Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shoe Review: Hoka Kailua Trail

I picked up a pair of Kailua Trail shoes at Running Warehouse for $99 during a sale. I wasn't in the market for a Stinson Evo Trail (review) replacement, but I decided $30 off made them worth a try. While I like the Stinson Evo for trail running, I always felt like the tread offered a little less than what I expected as far as grip. I got that impression after running in the Mafates (review) which didn't fit me overly well but gripped the ground like nobody's business. After having these shoes for a few months, I finally got a chance to take them out on trails that weren't completely ice and snow covered.

Before I did that, I managed to get a few shots of them:

A tale of 3 Hokas: Kailua Tarmac, Kailua Trail, Bondi B (1)

Women's Size 7.5 (no insoles) = 7.7 ounces
Kailua Tarmac = 7.5 ounces

Bondi Bs = 7.4 ounces
Stinson Evo Tarmacs = 8.8 ounces 
trail Stinson Evos = 9 ounces
Mafate 2 = 10 ounces
Trail - left  : Tarmac - right
I just wore the Kailua Tarmacs in the El Paso marathon so I assumed a long trail run in a brand new pair of Trails should be just fine.  Just like the Tarmac version, I removed the thin little insole and replaced them with a pair of regular insoles. Just in case, I did throw my Stinsons into the back of my car. I headed over to meet my favorite Marathon Manic for an easy long run, but our first few steps onto the trail made it obvious this was going to be a little harder than anticipated. Part of the trail had a significant amount of mud and other parts were covered in slushy ice. There were some parts that were in absolutely perfect shape which made this a great trail shoe test course. The front of the Kailua Trails have a toe guard which was a good thing as I managed to kick something sticking out of the ground. I kept myself upright, and my toe didn't get hurt thanks to the hardened toe area. The tread also had a good amount of grip which meant I didn't do much slipping in the mud and ice slush.  The mud did stick quite a bit to the bottom of the shoe. That said, I would take this tread over the the Stinson Trail tread any day.

10 miles later, I never even considered switching from the Kailuas into the Stinsons. I did consider running my next trail 50 miler in these, though. These things were covered in mud by the end of the run, and after a quick washing, they look as good as new. They do have less cushion than the Stinson Evo trail so I'm still not certain which pair I will be wearing during longer events, but I may have found my new favorite trail shoe.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tecumseh Trail Mix

The last truly muddy long distance trail run I ran was in 2011. It was not fun. I vowed never to torture myself that way again. It's funny how time makes us forget.

I had signed up for the Tecumseh Trail Marathon expecting a snowy run in December. It was so snowy, in fact, that the run had to be postponed due to a snow storm in Indiana. The Race Director opted to reschedule the event to January 11th. This was a hit or miss proposition with the harsh winter the Midwest had been having and continues to endure. Up until a couple of days before the race, I wasn't even sure that running it was going to be an option. Tecumseh was originally a point to point course which happens to be my favorite type of course. There is something about someone dropping you miles and miles from your car and then saying go! The harsh weather conditions this year turned this course into a lolly pop with 3 loops and then back. Not my preferred option, but I really wanted to kick this year off to a good start with a January marathon. It also helped that Jim was as brave (or crazy, whichever you prefer) as I and had planned to run Tecumseh, too. Difficult times are much easier when shared.

The beginning section of the trail was on road. Normally this feels a lot like cheating because it gives you some faster miles, but not on this day, on this course. The road was completely covered in ice. This was the only time I fell during the entire event. I slid on the ice and some lovely soul behind me grabbed me and helped me get up off of the ground. No clue who you are, but thank you! After that slip, it was time for a water crossing (in the middle of the road?!) that had ice along the bottom and water that went up to my knees. Rather than go into all the gory details of the trail portion of this race, I will just say that we were usually either running in 1. mud or 2. water with ice floating in it or 3. on ice. We did that loop 3 times and then it was back to more ice water and then onto the icy road. While all these things were impossible to ignore, another thing that was impossible to ignore was the volunteers. They were all so nice and friendly, and they stood out there in the freezing cold helping us so we could finish this race. We both managed to finish without any major injuries which was not a given on this trail in these conditions. That said, we didn't get out unscathed. I am very thankful that the falls, slips, slides, blisters, brier scratches and multiple ice water crossings didn't do more damage.

