Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hoka Review

There is inevitably that day that comes in a runner’s life when the shoe they've fallen in love with is ripped away from them by the company that makes it. Either one tweak too many is made in the newest model, or the shoe is discontinued altogether. I have experienced this twice this year. I was excited for the 10th anniversary edition of the Mizuno Inspire, but I am not a fan of the new super stiff posting or the “euphoric” foam cushioning system. And Brooks, well, don’t even get me started on the Trance versus Transcend switcheroo.

So what’s a runner to do? Experiment. So I decided to go maximal or go home! That’s right! I am trying out Hoka One One. (Pronounced ho-ka oh-nay oh-nay) Hoka makes maximal shoes that take all the good parts of minimalism, and incorporates those qualities into a shoe with cushion to spare. Most Hoka models have a 4 mm drop, which is comparable to semi-minimals like the Saucony Kinvara or Brooks Pure Flow and Cadence. They have lots of width, depth, and flexibility in the upper like an Altra. They are surprisingly lightweight, and they don’t use traditional posting in their support shoes. Instead, the mid-sole material comes up around the foot so that the foot is guided back in line more naturally. Does that concept of the guidance into a natural neutral position sound too good to be true? Well, if it was, then Brooks probably wouldn't be copying that concept on the new Transcend. And Brooks is a running specific brand only, and just happens to be the leading running shoe manufacturer in the United States. They wouldn't spend a ton of money to copy something that doesn't work.

Let’s be real here, I hated the Hoka Stinson from the moment I saw it. It was the first Hoka I came in direct contact with, and it was U-G-L-Y, and it had no alibi, it was UGLY. I tried it on briefly like a small child that takes the tiniest bite of a vegetable, chews quickly, and swallows while simultaneously gasping like they are dying. I took maybe two steps and took them off. That was in August. A few weeks ago, those very same Stinsons made their way back to me after a friend decided that she probably wouldn't ever really wear them to run in either. I reluctantly started wearing them to work as if to spite Mizuno and Brooks for their betrayal. Then the strangest thing happened; I tried running in them.
Size comparison with ASICS GT 2000 v2

At first, I was slow and dragging on my runs, but I could immediately tell that the cushion would feel amazing at the end of a long run. My concern was that I typically wear a mid to high support shoe, but these neutral-esque shoes were actually feeling ok. I had trouble climbing hills at first, and I spoke to some veteran Hoka wearers who do group runs at the store I work in, and they were reluctant to tell me that it was probably just me and my lack of training that made my runs slow and awkward in the Hokas, and I am glad they found a polite way of telling me that because I kept trying them.

I wore the Stinson for my half marathon at the Garden Spot Village Marathon and Half, and I had almost no problems. The cushion was great! This particular course is HILLY, but I didn't have any issues that seemed to be due to the shoe rather than the actual hills themselves. I didn't have any ankle or knee pain after the race, but I did have a few blisters on the ends of my toes. I haven’t had any blisters after switching to the wrightsock until I ran that half in the Stinsons. The plus side is that I usually have either shooting pain, tingling, or numbness in my left leg after a long run due to a pinched nerve in my back, but I didn't have any of those issues after running a half marathon in the Hoka Stinson!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Racing Recap: Garden Spot Village Half Marathon

I am well on my way to becoming a Half Fanatic! I finished my second half marathon out of the three I need to run in 90 days to become a Half Fanatic. I had a great time at the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon in New Holland, PA. This is probably my second favorite race so far since I started running.

Thanks, Toni!
This race benefits the Benevolent Fund for Garden Spot Village, which is a retirement community in New Holland; the heart of Amish Country, PA. Make no mistake, the race was HARD!! I loved the first 5 miles or so even with all the CRAZY HILLS!! I can't even explain how crazy the hills were. I decided to just feel out the course, walk when I needed to, and take full advantage of the down hills. I really had a hard time with this challenging course, but luckily I met a wonderful woman named, Toni, who pushed me along throughout the second half of the race. She was seriously AWESOME!!!!! I probably would have walked at least the last three miles if she had not kindly stayed by my side encouraging me.

I loved the scenery of this course! It was just like being back home in Missouri with all the farmland around.
There were Amish men, women, and children cheering the runners along the way. I even saw, and I am not making this up, an Amish boy wearing a bear suit while Rusted Root was playing on my playlist! This may seem strange, yet innocuous, but all of those things remind me of my sister Grace who inspired me to start running in the first place. I could have done without the Road Apples, but the scenery was gorgeous, and they come with the territory.

The organization and amenities were the best part of this race. There was plenty of parking, and it was near the start/finish. There were tons of port-a-potties at the start/finish, and there were some along the course. The volunteers were awesome! There were plenty of water stops, and the post-race was AWESOME!! They had shakes, smoothies, omelettes, soup, sandwiches, snacks, and tons of tables and chairs to rest, relax, and regroup.

And a big thanks to my husband, Matthew, who filled up the water pitcher last night, woke up at 5:30 on a Saturday to sit around for a couple hours waiting for me to finish, and is always sweeter than I deserve. I love you so much, Handsome!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How beautifully difficult, and therefore true.

