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. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Great Ride Along the Little Miami Scenic Trail

It only took 6 years for me to finally do this bike ride. It was there, stored away, in the back of my brain. Simmering. This year was the year.

As luck would have it, I have a friend who also wanted to do this ride. Her goals were a little loftier. Since I think just about any ride on the Little Miami Scenic Trail should include Peaches, I was easily persuaded to do a few more miles starting at Yellow Springs. She also convinced me to go to the very end of the trail in Newtown. Like I had any clue where that was.

I mapped out the distance, planned a few stops, and figured out that there was a Hilton Garden Inn near the trail which meant a free room with Hilton Honors points. Luckily the weekend we chose was perfect in the weather department so everything was set. Well, everything but my bike rack was set. The new bike didn't have eyelets for a rear rack. That meant some creative attaching using a Tubus QR adapter set and some rubber clamps I picked up at Home Depot.

The Beginning
This Little Miami Scenic Trail actually starts a little more north than our starting point. We opted to start in Yellow Springs mostly because, well, it is Yellow Springs. There is plenty to see and do there, and it would be a festive finish upon our return. It also helped that I really enjoy Peaches which is right beside the bike path.

Our first landmark town on our journey was Xenia. It is roughly 8 miles from Peaches to the McDonald's in Xenia. That wasn't so hard.

This fellow was riding from
Cincy to Yellow Springs
Xenia Station
Our next planned stop 16 miles from Yellow Springs was a new place along the path called Treana's Folks and Spokes Cafe in Spring Valley. All I can say is wow! This place awesome. Carolyn had Broccoli and Cheese Quiche, and I had a ham and cheese croissant. Darcie took good care of us and told us a little about the place. It is very nicely decorated, and they have bike parts for sale as well. They also have a nice outdoor seating area. This place was definitely going to be a stop on our return trip.
Bicycles hanging from the ceiling. How cool
is that?
Spring Valley
Treana's Spokes and Folks

The next place of note along the path was Fort Ancient. I have yet to actually see Fort Ancient other than passing by on the bike path. One of these days.

Morrow was our next stop and the farthest I have ever been on the Little Miami Scenic Trail. We stopped at Miranda's Ice Cream shop and had some lunch. Morrow is a pretty small town, and there aren't a lot of options close to the path. This is where it would have paid to know about Loveland. I had heard that the path traffic would pick up as we approached Loveland (which is 13 miles from Morrow), and it did. As Carolyn and I cruised into Loveland, we were amazed at all the fun everyone was having. People were out and about. Plenty of folks were on bicycles, and there were also a lot of folks smiling, eating, and drinking outside at the Trailside Cafe.

And I hear...."In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, There's a land that's fair and bright...." A band at the Trailside Cafe was playing this song which transported me right back to Tennessee. This song always reminds me of the Smoky Mountains. I can only think I must have heard it there when I visited as a child.

This song was fitting as Loveland seemed like a fairy tale in the middle of our journey. I was so interested in what was going on around me that I actually forgot to take pictures. Since we had committed to going to the end of the trail, we continued on our journey. In order to get to the end, we had to pass the road leading to the hotel. A bit later we arrived in Milford which touts itself as Trail Town, USA. There was a lot less path traffic in this section.

Hmmmm, which trail do we next? How about
Cincy to Cleveland! :-)
65 miles later, we arrived at the end of the trail in Newtown. There was no finish line or even an end of LMST sign. There was just a golf course sign ordering us to dismount bikes.

This section had little shade, and it was getting pretty warm out. We still had 10 miles to go to get back to the hotel. We considered heading back to the Trailside Cafe but decided to go the hotel instead since it would have added quite a few more miles to the journey.  Little did we know what awaited us on Wards Corner Road. It was only about 1 and half miles to the hotel from the path, but what a tough 1.5 miles it was!

My Lightspeed doesn't have a granny gear. I was carrying plenty of gear. I had just ridden 70+ miles. This road had cars on it. This was no time for a hill! Unfortunately no one informed the hill. I would have stopped and walked the bike, but I didn't think I could unclip from my pedals without falling over. By the time I got to the top, my legs were shaking and my heart was about to jump out of my chest. If we hadn't gotten our money's worth in the first 73 miles, we certainly got it in the last 1.5.  I was very happy to arrive at the hotel.

After a good breakfast on Sunday, we headed back toward Yellow Springs. Our timing was a little later than we had preferred, but it was out of necessity to avoid the Little Miami Half Marathon on the path. We did manage to go through the race finish line in Morrow. It was another day of absolutely perfect weather, and we once again stopped at Treana's on the way home. This time we met Treana and had some fajitas and good conversation with others who had stopped to "fuel up" along the path. After 55 miles for the day, we arrived back where we had begun. We enjoyed a celebratory drink at Peaches and walked around Yellow Springs which was bustling with people out enjoying a beautiful day. Our Little Miami Scenic Trail adventure was complete!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


My favorite month!