I also must say I have never had so many pictures taken during a trail race. That means I can show you some of the fun we had.  I also want to give a shout out to Ed who I bumped into after the race. Good to see you again!

On with the pics...

Icy roads...
It begins...

Ice water trail... 
Might as well run through it.

Creek crossing....

Yep, hills, too.
Mud and hills!
With my January race complete, my February marathon will take me to a warmer climate. Is it too early to be ready for Spring?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013: My Year of DIY

Some people seem to believe engineers can do any type of engineering. Okay, well, at least my mom seems to think so. "You're and engineer! You can do it!" At this point I always point out that I was an electrical engineer and not a mechanical or civil engineer. Apparently I am not alone in this with my fellow EEs. Give me a math problem, and I will be just fine. Give me water running through pipes or dual bladed saws, and I start to twitch a little. Okay, maybe a lot. This year I took a few steps waaaaay outside of my comfort zone, and nothing flooded or fell apart. Thank God! Truly...

I updated a half bath. Unfortunately I didn't take before pictures, but I removed pink and white splotched wall paper (who picked that?!). I added shutoff valves under the sink. I removed a vanity, sink and mirror. I painted.  I installed a new vanity, sink, and mirror. Mom framed and matted a picture that looks great. Most importantly, I did not flood the bathroom. You know how they take a weekend on television to do this sort of thing? Well, this took me 4 months or so. Part of it was waiting on a wood floor to be installed downstairs. Part of it was me dragging my feet. Part of it was trying to figure out how to do things.  The other part was buying the vanity from a company that didn't pay attention to the sink dimensions I provided. (I even took the sink with me!) Another part of it was hiring a plumber that almost ruined the vanity so I decided I would do it myself which required cutting a very thick bamboo vanity. That's where the saw came in. I have to say, power tools can be fun. Scary, but fun. Somehow all these parts came together. After it was complete, it took a while to sink in (ha ha) that it was really finished.

My upstairs has a vanity that looks like the one that used to be in the half bath. This is what was there:

Here's the finished product:

My next project involved a ceiling fan. Two actually. I had a fairly new ceiling fan in my room that was a remote control fan. Unfortunately the receiver began malfunctioning and decided to turn both fan and blade off and on at random times. That isn't good when you are trying to sleep. Finally it got to the point that it no longer wanted to turn on at all, but the remote control was the only way to turn it on. Who decided to make a fan with no manual switches?! Hunter, that's who. I also needed to replace a fan in the guest bedroom because it wobbled like a drunken sailor and had no light. I found one heck of a deal online on two fans that were exactly the kind I wanted. I was pretty determined on this project so it only took me a weekend and one backache. Out with the old....
Why would this room not have a

Hey, wires! This I can do.

In with the new...

Ta da! Wood blades shaped like leaves - Bu-tee-ful.
My last project was my closet. This one only took me 6 years to do! Okay, really, I started it in December '13, but this closet needed to be replaced when I bought the house. The height between the shelves was designed for childrens' clothing, I guess. I couldn't use a quarter of the closet. Rather than moving the shelf up, it took me years to decide I didn't like the white wire shelving and instead wanted a cedar closet organizer. I bought this kit directly from Northern Kentucky Cedar which made the price less than most of those wood closet organizers AND it smells like cedar. Saw + cedar or drill + cedar = aromatic delight.

Here's what it looks like before... but unlike the picture, mine was without the ability to hang clothes in a quarter of the closet. This is the closet in the guest room that has white wire shelving:

Naked closet with patched
drywall and fresh paint.
Getting there...
Ta da!
Cedar is bu-tee-ful :-)
Still standing!
I learned a lot in my year of DIY:
- I can do it! Who knew?
- Even if I do something wrong, I can usually fix it.
- If I can't fix it, there is someone I can call who can. Thankfully I haven't had to do this... yet.
- Watching DIY channels made me want to take on the entire house.
- Talking to friends who do this sort of thing regularly is very helpful.
- Youtube has a lot of useful DIY videos. Mental rehearsal is a good thing.
- There were challenges I did not expect so I should just go ahead and expect challenges.
- It will take significantly more time than I think it will.
- It's okay to take significant time to think about what you are going to do before doing it.
- Sometimes professionals aren't so be careful who you hire to do work. 
- Home improvement hurts: my back, my hands, etc. Strength training regularly is a good idea.
- I ♥ wood.
- I ♥ power tools.
- Eye protection. Seriously.
- There is no such thing as perfect. Stand back 5 feet and look. If it looks good and works, you did well.
- Once you start DIY projects, you will notice great work or flaws everywhere: hotels, other houses, etc.
- Taking a few minutes to say a prayer before starting made starting significantly easier.
- Getting to enjoy work you've done yourself is a great reward!

