Life’s Simple Pleasures

It is so easy to rush through life, making lists, checking off our accomplishments, cramming as much in as we possibly can.  But it’s really the little things that are important.  And it means slowing down to savor those experiences.

That’s where grandchildren come in.  I supplied the Easter cut-out cookies, my daughter contributed the brilliant icing colors, and my grandson provided the joy.  Who knew a 22-month-old could spend over an hour dabbing frosting on cookies?  It did me a world of good to shove my perfectionist tendencies aside and embrace his approach to slathering color at will on the fanciful shapes.  Purple duck?  Why not!  Spotted carrots?  Creativity!  Broken cookie?  Samples!  Mixed up frosting?  New colors!

The results were delightful, and I smile every time I open the cookie jar and survey the intense hues before making my selection.  I can’t wait to make Christmas cookies!

Recycling Sports Apparel

I have taken up a new activity – cycling.  That opens up a whole new world of “needs” for workout gear that I’ve never had before, right?  Or does it?  In my efforts to resist the marketing efforts of sportswear gurus and the peer pressure to wear the “right stuff” when I head out on my bike, I have been doing my best to recycle my existing sports clothes.  And I’d say I’m doing quite well!

  • My cross-country ski jackets work beautifully.  No pockets in the back, but they are long in the back, taper higher in front, and are reasonably streamlined.  I have two different weights for varying temperatures and wind.
  • I have a pair of cross-country ski gloves that see little action on the trails because they are just too light.  But they are great for cold weather cycling.
  • Thin wool hiking socks – doubled up they help keep my feet warm on cold rides.
  • Long sleeve running and skiing shirts – they are swell for those cooler days, under my  jacket.  So are the various layers of long underwear I own.
  • Arm warmers, nifty new accessory for last year’s marathons – perfect when paired with a short sleeved top for the early parts of the ride before warming up.
  • Ski club hat – it’s thin enough to fit under my helmet, even with the little tassel on top, and sure keeps my ears warm.
  • Running tights and capris – just what I need for my legs…

Well, okay, there is one piece of cycling apparel that I learned I do need – cycling shorts.  It only took a few longer rides to discover the discomforts of the saddle, and off I went to Erik’s Bike Shop to get properly outfitted with padded shorts.  Sometimes there is no substitute for the real thing.

What’s in a name?

My husband has been blogging for years.  He was an early adopter, and his online persona just sort of evolved, and fits perfectly…  the NorthStar Nerd.  We live in the North Star state, we have a cabin on North Star Lake and well, he is a nerd.  And darned proud of it!  If you have interest in all things techie, particularly social media and collaboration tools, check out his blog  There are plenty of interesting off-topic posts as well.

So that left the question of my moniker.  These things can’t be forced, you just know when you find the right thing.  I used my newest best friend – – to look up various words I thought would describe me.  I bounced around ideas in my head, and being the consummate list-maker, I wrote them down.  But as often happens, inspiration hit when my brain was idle and the wind whipped through my hair, on a bike trail.  I had it!

Petite Perfectionist.  That’s me all right.  I’m small, but I pack a lot of energy, and no one will argue my perfectionist tendencies.  Blogging world, meet the PetitePerfectionist – your host of Superior Footprints!

Map before you run

GPS is great.  But it doesn’t do much for planning routes in new areas, or figuring out where to run or cycle in an unfamiliar city.  That’s where mapping websites come in handy.

I happen to use the Gmap-Pedometer website.  It’s a handy mapping tool that allows you to click on roads and trails to create a route.  It shows mile or kilometer markers and allows you to “undo” if you want to change a section.  There are several types of maps to choose from, including satellite maps and terrain.  It understands running and cycling paths, and if you just need to get from one spot to another, you can tell it to just draw a straight line.  Sometimes I use all three methods to draw the map I want.  The mileage calculates as you go, and records the final distance.  When you are satisfied with your map, you can save it and bookmark the URL.  Alternately, if you create an account you can name and save your maps there, which I find to be a lot more convenient.  The site also allows you to record your workouts.