Do you want to know what I love about running? Life. Running makes me appreciate life far more than I did before I became a runner. Running has a way of subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, reminding me that I am very fortunate. My life is easy. Have I faced my share of challenges? Sure! Haven't we all? Running just reminds me that those challenges, those hardships, those feelings of despair when you've experienced something awful, are all temporary.

I can be a bit of a pessimist. I am also a bit of a whiner. When I'm running, I sometimes complain, whine, or even get angry about how difficult things seem at the time, but I try to remind myself that I should be thankful. There are so many people who cannot run. There are people living their lives in fear and defining themselves by the standards of others. There are women living in oppressive societies. There are entire countries devastated by poverty, war, and famine.

My life is easy. My life is blessed. My life is beautiful. Running is hard. Running feels hard. Running is beautiful, and running is easy. Wait? How can running be hard and easy? Well, it is a challenge. A challenge that I readily invite into my life. It's hard because it pushes me to evaluate my motivation, dedication, and confidence, which makes it easy because that helps me to become a better version of myself. The biggest key to running is that it only feels hard. Hard is relative. When I think that running feels hard, I try to think about how easy my life really is and how I can often be ungrateful for the easy, blessed, fortunate, beautiful life that I have. It really helps to put things in perspective.

That is what my new running tattoo represents to me. I got it on my wrist to see while I am running to remind me that I need to love. I need to live. I need to run. In order to put my life in perspective, in order to live fully, and in order to fully love all that I have been blessed with, I need to run.

If you really want inspiration, watch this awesome Boston Marathon tribute video.

How wonderful, how sane, how beautifully difficult, and therefore true.-- Salinger

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Race Recap: Caesar Rodney Half Marathon

This Sunday I ran the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon to kick off the spring race season and my attempt to join the Half Fanatics! I was so worried about this race beforehand. I know that the Caesar Rodney course is notoriously difficult due to the hills, but on top of that, I didn’t fully train for this race. I ran 7 miles twice in preparation for this endeavor, which was the longest distance I ran, and my other runs were sporadic to say the least. I was kicking myself for signing up for this race that requires winter training until I took the time to think about why I was running it in the first place.

There is a fun looking new race in Philly this spring called the Love Run, but I chose the earlier, harder race of the two because it is for the American Lung Association, which is an organization I wanted to support. I have also run a race to benefit LUNGevity before for the same reason. An amazing woman who influenced me greatly growing up died from lung cancer despite having never been a smoker. It’s simple, if you have lungs and you breathe, then you can develop asthma, chronic bronchitis, or even lung cancer. Cara was an amazing and strong woman, and I ran, once again, in her memory.

I had started off slow. My AMAZING husband took me to the race, and he assured me that I could make it and that it was fine to just take it slow. I decided that the best way to accomplish that was to place myself at the verrrry back of the starting corral, and lose myself in a podcast of This American Life. I wasn’t exactly lost in it with a woman confidently and almost effortlessly speed walking next to me. She assured me that it was only because she has long legs that she was able to keep up with my “running” pace. I told her I need to get some of those!

I nearly drown at the first few water stations because I attempted to drink from those paper cups while running, but it turns out I still suck at that. I started walking through the water stations by mile 8 because I didn’t want to be the first dry land drowning victim at a half marathon. Besides those water stops and half of the monstrous hill at the end, I didn’t have to walk at all. I finally did a half marathon without doing a run-walk the whole time. I usually get passed by a whole bunch of people in the second half of the race, but this time, I got to be the one passing people as I slowly gained speed! I ran a negative split, and I set a new PR since I didn’t have to run-walk!

All in all, I had a great experience running the Caesar Rodney Half, despite the challenging course. It was a great start to my spring racing season this year, and I am looking forward to my next two races in my quest to get in Half Fanatics!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tricks of the Trade: Fitting and Laces

Ok, so I have been MIA because I have been busy pouting about the never ending winter that is 2014. I know, I know. February is a winter month. I am just tired of the snow and subzero temperatures. Oh well! I will get over it now that I am turning to the treadmill as there is snow blocking all the places I could safely run otherwise. Hopefully the snow will hold off long enough for some to melt. I'm not holding out for the snow to stop completely yet because I am tired of having my spirits crushed. So today I am bringing you my first Tricks of the Trade post! Here are ways to re-lace your shoes for the most comfortable fit for your foot. I see a lot of crazy-resourceful things working in a running store!

The Gap

Skipping a hole, or two, can work best for someone who has a wide mid-foot or sensitivity in the top of the foot. I personally lace my shoes this way because I have a wide mid-foot, and I get a painful ache in my feet when I run if I don't lace them this way. I have seen other people come in with their shoes laced this way, and one man told me that the top of his foot is very sensitive, so he skips a hole at the highest part of his foot.

