Saturday, September 6, 2014

Race Recap: Bird In Hand Half Marathon

Holy crap. That sucked.-- This is a summary of how this race went, but you can read the whole post if you want the fine print.

It was a lovely humid 90 degree day in eastern Pennsylvania today. Juuuuuust lovely. And by that, I mean that it was actually awful. As soon as we stepped outside our front door this morning at 5:15 am, I felt the wave of heat and the heaviness in the air from the humidity, but no worries! I didn't have to deal with the humidity for long! The scorching sun seemingly burned off all the humidity by about mile 3 of the race. I wanted so badly for this race to go well. I was looking forward to another Amish Country run because the scenery is beautiful and this race is very interesting because of the Hot Air Balloon race that takes place on the same day, and there are Amish kids manning the water stops, and I needed a recharge for my marathon training, and I was running with my weekend running partner, Kristen, and I just... I just... I just wanted to have fun and run well. Why is that too much to ask?

If I haven't clearly conveyed this yet; it was stupidly hot. Now, I asked my friend Mark yesterday, "should I take my hydration belt?" "No!" he says. "They have water stops," he says. Mark gets angry when it is in the 60's and he has to do a long run!!! MARK!!!! IT WAS HOT AND I HAD NO WATER!!! I was shaking my fists at Mark for a while during this race today. That's the last time I listen to you, Mark! They did set out coolers of ice for the runners between water stops, and there were several kind Amish families who brought their garden hose up by the road to spray runners as they ran by, but there was no shade on the course, and it was HOT (in case I haven't mentioned that), and it just didn't go well.

I told Kristen by about mile three that she should just leave me behind. I seriously felt like I wasn't going to make it already at that point, so I kind of gave up most of my hope. I noticed at one point that I was even starting to hallucinate, or at least I thought I was. Remember last week when I thought I saw an ambulance, but it turned out to be a horse trailer? Well, I thought I saw a camel standing by an ambulance. Yes. It was so hot I saw a camel....but thankfully the camel was real, and so was the ambulance, which means that I hadn't completely lost it. They also gave out Rita's Water Ice at one point in the race, and it was amazing.

The best thing to come out of this race was that I met another kind person while running. When a race is going terribly, I usually try to find some other person around me who will carry on a conversation, and then help push me till the end. Today, I met Donna. Donna is an amazingly kind woman who seems to find the best in people and situations despite the fact that many other people in her situation would probably be very unhappy people. She cheered me on, and she cheered on other strangers as they passed us or as we passed them. She even SHARED HER STINGER CHEWS with me!! That is a big freaking deal in the running community! For real! This woman gave me some of her chews! We both agreed that one of the best parts of running is finding that throughout the running community there are so many different people, each with their own stories about why they run, and I am thankful that she reminded me of that because that will hopefully be my fuel to kickstart my marathon training back up for real!

Lastly, I just want to do a short rant about how the finish sucked most of all. You would think that after such a terrible race and the punishing heat, that I would just be elated to be done, but no. I cross the finish line, and a young girl smiles and says, "Congratulations! Here's an ice cold MILK!" Now my first instinct was to punch her in the face, but I didn't go with that first instinct, so no worries. I looked to my right, and a different girl hands me a bottle of water that she took right out of a cardboard box sitting on the ground, not in a cooler full of ice. It was 90 degrees!! Who wants freaking ice cold milk?!! I don't care how cold it is!! I want ICE COLD WATER!!! I just ran a freaking half marathon!! UGHHHHHHHH. Well, I survived anyway. And I got my Road Apple Award, so I guess it's all fine in the end. I just wish I'd had a better experience.

 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lessons Learned: Just go!

I took a whole week off. In the middle of marathon training, right after doing the same distance long run that did me during marathon training last year, I took a whole week off. I felt sort of tired, but not particularly sore, and I had a little knee pain... so I got lazy and semi-justified taking a whole week off. I didn't set out to take a whole week off, but it just sort of happened. It turns out that was a bad idea. Bad.

I knew I had to force myself out of bed this morning for the Church of Sunday Long Run at Valley Forge Park, so I reluctantly and slowly got up and headed over to the park. Standing around before we ran, I admitted that I hadn't run all week, and it was increasingly apparent that we were going to have a small group today because of the holiday weekend. I also admitted that I would probably end up only running 5 miles instead of 10 because I knew it would be easy to quit after one loop on the Martin Trail at VFP. Terry suggested I follow him over to the Schuylkill River Trail instead to do a loop that was about 9 miles. My watch only measured 8.5, but that's fine with me!