USA Track & Field website has similar capabilities.  I find it a bit more tedious for mapping as it only uses straight lines, while gmap-pedometer will automatically follow the curves of a path or road.  However, it does calculate total climb, and present a graph of the elevation profile.  The site also has a database of routes entered by other runners.  You can search for routes in a particular location based on distance, starting point and route rating.

Note the accuracy – each of these examples follows the same route that I ran and captured on my Garmin GPS and SportTracks in my previous post.  The mileage is almost identical.

Check these out to eliminate guesswork and plan your next route!

Workout Tracking Mania

The best part about my Garmin Forerunner GPS is downloading my workouts to my PC.  There is so much data packed into that little device and it all explodes into a vast array of information that can be displayed on my screen in a myriad of ways.

I currently use SportTracks by Zone Five Software, which supports most Garmin GPS models.  While it started out as a free program, it is well worth the $35 price for the current version.  It is easy to use, has a good visual interface, and more than enough features for my needs.  For each of my workouts, I can view all of the following and more:

  • Summary statistics – time, distance, average pace, elevation changes
  • Splits with distance, time, speed or pace, elevation
  • Graphs of speed, pace, elevation by time or distance
  • A map of my exact route, marked with splits.  When looking at a specific split, it is highlighted on the map.

Click on any of the images to enlarge

There is a reporting module that enables me to look at my mileage or other statistics over time.  I can filter the reports by activity, and group results by time period, location or other parameters.  But more detailed filtering and analysis requires cutting and pasting the results into Excel, which may not suit everyone.

I like being able to look back on the maps of my routes to plan future workouts, or to look at alternative turns or add-ons to create a new route for the future.

One drawback is that the software is resident on my PC.  When I’m away from home, I no longer have access to my data.  An alternative is to use Garmin Connect.  This is a free service for Garmin devices that provides the same tracking features online.  It also allows you to share your data with other users, connect to Facebook, blogs and other social media.  I like the idea of “access anywhere” so I just may have to give this a closer look.

What a difference technology makes.  Where I was once content with recording my time and distance in a spreadsheet, I now have access to seemingly infinite amounts of data.  It may not make me a better athlete, but I know a lot about where I’ve been!

Love my Garmin GPS

A number of years ago, out of the blue my husband gave me a Garmin Forerunner 201.  Knowing how compulsive I was about tracking my running miles, as well as my IT background, he knew it was the tool for me.  Nirvana!  Was he ever right!

No more spreadsheets.  No more driving my running routes to estimate mileages.  No more guessing.  This gadget that I could wear on my wrist did it all.  Not only could it track time and miles for my runs, it could tell me my pace, auto-pause when I stop, and calculate my splits.  Even better, I could download the data to my PC and analyze it ad nauseum.  I fell in love with GPS!  Never mind that it was big and clunky on my petite wrist.  Never mind that it regularly lost its satellite signal in the north woods.  I could no longer go running without it.

Time marches on, and as always technology changes.  I’m up to the Forerunner 205 now – not exactly the latest and greatest, but it has all the features I need.  And with my aging eyes, I’m reluctant to move to one of the newer models with smaller displays.  (sigh)  It is still my favorite piece of gear, only now it’s also a necessity for cross-country skiing, cycling, hiking, snowshoeing – any activity that involves moving.

Here are some of my favorite uses:

  • Tracking everyday workouts – it makes sure I don’t cheat on distances.  And I can tell how far I’ve gone so far mid-workout.
  • Tracking my pace – am I on target?  Do I need to speed up?
  • Running in unfamiliar places – I can tell by the distance when it’s time to turn around, or if I should have been back by now…
  • Pacing for races – particularly marathons where they provide balloons at mile markers but not time clocks.  Great for both splits and time per current distance.
  • Training partner – it shows a graphic of me and another runner at a specified pace.  At a glance I can tell if I’m ahead or behind.

These features are useful during my workouts.  There is even greater value when paired up with software to store my workouts, track them over time, and provide infinite levels of detail.  But that’s a topic for another post.