite

Perpetuem - Endurance FuelI am in love with Hammer Nutrition products. I have found them to be of high quality and extremely effective. Perpetuem is a drink mix designed for multiple-hour events to minimize muscle cannibalization with a balanced mix of carbs, fat, and sugars. It's not too sweet and easy on the stomach, which I really appreciate after several hours on the go. It comes in three flavors: Strawberry-Vanilla (my fav), Orange-Vanilla (like a creamsicle!), and Caffe Latte (with caffeine!). I'm no scientist, so I can't really explain to you how all the different compounds work, but I know that they do. I drink Perpetuem in addition to water and an electrolyte drink and it works every time!!

The Endurolytes Fizz are small tabs that you drop into your water to make an electrolyte drink. These too are gently flavored and not too sweet, yet they deliver a perfect blend of electrolytes to keep you hydrated and moving. They come in several yummy flavors, my favorite of which are mango and peach, and also come unflavored (great after several hours of motion when all you want to eat is nothing). There's no sugar, so they won't goop up your water bottle, which is always a plus. Hammer also makes the Endurolytes in pill form if you prefer that method of delivery.

I use Recoverite at the end of any run lasting more than two hours. While Hammer says to use it after any race or workout or as a meal replacement, I prefer to let a balanced diet heal my body for anything less than a teens or higher mileage run. Recoverite provides a boost of nutrients my body has depleted over a long run, such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.

I'm typically not a suppliment-taking person and I'm often skeptical about most of the stuff out there, but these three products have proven themselves time and again. They have my seal of approval.

Swix Women's Universal Pant
I tend to be a very brand-biased shopper so I was a bit skeptical of trying Swix. Boy, am I glad I did. These pants have kept me comfortable in temperatures ranging from -10F to 45F. I typically wear them over a pair of running tights but they perform just as well on their own. They are designed with a very effective windproof pannel in the front and a breathable pannel in the back which allows for temperature regulation and sweat reduction. The Universal has a super stretchy waistband with adjustable snaps on both sides, as well as full lenght zippers on both legs which makes them extremely easy to get on and off without having to take your shoes off. Since I wear them primarily during the winter in Alaska, I was a bit worried that they'd be too warm for January in North Carolina but my fears were unfounded. This is one of the most versitle and often-used pieces of clothing that I own.

Other gear that I used and LOVED!:
Patagonia Women's Wind Shield Jacket- my first grab for ANY running day, especially the windy ones.
Smartwool Women's PhD Running Ultra Light Micro Socks- no blisters on my toesies!
Buff Headband- In the most psychedelic pattern, baby.
Zensah compression calf sleeves- super comfy, no annoying seams, great support, BRIGHT PINK!
Arc'Teryx Cita 3/4 tights- They're purple. And they make my butt look good. Just saying.