Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wet Monkey: Flying Monkey Marathon

As RD Monkey Trent says, "I ran it the year it rained." This was my first time running the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon. I had heard great things about it. I had heard terrible things about it. Bad news first: 7200 feet of total elevation change. 3600 feet up. 3600 feet down. The good news was everything else about the race.

Me, Kristen, Troy
As I drove into Nashville, one of the first things I noticed other than the "Bat" building was that it was hot.  It had been 50 degrees all week in Ohio, and Nashville was closer to 70. Ouch. Shortly after walking into packet pickup, I bumped into Kristen and Mike. I had met these super speedy and super nice folks before the Pittsburgh Marathon at an awesome pasta dinner they hosted. What a great start to the weekend! After chatting for a bit, I picked up my bib, said howdy to Trent and John, and met Elly (the monkey shooter). One thing about this race that I was really looking forward to was seeing a bunch of familiar faces.

The pasta dinner was more awesomeness. I saw Troy as soon as I walked in. The last time I had seen Troy was when we had run Mountain Mist in January 2010. Troy and I had worked together for a couple of years when I lived in Tennessee, and I was happy to hear he had signed up for the Monkey as well. I had dinner with Troy, Mike, and Kristen. I chatted with Robert whom I had met at the Brew to Brew 44 miler earlier in the year. He had run the Dizzy 50s that day and was a looking a little tired. This would later be dubbed as The Dizzy Monkey. I also met lots of other folks including Jill, Anne, Drew, Russ, Candice, and Ben and chatted with John (one of the best ultrarunners I know).

The forcast for the next day included rain. A lot of rain. Honestly, I was happy. I wasn't looking forward to running a muggy 70 degree marathon. I had forgotten how humid it gets in Tennessee. Before the start of the race, I bumped into Karl. I worked with Karl at both Square D and Gibson, and last time I had seen him was Mountain Mist. Turns out he was running The Dizzy Monkey. He started out running with Rick whom I had met at Mountain Mist as well. It was a lot like old home week.

The first part of the race was uphill. Go figure. At the top of the first hill, a sign said "300 Feet.3300 to Go". My lungs were not happy with the humidity but luckily Monsoon Monkey began shortly after that hill. My goal for this race was to finish. I had recently come off of a foot injury that put a snag in my training. Trent said you cannot train for Monkey anyway. I just wanted to take the hills as they came and enjoy the park. The park, by the way, was absolutely lovely. There were nice winding roads, plenty of trees, and plenty of hills. There were aid stations every couple of miles with brave volunteers who stood out in the rain, handed out water and gatorade, and encouraged the runners. Trent had taunting encouraging signs along the course and every once in a while you would get a glimpse of a wet monkey. At one point on the course, there was a sign that indicated you could go either direction around a loop. Since everyone was going right, I headed left. As one runner passed by me going the other direction, he smiled and said, "There's always got to be one." I grinned back and resounded a proud "Yep!"

Kristen and her Monkey
The rain was falling at a pretty good clip for the majority of the race. I was thankful.  During one section of the second half of the run, I was running on blacktop with a mirror water overlay. Leaves were sprinkled all along the path. It was easy to imagine I was actually running down a dark, leaf-speckled stream in the middle of a forest.
Me, John, and Mike
John ran a 3 hour Monkey! Amazing!

The finish was a mudfest. The day of rain had turned the finish and field area into muddy mess.  That didn't stop everyone from hanging out and partaking in all of the yummy foods at the end or the free Yazoo beer.  The Flying Monkey is a top notch event, and I had an absolutely wonderful weekend.

Think Monkey. :-)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hoka One One Bondi B Shoe Review

Plenty of folks debate what type of shoe is the right shoe to wear. Some even say wearing no shoes at all is the way to go. I am just happy that there are multiple options available. The Saucony Kinvara was my "go to" shoe over the last year. Unfortunately I injured my foot a few months ago while walking around barefoot, and the ball of my foot swelled and stayed that way for quite a while. I figured out that I could cut a hole in my insole to take the pressure off of the ball of the foot which allowed me to walk normally, but running was still an issue. Around the same time, a friend completed a 100 mile ultra in a pair of Hoka One Ones

I'm not a fan of not being able to run, but I also want my foot to last.  I decided it was a good time to try the Hokas. Since I knew I would be doing a lot of road running during the colder months, I went with the road version: the Bondi B.  These shoes are not cheap. I was happy to find them on sale at The Tri Shop, and I used a $25 coupon.  Cheaper than a custom orthotic or a doctor's bill at least.
Hoka One One Bondi B's (with Lock Laces)
When I got the shoes, I removed the insoles and threw in a pair of Ortholites I had around the house to add a little more cushion.  As soon as I started walking in them, it was what I didn't notice that counted the most. All other shoes pushed on the swollen part of my foot and hurt. I could not wear other shoes without my high-tech (aka insole with a hole) insole. The Hoka's with the Ortholites didn't hurt. I was happy about that because I didn't particularly want to butcher another pair of insoles. 
Hoka - Time to Fly?

