Saturday, May 26, 2012

It Can't Always Get Worse


Ever since my return from Peru, my poor body has had a lot with which to deal. The day after I set foot back in the US, my tummy went rogue with what I "affectionately" refer to as Peru Belly.  Apparently anywhere from 50 - 80% of Americans and Europeans don't have happy tummies after or during trips to South America. After 11 days of basically getting very little nutrition from anything I ate, I went to see my favorite trail running doc. He gave me a prescription for Cipro to fix the problem. I managed to take it for 5 days before deciding I had had enough due a pain in my ankle and in my hip and basically feeling like I had no energy. Cipro can have some pretty ugly side effects.

Before going to Peru, my tooth that has had problems for many years after a dentist (in Tennessee) got hold of it decided it couldn't take much more. Luckily it played nice while in Peru, but a week or two after returning, it swelled under the gum line. My dentist sent me to an endodontist, neither of which could tell me what exactly had gone wrong with the tooth. I'm fairly certain it was from the trauma many moons ago. The dentist told me that I had some bone loss in the jaw from what was going on in there, and the endodontist prescribed two more antibiotics. (Did I mention that I really dislike taking antibiotics?) A week after a root canal, it was time for my dentist to clean out the gum area around that tooth.  He then held up a prescription for another antibiotic! It had been two days since I finished the last set. I asked if I could skip it, and he said no after thinking about it for a couple of seconds. That meant 4 antibiotics in a month and half!  During that time, I also attempted to run a couple of races which was a bit like torture. Two days after finishing my final antibiotic, I decided to go ahead and run the Ice Age 50K. I had originally signed up for the 50 mile, but I knew that was just too much after all that my body had gone through. 

At mile 21 of the Ice Age, I had decided that a DNF (Did Not Finish) was preferable to running another 9 miles. I felt TERRIBLE. It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful course, and I felt like death warmed over. I tried listening to music. I tried listening to an audio book. I tried listening to nothing. I just could not get out of that place in my mind, and I could not ignore how terrible I was feeling physically.  I prayed... a lot. I asked God to let me know whether or not I was supposed to finish this race because I just could not keep going feeling the way I was feeling. I needed help. Not 10 minutes later, I ran into Rick. I had spoken a few words with Rick miles before, and as I was running by him, I asked him to run with me.  He said he couldn't, but he picked it up to a run anyway. Turns out that Rick was having a rough time as well.  As we started talking, I was finally able to get out of the mental valley in which I had been stuck. We ran past the aid station / start area and started on the third loop. Once you start that final loop, there is really no turning back. As Rick and I talked, we realized that we had both been considering a DNF before we ran into each other. I was very happy to be in the final loop because in my mind I had already DNFed. Had Rick and I not found each other and started running together, I would not have finished that race. He said he wouldn't have either. The third loop, though physically very difficult for my tired body, was actually a lot of fun. Rick and I crossed the finish line together. I really would like to return to Wisconsin and run the 50 mile sometime in the future.

The story doesn't really end there. After so many antibiotics, my body was not only missing the bad stuff, but all my good bacteria had been killed off as well. That meant more health issues. Today, everything seems to be on the way back to normal, but my running is still not where it was before departing for Peru on March 9th. Running is still a bit of a struggle, and paces that would have been non-taxing previously take more effort.  Instead of 80% of my runs feeling good, 80% of them feel difficult. I am still running and still moving forward. I am working on adjusting my mindset and letting go of the fear that things will not continue to improve. This struggle is nothing compared to the struggle of some. I often think of Angela Ivory and the struggle she must face against cancer. There isn't a day that goes by that she isn't in my prayers. Please put her in your prayers as well. 

Philippians 3:12-21
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hoka One One - Stinson Evo Review

After road running during the winter months, my trail season begins around spring. I love the shade of the trees and the new experiences on the trails. It keeps things fresh and different. I spent many a mile in the Bondi Bs (read my review) over the winter months. In fact, I managed to get over 800 miles in one pair which meant that per mile, they were the cheapest running shoes I have ever owned. That is pretty funny considering how expensive they are compared  to the shoes I was wearing previously.  For example, the Saucony Kinvara cost me about 20 cents per mile since I would barely get 300 miles out of a pair. The Bondi B's were 16 cents per mile. I could have gotten a few more miles out of them had I not found them another home in Peru.  Now someone else is getting some miles out of them.

When it came time to hit the trails, I decided to stick with Hoka. I had ordered a pair of the original Mafates from The Clymb for 1/3 the full price. Unfortunately, they felt stiff and uncomfortable after the Bondi Bs. The stiff tongue on the original version often dug into the top of my foot. The new 2012 versions of the Hokas were released a few months ago, and the Stinson Evo caught my eye. I was feeling a bit reluctant because I knew there was no way I would find a brand new version at any discount. The allure of a trail shoe that resembled the Bondi B and the fact that I was able to get so many miles out my last pair of Hokas was enough to get me to bite the bullet. I managed to find the women's version of the Stinson Evo in the size I needed at Zombie Runner.