Hopefully 2014 will be the year of PhD dissertation, and maybe a few more DIY projects. :-)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Shoe Review: Hoka Kailua Tarmac

At this point it is safe to say that I'm a Hoka One One gal. When it came time to get ready for my yearly Turkey Trot 5 mile, I decided to purchase a pair of the new Hoka Kailua Tarmac. I wanted a shoe that was more of a racing shoe than the Bondi B. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy with my Bondis (review). I just wanted a shoe that was a little lighter and not quite as soft in the sole department for a shorter distance event.

I ordered my standard shoe size of 7.5, and I noticed that they felt a little big. The shoe itself appears to be the same length as my other Hoka's, but the insole that comes with the Kailua is the thin insole that is optional with the Stinsons.

I had an extra pair of the regular Hoka insoles so I replaced the thin ones, and my feet were as happy as a bug in a rug. My friend Vickie also purchased a pair of the Kailua and noticed the same thing about sizing. She, too, will be putting in a thicker insole to keep the inside of the shoe from feeling too large.

While there is still plenty of softness to the Kailua, it isn't as squishy as the Bondi B or Stinson Evo Tarmac (review). This was exactly what I was looking for. I also notice the toe box area of the Kailua seems narrower than both my Bondis and my Evo Tarmacs. They feel sleek and fast, and still plenty soft for shorter races. Strangely they weigh slightly more than Bondis. I'm not even sure how that is possible.

Stinson Evo Tarmac and the Kailua Tarmac

Women's Size 7.5 (no insoles) = 7.5 ounces
Bondi Bs = 7.4 ounces
Stinson Evo Tarmacs = 8.8 ounces 
trail Stinson Evos = 9 ounces
Mafate 2 = 10 ounces
Now with almost 80 miles on the Kailuas, I notice that there is more wear on the sole than I would expect. I don't expect to get as many miles out of these Hokas as I have my others based on the premature wear. They are $30 or so less than the Bondis, but I would still expect less sole wear in a $130 shoe.

I won't be giving up my Bondis anytime soon, but I still like these shoes. While the Kailuas cost less on paper, I imagine they will cost more per mile based on shoe life expectancy. If you are looking for a shoe that is light and can last a long time, go with the Bondis.  If you are looking for a shoe that feels faster, go with the Kailuas. Happy running!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mere Christianity

The weather outside is frightful.... yeah, it is. A week or so ago I managed to get on an airplane headed to Washington state with a stop in Minneapolis. Unfortunately the weather and de-icing delayed my departure. With that delay came a missed flight. Since the rest of the flights were full to Washington, I hopped back on another plane toward home. It was a Minnesota day trip. It was also my first time in Minnesota. One of these days I will go back and see something more than the airport.
Christmas Pond, Duluth, Minnesota
While travelling I usually download a book from Audible to listen to, and on this particular trip that book was Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I've never been a fiction reader. No idea why. Honestly, the whole Narnia business isn't something I've really cared for as an adult. When I was a kiddo, I did really like the cartoon. I picked this book not because I wanted to read C.S. Lewis but more because others has given it positive reviews, and a lot of Christian organizations seem to push C.S. Lewis... a lot. I figured it wasn't very fair to have a somewhat negative opinion of an author if I've never really read his books on his beliefs. I had also heard over the last year that J.R.R. Tolkien had a big influence on C.S. Lewis's faith. I have to admit I found that a little funny and a little odd for a two reasons. The first reason deals with wizards, magic, and the like. Fantasy books never interested me, and honestly I thought them to be the opposite of Christianity. The other reason was that someone who many moons ago repeatedly laughed about my Christian beliefs said to me, "If you want to understand me, then read Tolkien." He was being serious. I could not help but chuckle when years later I read that Tolkien was an outspoken believer.

