TO: Santa Claus
LOCATION: North Pole
I know you are awfully busy this month, but I’m hoping you will have an extra minute to read this letter.
As you know, I have a blog where I write about running, and sometimes give advice to runners preparing for races. Since you have a big event coming up, I thought you might appreciate some tips that have been passed along to runners, and might also be applicable to you.
Actually Santa, you have more in common with runners than you might first suspect. You’re probably aware that there are some people called ultramarathoners who can run through the whole night, sometimes up to 30 hours or more. Ultra runners and regular marathoners know the value of having the right gear to make a long task easier.
There are some great products on the market that could make your job a lot easier. For instance, many runners use small LED headlamps when running in the dark. If you bought a set of eight for your reindeer, you wouldn’t be so dependent on Rudolph, who I hear can be a bit of a diva this time of year. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about being detected, since the lamps would just be mistaken for extra stars in the sky. You get LL Bean catalogs up there, right? I got my headlamp from them, but many stores carry them as well.
Here’s something else: a company called Garmin makes GPS units that tell you what altitude you are flying at, how many miles you have flown, and can give you global reference points so that you don’t get lost. They’re also pretty cool because they can tell you precisely how fast you are traveling, since I don’t know if your sleigh has a working speedometer.
Another great gadget is a heart rate monitor (HRM) for your reindeer. Anytime you have a long run or trip, it is important to pace yourself and not start out too quickly. HRMs are the best way to ensure this. I thought maybe you know about HRMs already, since the biggest manufacturer is called Polar. Are they based up near where you live?
When I run a marathon, I keep my heart rate below 70 percent of my maximum for the first half of the race. If you strapped a HRM on each reindeer, you could make sure they stay below 70 percent max HR in the Northern Hemisphere. I’m not sure what 70 percent of a reindeer’s max HR would be, but there’s probably a veterinarian someplace on your list who could give you a reference chart, right? Then you can be sure your reindeer won’t bonk somewhere over Patagonia.
Since you will be visiting several different parts of the world, it’s important to dress in layers. And I hate to say this Santa, but wool outerwear stopped being cool many years ago. You would be better off wearing a moisture-wicking base layer, some sort of performance fleece above it, with a water- and wind-resistant shell or parka as your outer layer.
The Under Armour company makes compression garments that are great base layers for outdoor activity. You may have seen them before, as they are similar to what superheroes like Mr. Incredible wear when they go outside. They come in multiple colors, so you can keep wearing those red and black combinations you like. The other benefit you get from Under Armour garments is that they might give you a more toned appearance by compressing your belly a little bit. I think Mrs. Claus would like that.
Speaking of your gut, you should really work on decreasing it a little during the off-season next year. I’m concerned about your long-term viability, Santa—for your well-being and for mine. Besides, in addition to the healthy benefits of losing weight, there would be room for more toys in the sleigh if your own backside didn’t occupy the whole front seat.
Plus, you could work a lot faster. Conventional wisdom says that for every pound you lose, you can run an average mile two seconds faster. Figuring that you travel about 25,000 miles to circumnavigate the Earth, if you lost just five pounds, your reindeer could save 250,000 seconds of travel time pulling you across the sky.
Even factoring in the time you stop at each house, you could save enough time to return home and maybe catch a couple hours of sleep before those little elves come waking you up at the crack of dawn to show you all the stuff from under the tree that you already knew was there.
During your night Santa, just like during any endurance event, it’s important to keep taking in calories. I’m not really worried about you, since you’ve got about 100 million rest stops with cookies waiting at each one – I’m thinking again of your reindeer. Please make sure they stay hydrated and have some food during the trip. At my house I’ll leave some Gatorade and Clif Bars for you to give them, but don’t worry, I’ll still have cookies for you. Do you like chocolate chip? Those are my favorite.
Finally, there’s one other matter I’d like to mention. My young daughter (who I’m sure is on your “good” list) was considerate enough to ask for “running shoes for Daddy” on that list she sent you. I just wanted to clarify that I wear men’s size 11 trail running shoes. You can deliver them to the same address as the bag with the American Girl doll and the slot car racing set.
Thanks a lot Santa. Hopefully you’ll find some of this information helpful on your trip later this month. Have a Merry Christmas!
Carmel Valley, CA