We headed off toward the trail, and Terry and Rick ran a very slow warm up mile over to the trail so that I could keep up with them. Mind you, I had to run my little heart out to keep up, but I did. Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit there, but you get the idea. It is a very good thing they stayed with me to get me to the trail because I likely would have been deterred by all the "road closed," signs and construction equipment! Never mind those! We forged right ahead! Hahaha And we even passed an entire HS girls Cross Country team! Ok, exaggeration again. They were standing around stretching after their warm up, and they promptly left me in their dust once they started running.

It's a good thing that there was beautiful scenery because I hate gravel trails, and I had a really rough time after all those lazy days I took this week. I walked so much today that I'm really not sure that I should even say that I went for a run, but I guess I get what I deserve for being lazy and pigging out all week. It was so hot and humid that I almost considered taking my shirt off while I ran, and the only other time I felt that way was Labor Day weekend last year during my last long run before bailing on marathon training and skipping straight to the marathon! Yikes! I really got a taste of why I should not skip training runs, and I told Terry on one of his MANY paperclips back to find me (thank you!) that I will think of how I felt today every time I think about possibly skipping a training run again during this training season!! I mean, at one point, I thought there was an ambulance up head of us that's how bad this was! It turned out to be a horse trailer, but I wouldn't have minded an ambulance at the time.

When I finally made it back to the parking lot, I told Terry and Rick that my run was miserable, which Terry already knew, but he pointed out that I finished it, and for today that was all that mattered. Now from here on out, I need to keep training and make sure that finishing a short run like today's isn't the goal!! It's ok to have an off-day in the sense of not having a good day, but there are training days and rest days. There is no more room on my calendar for taking-off-days!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

If marathons were easy, then everyone would run them.

It's been an interesting week. I had a terrible mid-week run, and I told my friend Mark that I was ready to give up on NYC marathon training. I got lost in my new 'hood in the 'burbs, and I had a very long and slow uphill climb to face in order to find my way back home. It was a rough "run" that ended in a dead Garmin, a long walk home, frustration and one very, very late arrival to work. No good.

I tried my hardest to brush it off, but unlike T. Swift, I can't just shake it off. I went for an early morning Saturday run with my friend and running partner, Mara, in a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to right myself before attending the Church of Sunday Long Run. And if anyone thinks I am being flippant with that phrase, well, let me tell you, I had a real come-to-Jesus kind of run on Sunday as I battled the sun and hills at Valley Forge National Historic Park.

I was grateful to have company for the first 10 miles of my run today, but I still had some obstacles along the way. First, my Garmin took forever locate any freaking satellites. Then, about two miles in, I realized it had decided to be a stupidly expensive stopwatch instead of a GPS watch. Not cool, Forerunner. It is a good thing I was running a 5 mile loop with kind people, so I knew how far I had gone despite my watch. And a long run feels much shorter when you have someone to run most of it with you, so I really am beyond grateful that I had company today.

I am at the point in my training where I basically gave up last year, so this is the turning point. I will finish training this time, but the further I get in the training, the more I remember why I don't like marathons. I think I will be sticking to half marathons from now on. I have found a few things that are getting me through training this time, so I am going to do a short shout-out list to wrap up this little update.

Internal dialogue: I have found that just telling myself to calm down goes a long way. Yes, I talk to myself. At least MOST of the time I don't talk to myself out loud, right?

My coworkers: Thanks to Terry, Erin, and Mark for listening to all my crazy theories, and telling my when I'm full of it and to suck it up and get running. And sorry to my newest coworker who was left outside the store waiting for me when I got lost on my run the other morning! Oops!

My friends: Yes, coworkers, you are included here too. And to all my other friends as well who have listened to me talk about running every. single. time. I see you.-- Guess I should start blogging more frequently.

My family: Thanks to my sister Grace, for always being excited about my runs even when I am not. To my brother Joe, for all the crazy competitiveness that is him. My sister-in-law Katie, for balancing him out and reminding me that he is some non-human competitive machine and that the rest of us are normal. To my sister-in-law Anna, who is getting ready to run the KC 30K Series AND her first half marathon this fall! AND a big thank you to my husband, Matthew, who has made me dinners and breakfasts and bares the brunt of my ridiculousness.

