Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year in Review - 2015!

While I may not have been blogging, it has been one heck of a year. Unlike the past few years, there have been some very difficult times as well as some really unexpected things that were pretty darn amazing. Life has been very steady and good for quite a while so I guess it was time to shake things up a bit. Not one to disappoint, God provided. I could say it was a difficult year because there were some really difficult times, but there were too many wonderful things thrown in to feel sorry for myself.

Unfortunately I had to say good-bye to my furry companion who had been my buddy for over 12 years, the Charlie dog. Charlie started showing signs of not feeling too well around August, and a trip to Vet confirmed that he was fighting cancer. He lost his fight after Thanksgiving, but he had a lot of great years. When I got him, he had just been rescued by a place that saved him from sure death - a high kill shelter.  The way I see it is that every day he received after that was a bonus day, and he received a lot of bonus days! We had also adopted Honey Bear so he would have a companion, and it was easy to see how much happier he was with her around. I think he stuck around a bit longer for her. I sure do miss him!

Things on the job front changed as well - multiple times! My project manager and good friend took a job with another company, and it changed the entire landscape of our project. Our company also merged with another larger company.

I soon switched to another project which helped me to realize how awesome my last project manager was, as if I didn't already know that. He and I were friends for a long time, and I miss our discussions and brain storming sessions. I don't know if we could have solved all the world's problems, but I think we could have checked a few of them off of the list.  With the big change at work, I decided it was time to look for another job. Whammo presto! God provided in record time. I will start with a new company in the New Year. I am definitely going to miss my SRA Dayton friends.

My coworker, friend, and breakfast buddy also lost her fight with cancer. It was very sudden and very sad. Karyl always had a smile on when I'd walk into her office. I'm not exactly sure when our friendship began, but it was years ago. We'd go and get tea together almost every morning around 10am. Tea time! That eventually turned into ladies' breakfast every few weeks with Karyl, Karrie (Karyl's daughter), Linda, Mom and me. Karyl's funeral was yesterday, and I still cannot believe we never get to have another tea or another breakfast together. I know she belongs to God, but her leaving is still a very difficult thing. It's been years since I've shed this many tears.

So that was a lot of rough stuff for one year, but I cannot possibly ignore all the great things that have happened as well. My mom's appendix ruptured while I was out of town.  Well, actually, it ruptured before I left but we didn't know it. I had a call on my voicemail from mom after I finished a 50 mile race, "Cassie, I am on my way to the emergency room. The doctor says my appendix ruptured." I was in Montana. Mom was in Ohio. I felt my heart sink and fear gripped me, but I was already planning to leave for home early the next morning. This could have ended terribly, but it didn't! After a week in the hospital, mom was released. A few months later, she had that bad little appendix removed laparoscopically. Thank you, God! I'm chalking that up in the good category.

The other huge, and rather remarkable thing, is that I got married - at the age of 39. Over the years I learned that I could find joy being single and that it didn't make me less valuable even if society might hint (or shout) otherwise. Life was good, and I liked my life as it was. I had spoken to Jim a few times over the years, but it took us a long time to actually go on a date.  Actually, it first started with going on runs which turned into getting food after running, which turned into dates, and more runs.  I liked Jim. He liked me. We had a lot in common, and we enjoyed spending time together.

My handsome groom
I remember once upon a time Mr. Gray asked if a guy I was dating treated me well. I couldn't honestly answer that question with a yes then.  Well, Mr. Gray, I can now honestly say yes. Jim treats me well. He's a good man. You'd like him.

Marrying Jim also brought other people into my life: his daughter and his family. They all treat me like family, and I couldn't ask for a better group of folks to call family.

Jim, I am thankful to have you in my life!

We will be sharing our new adventure in a new blog.

While it seemed as if this year brought a huge amount of change in my life, there were some constants that I am so very thankful for. My tough mom who wanted to go shopping despite an appendix rupture. She took pain medication only after they told her she couldn't leave the hospital. This year I was also able to spend some time with my sister from another mother and friend of almost 20 years, Mary, who is now US Army (Retired)!