July and I have had our moments. I remember back in my KinderCare days (which means I was probably 4 or so), I had a book with facts about popular shows / movies. I used to love Knight Rider so when I saw David Hasselhoff and I had the same July birthday, I thought that was pretty awesome. In high school, I learned that my favorite teacher, Mr. Gray, also had the birthday of July 17th. More on that a little later. In any case, I loved birthdays.

The first time I remember not being happy on my birthday was during Camp Buckner at West Point. I was far from home spending a humid summer in New York. I was miserable. I was hot, sweaty, tired, and running around in the woods. (Strangely, I now do something very similar for fun.) Later in life, I had people forget my birthdays. When you've been dating someone for a while, that feels less than good.  That happened two different times over the years during two different relationships. No joy there. Worse yet, I could never recall my dad ever calling to say happy birthday. As a kiddo, I didn't think about that much. As an young adult, it made me a little mad.

My final straw occurred on my 30th birthday. I had always thought I would be married by 27 and have children by 30.  I was turning 30, and neither of those things had occurred. Instead, I was in a very negative relationship, in a brand new job as an IT project manager (ugh), out of shape, and trying to figure out where things had gone so wrong. I felt the black hole pulling me in, and it was a terrible feeling. Logically I realized that it was ridiculous for a number to have such real impact on my emotions, but it was more than the number. The issue was my life the way it was at that moment. The number just made me focus on my reality.  A month after our birthday, Mr. Gray passed away.

Later I would joke and say I had my mid-life crisis 10 years early.  At the time it felt like anything but a joke.I knew I could not continue in this direction so I decided to begin celebrating my birthday again.

Not only would I celebrate my birthday on my birthday, but I would begin my celebration on July 1st. To heck with that darkness trying to pull me down, I was going to fight back. Everyday between July 1st and the 17th, I would have a birthday celebration. That celebration could consist of a stop at the coffee shop, a new jacket, a bike ride with a friend, or anything a little different really. The point was to focus on the joy and goodness of one thing for that day. I also began my tradition of the red sock run one year later to celebrate and remember Mr. Gray.

The first time I came across Mr. Gray, he scared the hell out of me. Mrs. Wuthrich sent me up to his classroom to look for Nathan who she had sent up that way earlier to get something.  I was in 8th grade and sent up to talk to a teacher I didn't know in front of a bunch of high school students. I asked him if he knew where Nathan was, and he said something ridiculous. All the older kids laughed.  I took his algebra 1 class that next year, and somewhere during that time he decided I was pretty smart. Over the next four years, Mr. Gray became the dad I never had. The summer after my sophomore year, I spent every morning beginning at 7am with him, Jonathan (his nephew) and Angie (a woman studying for her PhD) doing math problems under the big pecan tree in his huge garden for about 3 hours. Afterwards, we would pick black-eyes peas, watermelons, cucumbers, garlic, or whatever was ready to be harvested. One day during a math lesson, I asked him when his birthday was, and he said, "July 17th!" I didn't believe him so he showed me his driver's license.  Lo and behold (as he would always say), it was July 17th!  From that day forward, he often referred to me as his twin.

Mr. Gray was retired Army; field artillery to be exact. Every day he wore red socks, "field artillery red" as he called it. So the first birthday after his passing, I ran my first red sock run and have continued the tradition ever since.

This year I took some pictures of my daily birthday celebrations at the request of a friend so I thought I'd go ahead and post them on the blog.  Without further ado....

July 1
Blueberry Bagel at Panera

July 2
While cleaning my garage, I found
$40 someone had left behind 
July 3
Free Iced Latte at Panera!
July 4
Freedom 50K Ride with Carolyn

July 5
Sold my old bike on craigslist in
less than 4 hours and made
$100 more than I thought I would

July 6
Diet Cherry Lime Dr. Pepper

July 7
$85 running jacket for
32 bucks!

July 8
Dartfish running gait
analysis at PT. Very neat.
July 9
In New Jersey for work. Birthday
dinner with my friend
Dave (far right). Thanks Dave!
July 10
Mom bought me a beautiful
sunflower. Thanks Mom!
July 11
Breakfast with the ladies. Blueberry
pancakes! (No powdered sugar,
sugar-free syrup ;-)
July 12
$20 at a time, Mom and I gave away
the extra $100 I got for the bicycle.
July 13
Peanut Paradise Smoothie sans sugar

July 14
Wright Museum and Bike Tour.
Very cool :-)
July 15
Birthday beer and free dinner
July 16

July 17th
 Red Sock Run and Bike