Bunion Business

There are tons of different tricks for bunions, and that's likely because they can be very painful, and avoiding pressure is an important step in avoiding surgery! Skipping the hole on the inside bottom or the two bottom holes is a great way to relieve some of that pressure. *Make sure you are already choosing a shoe with a wide toe box if possible to avoid extra pressure. Everything from the width of the toe box to the placement of the logo/design on the shoe makes a difference in comfort for a person with bunions! 
(Extra Secret Tip: ASICS and Brooks tend to have the widest toe box!)

Narrow? Not a problem!

There really is a use for that last hole that is never laced up on a running shoe! This trick is great for people with a narrow foot or an extremely straight or narrow Achilles. This will lock your foot in place in the shoe so that there is no sliding or slipping in the back. Just lace in toward the foot, through the loop created on the other side, and then tie the laces normally! This will occasionally call for longer laces than the shoe originally came with. 
(EXTRA SUPER SECRET TIP: Parents, in the middle of a growth spurt, buy the shoe a half to full size bigger, and use the laces to hold the foot in the correct position for the week before the shoe fits correctly on its own! A half size is only 1/16 of an inch, so you really aren't getting too much extra space, so don't worry!)

If these tricks still don't seem to be giving you the right fit, then see someone at a local running store to find out if they can use a Brannock Device to measure the width of your foot. Chances are, they can order you the correct width if they don't already have it in stock, and you may not even have to change the style or brand that you are currently wearing! And don't be afraid to get your foot measured often because your foot will grow and change your whole life!! Remember, size is just a number! Don't get hung up on the number. Just make sure those feet have a good fit to keep your body happy and those feet in motion!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Runner's Rambles: Super (weird) Sunday

I'm not usually at a loss for words. I talk about running all day long, but I have found myself at a loss for words. I have had trouble getting myself out for all my weekly training runs since stopping the streak. It's hard to convince myself to run in snowy or cold weather without the motivation of the streak, but the weather was gorgeously spring-like this weekend, and I got in two solid runs. I did a four miler on Saturday and a slow but steady 7 miler on Sunday. So, where do I start?Let's start with the strange, and then move toward the revelations.

I was at 6.90 miles as I neared my apartment, so in order to finish a full seven miles on Sunday, I had the choice to run a tenth of a mile in the parking lot at my apartment, or I could run up the hill next door to the apartment complex. I opted for the hill since I know that I have multiple hilly races this spring. Well, some old man was crazily flailing, yet sprinting down the sidewalk on the hill, which forced me into a pretty busy street. I was a bit perturbed, but I finished the seven miles and turned around to walk back to my apartment.

When I was walking through the parking lot to my building, the old man ran up to me! He told me his name, and the clubs he runs with, and his occupation, and a million other things all while running in small circles around me and creating a moving barrier between me and my apartment building. I couldn't really get him to realize that I wasn't interested, and he kept asking me to run with him sometime. I said, "sure...sometime...I'll probably see you around," in a voice that was meant to just brush him off, but he just kept running back and forth in front of me blocking my path to the building. He wouldn't take no for an answer, and he asked for my phone number, which I didn't give to him. I ended up giving him my email to get him to leave me alone. So here I am thinking that it is crazy to just go up to a stranger and ask to run with them. On the other hand, I'm sure he's a nice person, but I am not sure how to proceed from here. Honestly, I don't really run with other people. AND I don't know this person!!! Why do weird things always happen to me?

Ok, so I have come up with a new strategy for pushing through hills or keeping my pace up near the end of a run. I know that I look like a crazy person when I run, and I have referred to it in my blog before as the psycho factor. It's true. So when I started to feel the crazy creeping up on my face yesterday on a steep hill, I dug deep for my yoga deep breathing and focused on relaxing my face. I noticed that if I relaxed my face and breathing, then I could push myself further. I'm going to keep testing it out, but I am really thinking I'm on to something here! Then again, maybe if I looked a bit crazier at the end of my run, then I wouldn't have had a stranger trying to talk to me.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The training wheels are off!

Ok, I started the week streaking and feeling torn between all the different goals I had for myself and my running this year. Of course, it is pretty clear by now that I bite off more than I can chew, but it seems that I am starting to learn how to back down and make smart choices to reach my goals. I originally decided around the beginning of December that I would try to run outside at least once a week in the winter. I usually switch over to spinning and aerobics classes in the winter, so the fact that I streaked for 43 days in the middle of the snowiest winter Philadelphia has ever seen, I am going to chalk that up as a win. I may do another streak at the end of the year, but I have some time to figure that out.

I thought I was ready to take the training wheels off, and maybe I wasn't completely ready, but I just have to suck it up and get up and running. I took THREE whole rest days in a row when I stopped my streak, which was a little bit too much rest if I'm being honest. When I was streaking, I didn't think, "hmm, it's pretty cold...maybe I won't run today." When I was streaking, I just layered up and headed out the door. There was no real question about whether or not I would run, it was just a matter of how far. It's time for me to get back on my half training schedule! My first big goal for this year is to run 3 half marathons in 90 days to meet the Half Fanatics requirements for the Neptune level membership!

I will recap my streak by sharing just a few of my favorite pictures from my streak instagram project!