I am also thankful for all my other friends who've shared this year's journey with me. It's crazy to think I know so many wonderful people. I can't imagine what life would be like without you all. Thank you for being so awesome. Happy New Year!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Initial Impressions: Altra Olympus and Hoka Bondi 4

After my disappointment with the Bondi 3 and subsequent Bondi 3 donation to the Salvation Army, I managed to find a pair of Bondi 2s at a reasonable price and have been running in those. Unfortunately the sole is on the way out so it was time to get new shoes for an upcoming double marathon. I have wanted to try the Altra Olympus for a while, but I wasn't up for paying full price. I noticed the price dropped significantly at Running Warehouse so I decided to pick up a pair. I had read that they run small so I ordered an 8 rather than my usual 7.5. As soon as I put the shoes on my feet, I knew I needed another half size larger. I've found that if I feel like a pair of shoes feels like they might be too small, they will be by mile 30. Luckily Running Warehouse is great about such matters, and I soon had a 8.5 at my door.

Instantly I liked the upper of these shoes. The inside has nice padding and the quality of the materials is impressive. Of course, they also have that distinctive Altra shape. These are my first pair of Altras so they felt different than what I am accustomed to. The Olympus is a trail shoe, but it is hard to imagine that the tread would be effective on technical trails. What really struck me as strange after putting these shoes on was the "cliff" that seems to occur slightly forward of the ball of my foot. I expected zero drop shoes to be... well... flat. You know, slope of 0 an all of that. As I rolled from my heel to the front of the shoes, it felt as if there was a cliff near my toes. Odd. This strange drop makes it feel as though I should be impacting the ground on the ball of my foot. Do all Altras have this rocker "cliff"? If you know the answer, please let me know. My first run was a 6 mile run on the roads which went okay, but I am fairly certain these will not be my next long distance shoe. 

Women's Size 8.5 comes in at 8.5 ounces (no insole)
I looked around for another pair of Bondi 2s with no luck. I noticed that the Bondi 4s had just been released so with a couple of looming races, I pulled the trigger. I had been told by Running Warehouse that the 4s should be lighter than the 3s (yay!), and I noticed they had changed the tongue of the shoe back to something that looked a little more comfortable.  

Despite Hoka still using my less than favorite upper that they incorporated since changing ownership, I was hopeful that the design change would make things better. For the most part, it has, but the stiffness is still a bit uncomfortable around the ankle area. The tongue of the shoe is significantly better than the one on the Bondi 3s, however. Instead of being a flat inflexible piece of material, it has some very comfy padding. 

Bondi 4 versus Bondi 2 sole
Hoka says they have added better material in key wear areas to increase durability, and the soles do look different. They also look slightly more narrow than the previous versions. Since I've read many complaints about the narrow nature of the Bondi model, I really do not know why Hoka would choose to do this. Perhaps to cut weight?  If so, it worked. 

Hoka Bondi 4 women's size 7.5 - 8 ounces (no insole)
The Bondi 3 came in at 8.5 ounces for a size 7.5, and now the Bondi 4 is 8 ounces. That still isn't as light as the original Bondi which came in at a mere 7.4 ounces for size 7.5, but it is a step in the right direction. I should also mention that I was told the new 4s run a bit larger than previous models, but I chose to go with my regular size, 7.5. I really see very little difference in the 7.5 Bondi 4s and the 2s. I am quite certain 7 would have been too small for me. The 4 seems more narrow than previous models, but things may feel different with added miles.

Left: Bondi 4 Right: Bondi 2

Left:Bondi 2 Right: Bondi 4
Just for kicks, I ran some miles on the treadmill in the Hokas and then switched over to the Altras. The sole of the Altras is significantly harder than the Hokas. The strange rocker shape of the sole felt as if I was slapping the ground with my feet unless I made the conscious decision to run on the balls of my feet. Making this effort in a 5 mile race is doable, but after mile 20 in a marathon my mind isn't up for a lot of thinking. I then switched backed to the Hokas which felt a little odd, but not as odd as the other way around.

If I could combine the feeling of the uppers and the anatomical shape of the Altras with the sole softness and rocker of the Bondi Bs, I think I might just have my perfect shoe. Until then, I'll put in some more miles with both of these shoes and see what turns up. Happy running!