As I began listening to Mere Christianity, I realized how off the mark my biases were.I had no idea that Lewis was an atheist who found Jesus.  In this book, he was able to put into words many things that I struggle to explain to others. A relationship with Jesus isn't something that you have to be able to explain to other people, but it sure it helpful to be able to communicate with others rather than saying over and over again, "I don't know how to explain it." There is plenty to explain, but for me it is such a shocking and joy-filled thing that words just don't convey what I want to express. How can I put into words a deep internal change and spirit that leads to joy and peace and have it make any sense to someone? When I was reading Lewis's words, I immediately understood that he was communicating in a way that I have been unable to do. He also spoke of some things I had yet to even think about. Does that mean I can now use his words to explain to a random person in a way that is understandable? I wish, but no. It doesn't work that way, and it isn't supposed to. "Let those who have ears hear." A relationship with Jesus has only to do with Jesus and the person in that relationship. Perhaps that sounds exclusive of others, but it really isn't.

I will go back and read sections of this book again because I want to spend extra time thinking about some of his words. Speaking of, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

"The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort."

“It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong, but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.”

“Now we our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, "You must do this. I can't.”

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's eyes can see further than mine.”

"But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Merry Christmas :-)

Monday, December 2, 2013

In a galaxy far, far away....

Okay, really, this blog post has absolutely nothing to do with space, but galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose sounds like a it could be some cool little planet somewhere out there. Turns out it is a carbohydrate found in mammal meat. So instead, this blog post is about ticks. Maybe.

I remember it well, that little steak that made me feel like dying over 8 years ago. I had no idea what it was that made me so ill, but I woke up around midnight feeling absolutely miserable. My hands and feet felt as though they were itching under the skin, and my stomach felt like something out of Alien. Or Space Balls. Let's go with Space Balls because it's just funny...

Luckily when all this started happening, I was using Weight Watchers and tracking everything I ate. I had a doctor who wanted to take out my gallbladder, but before him I met a disgruntled ultrasound tech which turned out to be a very good thing. He told me how he was sick of listening to the doctors complain about all the patients while they were making boat loads of money from those very same patients. He scanned my gallbladder and said it looked perfectly healthy with no gall stones. His next sentence went something like this...

"The next thing they will do is an ejection fraction test.  It will be a percent or two below what they hope to see. They will want to take out your gallbladder. Don't let them do it." Now, I'm pretty certain he wasn't supposed to say those things, but THANK YOU Mr. Ultrasound Tech! The doctor wanted to do exactly what the tech had said. I even went to get a second opinion and was told the exact same thing. Luckily between the two opinions, I began to realize that on the days I was feeling awful I had eaten red meat hours before the episode. I stopped eating it. I got better. I kept my gallbladder which is good because I'm pretty attached to it.

Fast forward 8 years later: That dreaded feeling began again but without the red meat! Or so I thought. Read a blog post down, and you will see a little trail run I did in Tennessee. After that trail run, I had bites all over my legs which I assumed were chiggers. Turns out, they may have been seed ticks. Recently researchers at the University of Virginia noticed that people in certain regions were turning up with adult onset allergies to ... wait for it .... red meat! Those same regions also happen to be where the Lone Star Tick likes to reside. (Tennessee does not sound good to me!)  They have been doing more studies to see if ticks are in fact the root cause of this allergy that seems to be becoming more and more common.

It also turns out that pork is considered a red meat and contains the same carbohydrate, galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose  (aka Alpha-Gal) as beef, venison, and lamb. I had already managed to figure out that it was either pork or dairy causing my issue by food tracking and process of elimination (no.. not THAT kind of elimination). This little piggy went wah wah wah, all the way home. Luckily the pork issue combined with the trip to Tennessee which is where I picked up the initial beef allergy are what put me on track to put the puzzle pieces together. I found a local allergist who had written an article on the topic and went to have the Alpha-Gal IgE test. Results .35 and below are a negative test. My results came back at 18.5. Gee, I guess I really am allergic to red meat, or alpha-gal actually.

So what's the moral of the story? Ticks suck. Why yes they do, but that's not the moral. Allergies are serious stuff. People with this allergy have gone into anaphylactic shock. I joke, but this is serious business. I haven't had beef in over 8 years. While doctors can be great, we have to remember that they, too, are human. They make mistakes. Had I had my gallbladder removed, it would not have solved my issue. We are all an experiment of one, and the more you take the time to research your issues and track what is going on, the better chance you or someone else has of figuring out the problem. Oh, and, last but not least, if a few people act like you might be making up the physical problems you are having, it may just be that the medical profession will get it figured out in a few years. Don't give up!