Well, I am not sure about flying, but these shoes have a lot of bounce. I wore them everywhere. I wore them to work so I could walk normally. I wore them to run. I wore them going to the kitchen to get water. (Walking barefoot hurt too much.) While I wasn't up to my normal weekly mileage initially, the Hoka's at least allowed me to get in some miles. Without these shoes, I would have missed a 200 mile relay, a couple of 5Ks, a 15K, and two half marathons. I did a test run in my normal shoes yesterday after two months, and my foot still isn't 100%.  My normal shoes now feel lifeless, flat, and extremely stiff. 
Hoka Bondi B / Saucony Kinvara 2
Hoka Bondi B Size 8 Women's (without insole) = 7.4 ounces
Saucony Kinvara Size 8 Women's (without insole) = 6.3 ounces
I thought these shoes were so comfy, I ordered a pair for my mom who has foot problems. She isn't a runner, but she walks a lot. After wearing them for a few weeks, she said, "I just wanted to say thank you for the shoes. When I wear them, I feel like I'm back to my old self. They make a big difference."  Hey, moms know best, right?

Overall, I am very pleased with my Hokas. For me they were the difference between being able to run and having to stay on the couch. I've put over 200 miles on them, and they are still in great shape. With a perfectly well foot, I'm not sure that they would be my first choice if I were trying to PR at a 5K. The cushy nature of this shoe dampens the energy return to the legs somewhat. That characteristic is what also is saving my foot at the moment. They are my shoe of choice for my upcoming marathon.

If you are looking for something different, I would recommend giving the Hoka Bondi B's a try. The road calls. Time to fly!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Competing for Christ

That's the motto for Team FCA Endurance. I've thought about it some, and I wasn't sure it really fit for me. I do my best not to compete with anyone but myself. Sometimes that is easier said that done, but I still try to keep it in perspective. Something about the word compete seems divisive to me. You know that moment in a race where you see someone up ahead that you might like to pass? You feel a push to speed up and a slight little rush of adrenaline. If it is someone you don't know, that may last for a few seconds and then back to normal. When it is someone you know, that changes things a bit.  The thought of blowing by an acquaintance during the last mile of a race isn't my idea of winning. A knockdown, drag-out racing session with anyone during the last mile or less of a longer race isn't something I want.

I recently found myself in this exact situation. I could see someone up ahead, and the finish line was a couple of miles away. I could feel myself pushing to speed up. My only goal during the race was to keep a particular pace, and I was right on track. I was trying my best not to let the push to compete affect my actions. I didn't want to to slow down because then I was altering my actions, and I might miss my goal that I made in vacuum of outside influence. I also didn't want to speed up to pass because that had negative consequences as well. I did my best to hold steady as I pondered the situation. I didn't like the negative feelings associated with either of my choices so I asked God to let me run the last mile of the race in a way that would glorify him and not me. As I caught up to the other runner who had been speeding up (it was toward toward the end of the race, after all), I spoke. What came out of my mouth was "Let's finish this together." Those words completely changed everything. We ran together for a short while, and I mentioned my goal pace. She told me to go ahead and began to slow a little. I asked her to run with me. She said she had already made her goal and insisted that I go and keep my goal. All negativity had faded away, and we finished within a few seconds of one another.

In the end, it seems I was competing for Christ. It had nothing to do with competing with anyone else. There was nothing divisive about it. I am thankful for the experience.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sugar Free Me

So at the end of September, my mom announced that she would no longer be partaking in concentrated sugar treats. I agreed that this sounded like a good plan, and that I, too, would be taking on the same mission. I'm a big fan of experimenting with how food affects me. I've gone a month without caffeine a couple of times. I've gone a week gluten free. At one point, I did 3 days of low carb. (Let me tell you, that wasn't pretty.) I don't eat red meat at all and haven't in 6 years due to an allergy.