AND
My running partners: Thanks to Sheila, BJ, Nancy, Jill, Erin, Mark, Mara, Jim, and Kristen! Each of you have run with me at some point during my training so far, and whether it has been a few miles or many, once or once a week, I am deeply appreciative and moved to be able to be a part of such a great community of runners. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I would likely not have made it this far with out you.

So here's to a strong second half of training and hopefully an enjoyable race experience this fall.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hiatus

I have clearly dropped off the face of the blogging planet after I moved, and those who regularly read my posts may wonder why. The answer is simple; I am training for a marathon, working full-time, and enjoying my first year of marriage. We are settled into our new place, but I have not jumped back into the blogging.

I started this blog as an outlet for my thoughts, struggles, and accomplishments on my journey of active living. Right now, I am just concentrating on life and training and the balancing act that comes along with those. I am sure I will jump back into blogging at some point, so stay happy, healthy, and active until then!

You can do anything for 10.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Runner's Rambles: Vacation Running and National Running Day

Happy National Running Day!! It's one of the best holidays of the year! I celebrated with a short night run
after work. I absolutely love running at night during the summer. I'm not really sure why because it is usually still pretty hot at night because the heat radiates up from the pavement, but I guess I just like that I feel less exposed when it's dark. Believe me, I wear plenty of reflective gear to try my best to be seen by cars, but I just feel more like I'm flying than running at night even though I am not fast enough to consider what I do flying.

I am happy to say that my Summer Streak is firmly intact after going on a trip to Colorado to see two of my good friends get married! I got altitude sickness after their mountain top wedding, but even though they were probably the slowest miles of my life, I still ran at least one mile every day! Running can be difficult on vacation to say the least, but if you don't have to do super long runs, and your spouse or family doesn't mind you logging a few miles, then it is definitely doable! I just hopped on the hotel's "dreadmill" most days, but I did log some miles on a nearby trail!

At Garden of the Gods with my handsome husband, Matthew!

Garden of the Gods

Mountain View during my last run in Colorado

We got to go to the Olympic Training Center.
As another gift to me for NRD, when I went to my chiropractor this morning, he said that I am ready for PT, and I can start slowly increasing my daily mileage! So I upped my mileage a bit tonight as well! I am a bit bummed that my running in my current neighborhood is coming to an end this week as I officially move out to the 'burbs, but I am mainly bummed that I never figured out where the house is that JLaw "lived in" in Silver Linings Playbook. I will not at all miss the ridiculous traffic and getting honked at every day even though I am on the sidewalk out of the way. On one hand, I am pretty excited to find new routes after I move. On the other hand, I am not stoked that I have to go through runs in an unfamiliar place, so I will likely have some good stories about getting lost!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Get Your Streak On!

Best message for day one!
Ok, so it's back again. The Streak! Runner's World always challenges runners to streak from Thanksgiving to New Year's because most people tend to hit the slump at that point in their fitness. Most of us have finished races, it starts getting cold, there are tons of get-togethers with friends and family filling up schedules, and most of us start indulging in those holiday treats! The streak just helps as some motivation to stay active during busy times when it's easy to put running in the background.

It would stand to reason that once the weather is beautiful it would be easier to stay active, but that's not always the case. I have tapered my running after competing my goal of getting into Half Fanatics, and my marathon training doesn't start for about a month. And my chiropractor has had me scale back after the pinched nerve caused me so much trouble at my last half. So I decided to join in the RW Summer Run Streak from Memorial Day to July 4th. You don't even have to streak all the way to Labor day, so it's really not that bad. 40 days is less than the winter streak I did.

I was apprehensive at first because we are getting ready to take a trip out to CO for my friends' wedding, and we are moving as soon as we get back. I figured running on vacation, even if it is only one mile, was pushing it a bit because Matt's not a runner, and I didn't want to clog up our mornings with trying to fit in a short run in a place that I am not familiar with the roads. I mentioned yesterday afternoon that I wasn't going to do it, but then Matt told me that I should! He said, "So what if we are on vacation... hit the treadmill... it's one mile." So I went out for a run yesterday evening, and then enlisted family members with only a little bit of pushing for a couple of them so that I could have some accountability. Let's see how this goes!


Thanks for the accountability from Anna, Joe, Katie, and Grace!!!! Now, go run!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What if everybody ran?