The Stinson Evo feels a lot like the Bondi B but is a little stiffer, has a different lacing system, and has more of a tread on the sole. They are lower than the original Mafate and do not have the stiff tongue. I really wanted to like the new lacing system.  I always replace road shoe laces with lock laces, but lock laces are a bit too flexible for those ooey-gooey trail runs, in my opinion. These laces are not bungee so there is no stretch. Unfortunately I could never get them tight enough to feel like the shoes were fitting properly. Hoka, however, provided a normal pair of shoe laces for those of us who weren't feeling the love. After almost 100 miles in the Evos, I went ahead and replaced the laces with the regular pair. I am glad I did. That's a good thing since once the original laces are out, you can't put 'em back.

The other thing Hoka did was include two types insoles: regular Hoka insoles and the thin version.

Since I put in my Ortholites, I have used neither of these. I also should note that Hoka changed the sizing a bit from 2011. My 2011 Bondi Bs are size 8, and I ordered a 7.5 in the 2012 Evos. The fit seems equivalent.

At this point, I have about 150 miles on the Evos. I go out of my way to take care of them. If they get muddy, I make sure to clean them shortly after my run is complete, pull out the insoles and throw everything in front of a fan to dry. It's worth taking the extra effort when you shell out a chunk of change for a pair of shoes, and the Evos still look as good as new.

These trail Hokas are light for trail shoes. The women's size 7.5 comes in at 9 ounces (without insoles). The Bondi B size 8 women's weighed 7.4 ounces. (Yep, I used one of those old school postal scales that can be easily calibrated, and next I will do a math problem using a slide rule.... Continuing on....)

The picture to the left will give you an idea of how the 2012 Evo compares to the 2011 leather version of the Bondi B. I also have a pair of those that I picked up for less than half the normal price at LeftLane Sports. It is safe to say that I am a fan of Hoka shoes. See you on the trails. Time to fly!
'11 Mafate(8), '11 Bondi B lthr(8), '11 Bondi B(8), '12 Stinson Evo(7.5)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Amazon Rainforest

After spending days up in the mountains, coming down to the Amazon Basin was a huge change. It went from cold temps to "wow it is hot and huuuuuumid!" After a short bus ride from the airport, the group wound up in Puerto Maldonado for a stop.

Team Loco
We also happened to catch a very cool military parade that was cut short due to a huge downpour (yes, it is a rainforest)...

After the parade, we headed for the boat and a 2.5 hour boat ride into the Amazon Jungle. 
There was a very nice breeze while traveling by boat, and it felt wonderful! At this point, I guess I should mention Spot. Being the engineer type that I am, I rented a Spot GPS unit for 3 weeks from I knew that the cell coverage along the Inca trail would be iffy at best. (In fact, there was no cell service for 3 of the 4 days.)  I also assumed that the Amazon would have very little service which certainly was the case. Spot has GPS and communicates via satellite. Anyone who was interested in our little journey was added to the email list and received regular location updates, and I am happy to report that Spot worked very well during the entire journey.
Spot the Team Loco Mascot
After leaving the boat and walking a little distance, we arrived at our next home away from home: Refugio Amazonas.  I thought I must be in heaven. Who knew such an amazing place was in the middle of a jungle!?

The entire lodge was incredible. It was made out of wood and fit right in with nature. It was a work of art. 

Mary walking from the main lobby area to the lodging area

Walk way to the rooms
The rooms!
The restroom - cold water only, but that feels
pretty darn good in the Jungle.

Pisco sour - the awesome bartender makes
Jo's favorite drink!
Did I mention there was a
full service bar? A drink that
looks like a parrot...
Above the tree line

Electricity was provided by generators during certain 2 hour periods during the day. Our Amazon guide, Paula, gave us a tour of the trees, wildlife, and a fruit farm, and took us caiman spotting during our second night at the lodge. Here are a few pics from the Amazon adventure:

Paula tells us about the fruit farm
Marg enjoys a boat ride in the rain
Hey Jo!

Tarzan Mary
What a view from the boat!

Here kitty kitty....
That's not a kitty.  It's a caiman! Nothing better than a
cool evening boat ride in the moonlight looking for these
little fellas.
And, of course, no blog post about the Amazon would be complete without a picture of a monkey.  Without further ado...

I never really thought I would actually see the Amazon Jungle or Machu Picchu for that matter. Thanks for sharing in the blog journey of my Peru experience! Adios!