Of course, this isn't the first time I've attempted to cut back on sugary things. This is the first time that I decided to stop eating them altogether. I went in without a plan other than to just skip it. I had no timeline of how long I would keep at it which is somewhat usual for me. I have a general guideline in my mind that if it is a dessert or if it is something that contains more than 10 grams of sugar on the ingredients list, I don't eat it. No cookies, no cakes, no flavored lattes.  I'm still eating apples and oranges which both contain sugar. You get the idea.

At first it was rough. The first few days, my body was not happy. It seemed like no matter what I ate, it wasn't satisfying. Logically, I had no desire to consume the sugary items, but it was almost like there was something missing from my life. To me, that was proof that sugar has some addictive qualities.  Of course, I'm not the first person to say that.  The big difference now is that I know how it feels.

It is now November and still no concentrated sugar. Mom and I are both still standing strong. I survived Halloween without even one piece of candy. Strangely, it seemed easy. Thanksgiving is next. One of my favorite Thanksgiving treats is pecan pie. This year I will be eating the pecans without the the pie. I am beginning to wonder if this is going to be a lifestyle change for me. It really wasn't in my plan to be, and I hope to live a very long time so it's hard to predict. That said, it feels great to be able to say no to sugar. I also seem to be craving healthier fare now that I've cut out the sugar. I'm not sure where the strength is coming from... but it feels like a gift.

Mom says farewell to the sweet stuff. We walked into and out of the Hershey store 
without eating one piece of chocolate.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mason Half Marathon

A week ago I came across the Mason Half and decided it would make getting in a 20 mile day a little more exciting. The course appeared to have a few hills which was a good thing as my next event has a crazy amount of hills. I had also never been to Mason, and running in new places adds to the enjoyment.

At the beginning of the race, I met (DailyMiler) Andrew who happened to be standing very to near to where I was. I've never had so many people pass me in the first mile of a race. And no, I wasn't up front. It took all the will power I had to keep it slower than 9, but that was my plan. As we turned the corner for mile 2, we began going uphill. Around mile 6, I spoke with a couple of guys who were trying to keep it under 2 hours. That was my plan as well so I had some company the majority of the race. At mile 7, we ran by the tennis complex where the Cincy Western & Southern (Tennis) Open is played. A little before mile 12, we started going uphill once again against the wind which had to be about 10 mph for the majority of the mile. It almost broke my will. Since I didn't want to get left behind by the two fellas, I put more effort into it and crossed the finish with them. There was a very nice pancake and bagel breakfast in the Mason High School after the race. After a shower and nap, I headed out for another 6 mile run / hill workout to make it a 20 mile day. It has been a couple of months since I've been able to get that kind of mileage in a day due to the foot injury. That alone was enough to make it a good day, but I also got the bonus of a fun half marathon that was for a good cause.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Peace on Earth

"Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the Presence of God."

The days are getting shorter and colder, and we are heading into the holiday season. They say the holidays are tough on folks. I will admit that for a long time, I found them to be difficult. When I was younger, my mom and I would spend time with the extended family. It wasn't the Norman Rockwell scene. Things could range from general rudeness to passive-aggression. While I didn't understand what was going on, I just knew I was pretty miserable spending an entire day with people who didn't seem too nice. When I was 10, my granny passed away, and the family stopped getting together for holidays. While I didn't miss the family gathering, I could not help but feel that something was wrong. After all, everyone I knew was getting together with family. It seemed that either way, the holiday season was not what it was supposed to be.

But something happened which changed my entire view on the holidays. I stopped focusing on what the world said about the holidays and how we are supposed to spend them. I let go of all the disappointment and began focusing on what was really there.  The very first time I listened to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" I realized this song completely captured the transformation that occurred on my view of the holidays.

From this:
"And in despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said.
For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth good will to men."

To this:
"Then rang the bells more loud and deep. God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail. With peace on earth, good will to men.
Then ringing singing on its way. The world revolved from night to day.
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime Of peace on earth, good will to men"

Life may not be exactly the way the general majority portrays that it "should" be.  In fact, it may not even be close. That doesn't make it any less spectacular.  On Thanksgiving morning, I will be running the Turkey Trot with 7000+ others into a great Thanksgiving day.   May you find your very own peace and joy this holiday season and every day of your life.

I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. Do not be troubled or afraid. John 14:27