I always say that I know not everyone enjoys running. I meet people at work who tell me that they hate running, but they do it to stay healthy or that they walk because they are fine with walking, but running sucks. I usually smile and make some platitude about how I understand that it's not for everyone. My own husband hates running, unfortunately. And there was even a time in my life when I hated running. But I fell in love with running, and though I may not be able to transfer that love to everyone, I do hope that everyone finds something that empowers them and makes them feel the way running makes me feel.

Well, Mizuno asked the question that I have wondered since I fell in love with running. What if everybody ran? They commissioned a statistical analysis to answer that question. They give all kinds of cool information on  their website. They state that there would be 20 million more great-grandmothers, 7 billion more hours spent outdoors, $143 billion fewer dollars spent on healthcare, 46% fewer homeless people, and many other cool statistics.

There is a non-profit that started in Philadelphia called Back On My Feet. It is now in several US cities, and its purpose is to help homeless people gain employment and housing through a program that has running at its core. When I told my husband about BOMF a few months ago, he didn't understand how running helps homeless people. I am a runner; I get it. Running changed my life. On top of that, I worked with another nonprofit in West Philly that helps homeless mothers and their children get off the street and back on track to go to school, get a job, and learn other important life and parenting skills. BOMF that having something like running that gives someone a sense of empowerment, discipline, and focus can make a big difference in someone trying to change their life.

So Mizuno has created an app called the Mizuno Baton that can be downloaded on apple or android devices. You get one week to log as many miles as you can, and Mizuno will donate money to BOMF for each mile that is logged. If you want to change your body, then exercise. If you want to change your life, then become a runner. Mizuno is also giving runners the chance to change other people's lives. So download the app, and help change a life.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The lowdown on the up top!

So women come in the store I work in all the time asking about headbands reluctantly. They see my short
medium sweatyband
hair and tend to politely brush off what I am saying about headbands. Here's the thing though, I used to have long hair, and believe me it is much harder to deal with short hair as a runner than long hair. When I had long hair, I threw it up in a bun, and off I went. I have thick and naturally...curly isn't the right word...Hagrid. That's it. I have naturally Hagrid hair. You know, Hagrid from Harry Potter? It can be hard to tame, and when I get all sweaty? Forget it! So, I consider myself qualified to give some advice on keeping your hair out of your way when running.

When I still had long hair, I was a fan of Sweatybands. They stay in place without a lot of fidgeting mid-run to get it back in place or anything. Sweatybands have a velvet backing on the inside of the headband that helps it catch and stay in place. There are three different sizes of Sweatybands (thin, medium, and thick), and they have tons of fun prints and designs. The section of the headband that goes around the back of the head is a thin elastic strap, so it isn't thick and uncomfortable with velvet all the way around your head. The thing about them though, is the same catch that I have found with all running headbands. It needs to be worn close to the hairline in order to stay in place...it is called a SWEATYband after all. It is supposed to catch sweat.

thick sweatyband--to prevent slipping
wear running headbands close to the hairline
The Takeaway: I have used them when running with short hair, but I still have to do so many other things to keep my hair out of the way. I think these are great for runners with long hair, and for pulling back bangs when you have longer hair.

Price: $15-18
Hippie Runner 4head band
worn for style instead of
function

I recently picked up some new headbands at a race expo, and I fell in love! I bought 5 Hippie Runner 4head headbands. They are made from moisture
How to properly wear Hippie band
wicking material, and they are thicker in the front and thinner in the back, but not as thin as Sweatybands. They are also to be worn a little further forward on the head because it sort of sticks to your skin to stay in place. They have tons of fun color options, and they really do wick away sweat while also keep hair out of your face! They even have men's options for guys who want to keep sweat off their faces or tame their manes!

The Takeaway: I think they look way cooler on longer hair, but it keeps short hair completely out of the way, and absolutely no slipping if worn partially on the forehead. I also love the affordability! These are my new favorite running essential!

Price: $5 each   And if you buy 4, you get one free!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Race Recap: Delaware Marathon Festival Half

Yep! Set a Saturday alarm
for a Sunday race!
Ya know that feeling when you wake up before your alarm feeling well-rested? I LOVE that feeling. Those are the best days. I had that feeling for a split second today, and then I noticed the light streaming in through the curtains...and then I panicked. I grabbed my phone to see the time, and it was 6:35. Which would be great on any normal day, except  that I needed to leave by 6:20 for this race. The half start time was 7:20, and I don't even live in Delaware! I may have broken a couple traffic laws on the way to Wilmington this morning. I surprisingly found parking pretty quickly, but I forgot to make sure I knew where I parked so that I could find my way back after the race. I just ran down to the start because I could already hear the relays starting when I got out of the car.