Turkey burger, anyone?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Enjoying the Journey

7+ hours in a car is a long time. I've done it a few times. Usually I hurry to get from point A to point B. When I found out I would be driving from Indiana to Georgia, I had an idea. What if I stopped in each state and ran a 1 mile along the way?

I pulled up the map and noticed that there were a number of state parks near the interstate. What a great country! Well, why not? I looked for the biggest patches of green on the map. In Indiana, I saw Clark State Forest. In Kentucky, I saw Knob State Forest. Tennessee gave me a few choices, but Chattanooga happens to be a beautiful place so I knew that was going to be one of my stops. I picked Point Park as I had never been there before. In Georgia, I planned to run a mile on the sidewalks of Atlanta to recon the route from my hotel to my work spot the next day.

After about an hour into my journey, I was at my first stop. That first hour flew by because I was more interested in where I would be running than getting to Atlanta. As I was driving down some back roads after leaving the interstate, I saw a little parking area and a sign. It was so little that I almost missed it. The thing about parks on Google maps is that you never really know where the entrances are, where the trail heads are, or what you are getting yourself into. Since I didn't want to spend a lot of time driving in circles, I stopped.

The first small section of the trail was on grass along the road, but that soon turned into some single track going up a hill. The trail was narrowing as I continued to run, and as the different plants were slapping my legs, I was praying that last plant that just got me wasn't poison ivy. It was just me, a trail I had never run on before, and an uphill. My little heart was pounding, and I felt great.

Before I knew it, I was half a mile out, and it was time to turn around. I headed back to the car, took some time to stretch, and continued on my journey.

The next stop was another hour or so that went by like it was nothing. I found myself on some gravel back roads in Kentucky. This time I saw signs for Knob Forest State Park so I was hopeful. I saw a small parking area that had no real trails from what I could tell so I kept driving. After a few miles, I turned around to head back to the parking area because I felt like I was going to circle the forest. On my way back, a couple of dogs started chasing the car. Ugh. I checked my mileage to make sure if I had to run along that gravel road, it would be far enough away from them. Over a mile later, I was back to the parking area.

I saw a small opening to what might have been a trail at one point. I decided to head that way to see what I could find. A short time later, I realized there wasn't enough of a trail to make it work. Still, it had pretty yellow flowers.

I ran back toward the car and opted to head down the dirt road. It was shaded, and there were no cars.

A short time later, I rounded a corner, and I'll be darned if I didn't see those same two dogs coming down the road. Geeze! They weren't too friendly when I drove by the first time so I turned around and hightailed it back to the car. I had pepper spray, but I wasn't really looking for a fight. I made it back to the car safely and out of breath. It was a close call, but I knew Chattanooga was next. I was really looking forward to Chattanooga.

Since I had 4 hours before the next run, I took the time to relax and get some breakfast. As I approached Chattanooga, I was getting pretty excited. I was anything but disappointed.

Before I knew it, my half a mile was done, and it was time to head back to the car. I really didn't want to, but I also didn't want to get caught in Atlanta traffic after 5pm. I decided that on my return trip I would stop and do some miles on one of the many trails on Lookout Mountain. I managed to get into Atlanta shortly before 5pm, and luckily I managed to get to the hotel without any major traffic issues. It took more courage to get myself to go out and run on city streets than deserted trails. It was .6 miles from my hotel to the building I would be going to the next morning and so I completed my final mile for the day. 

What could have been a very long day in a car turned into a mini-adventure. Why hadn't I done this before?!

On my way home, I stopped in Chattanooga once again and this time parked at Craven's House since Point Park did not open until 9am. I left Atlanta at o-dark 30 to miss traffic and get to the trail early. I started along Bluff Trail at 7:30am, and I had the trail completely to myself. The only unfortunate side to this was that I became a spiderweb slayer. 

I had managed to get my miles in for the day on some beautiful trails. I'd love to go back to Lookout Mountain and do some more exploring on the awesome trails in the area. Road trip anyone?

Next time I find myself on a long journey in a car, you bet I will be doing this again. You never can tell what you will find off of the beaten path.