Just barely made it!
I got to the starting line just in time to find a place at the back, and I was trying to calm my nerves. I think I used all the adrenaline I had in my body during the sprint to get dressed and get there on time. Then I was all freaked out. I was slow and in a bit of pain at the beginning, but I kept telling myself to just take it slow and easy at the beginning to make it easier to pick it up at the end. By about mile 4, my right hip was hurting. No, I didn't wear my Hokas, and now I am sort of wishing that I had. It only got worse throughout the race. When I got to mile 5 at 55 min, I sort of did "bad math," as Matt would say, so I basically wrote the whole thing off and decided to just walk whenever I felt like it. I figured there was no way that I could PR, so I basically decided it wasn't worth killing myself when my hip hurt.

Around mile 9 I realized that I kind-of-sort-of had a shot at possibly matching my PR from Caesar Rodney, so I tried to just push through. I made it up the hill at Rodney Square without walking!! But I noticed that I only made it 12.5 miles in the time I was trying to match, so I decided to walk part of the downhill to the finish. It was sooooo hot, and I just didn't know if I could make it that last half mile without puking everywhere. I am so thankful for the shade on the majority of the course, and for the bag of ice cubes at the end of race! I am still feeling a little over heated even though it's been several hours since the finish.
My Wrightsock failed me!
I got a lovely stroll in after eating my ice cream sandwich because I couldn't find the car. I eventually stumbled upon the lot I had parked in, and to my dismay, I had a blister when I took off my shoes! I did ok on the toenail front, which is good since this is the race that caused my toe nail to lift up last time, and it is just now getting back to normal! I did tell Matthew that it looks like I have to do this race one time because last year we took the wrong exit and had trouble finding a place to park, and then I barely made it there this time! All-in-all, I suppose I should be happy with today's race because I officially get to fill out my application for Half Fanatics, I didn't walk up the hill at Rodney Square, and I get about a month of running just to run and maintain until NYC Marathon training starts!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Runniversary

May is a month that holds a special place in my heart. May is the month where the two loves in my life forged new paths to the beginning of the rest of my life. Two years ago on my 8th, my handsome Matthew (finally) asked me to marry him (sort of). We've discussed it, and I honestly don't remember him actually asking me to marry him, but he was on one knee with a beautiful ring, and now we're married. I don't ever want to imagine what my life would be like without him. But what about my other love? Running.

On May 7th 2011, I went to the middle school track where I lived at the time to log 3 miles in my prep for half marathon training. That's right. I  was training for training. I had signed up for the Kansas City Half Marathon because my family laughed and said there was no way I could run a half marathon. My family jumped on board after I showed them that I really was training and putting in some work.

After my first half marathon
My life has changed so much since then. I have moved half way across the country, completed five half marathons, a marathon, and tons of other races of varying distances. I left my job as a teacher and program director to work for a running specialty store, and I am one half marathon and a few days away from becoming a Half Fanatic. In about a month, I will begin training for my second marathon. I have come so far and run so far, but I still have miles and miles to go in becoming the best version of myself.

Marathon Finishers!
Running is something that is so hard to explain to non-runners. Running is such an amazing powerful experience that I wish I could share with everyone. It sounds so cliche, but it is truly a parallel for life. There are times when running gets tough and tests you to see what you're made of. Will you dig deep and find a way to push through as best you can, or will you give up? That's what running and life demand of you. There are times when I love running, and times when I want to give up, but I keep going back out. Running reminds me of all I have to be thankful for and what I am really made of. I am capable of so much more than others give me credit for, and often times more than I give myself credit for. I have been running for 3 years, and it seems so much longer and shorter all at the same time. I am looking forward to all the lessons, beauty, and progress that my fourth year and all the years to come hold in store for me. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Racing Recap: Valley Forge Revolutionary Run

After running two half marathons this spring, I was a bit thrown off guard running the Rev Run today at Valley Forge National Historic Park. I have been having some trouble over the past week or so with shinsplints. I have pretty much figured out that these are due to tight calf muscles, so I have been spending time with my lovely foam roller. (Yes, "lovely" was sarcastic.) Heading out for this race was tricky for me from the beginning, so I am just going to break this review down into Pros, Cons, and Racing Edition Runner's Rambles.

PROS
I got to run a race in a National Park "with" one of my friends, Mark, and his awesome wife and super adorable son cheered us on. My boss Terry did his run in the park today running in the opposite direction, so I got a little bit of on-course cheering as well. I almost stopped to stretch and walk a little more than really necessary, but seeing Terry coming toward me made me keep running. Thanks, Terry! The Fast Tracks running club had a high-energy and peppy water stop at the half way mark. There was also quite a spread at the post-race tent. And lastly, at this particular time, it was nice to just have a five miler.

CONS
Did you see what I did there with the quotation marks in the first line of the second paragraph? Mark is way faster than me.... So I need to get myself in gear and really start training and working on speed if I am going to keep up with Mark at the NYC Marathon this fall. This course was seriously hilly. Why don't I learn to check these things before I sign up for THREE hilly races in one season? It was only five miles, so I was thrown off due to getting to mile four before I realized I was almost done instead of just starting, so at that point, I realized that I should have just pushed harder. We'll come back to this point in Rambles! And the post-race was packed with stuff, but hard to navigate to find anything. I kept SEEING people with bagels, but it took me nearly ten minutes to FIND the bagels. There were lots of people, and everything was packed into some fairly small tents. 

RACING EDITION RUNNER'S RAMBLES
One of my co-workers always asks me the same question every time I start whining... I whine a lot, which I think everyone has figured out by now. "Are you feeling discomfort or pain?" You see, discomfort is not the same as pain. My brother would say that pain is a good thing. Joe is one of those "No pain, no gain!" kind of people. I would say that's from being in the military, but he has been that way since we were kids. I am not that kind of person, thus the whining. 
But discomfort, that's a different story, and I didn't realize that until I was running today. And unfortunately, I didn't figure that out until mile four. You see, an oyster creates a pearl because a foreign object creates discomfort, and it begins coating the object with a substance that creates the beautiful pearl. Pain though, pain is the body's signal that something is wrong. Pain is not good, but discomfort can be. It can push us to make pearls out of problems. Did I really need to stop three times to stretch today? Eh, probably not, but better safe than sorry for now. But now I know that I need to pay closer attention to my body to figure out if it is in pain or just uncomfortable. It's time for this runner to start creating some pearls!

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. 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 Tarmac 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!

UPDATE: I have been running in Hokas almost exclusively since this post. I have tried the Bondi, Conquest, Stinson Lite, and Clifton. 
The Clifton is amazingly light, yet highly cushioned. Think of this shoe as Diet Hoka. Less weight, and less cushion, but still a taste of that Hoka flavor you love! It would be a good "gateway" shoe for someone wanting to try Hokas, but unsure of the feel and price. It does not work well for me on long runs due to the softness of the shoe not holding up as well to my pronation, but it does well up to about 7 miles for me.
The Bondi was not nearly stable enough for my pronation on any level. I would say this shoe is for strictly the neutral runner. Pronators and Supinators need not apply.
The Conquest is a firmer, but still highly cushioned shoe. It is geared toward the runner who is more likely to pronate or supinate with stiffer "bumpers" that sort of wrap up around the foot. I felt this shoe didn't have a wide enough toe box for me, and there is less of a built in arch than some of the other models. I personally, and this may not be everyone's experience, had lots of plantar fascia pain during long runs in this shoe.
The Stinson Lite seems to be the sweet spot for me. I am on my second Stinson though I moved from the Tarmac to the Lite. I love this shoe. I put in the 4mm liner instead of the zero drop, and I love the slight arch built in, and the stable, yet highly cushioned ride it offers. It has a wide flat base to provide a ride stable enough for long runs without any pronation issues. My back and hips are in MUCH better shape than I was before I started wearing Hokas.

TAKE AWAY: Hokas seem to work well for people who have back issues, chronic joint pain, or people who tend to be injury prone. Not every Hoka model will work for every runner, and Hokas in general are not for everyone. Visit a running specialty store that carries Hokas and ask ahead of time if there is a particular employee who is more experienced with Hokas or anyone who has run in them that works there.

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!









Monday, January 20, 2014

Undecided

Holy turmoil, Batman! I am seriously struggling with making decisions these days. My husband says it's because I am perpetually, irrationally disappointed in my accomplishments. He's probably right, but I am still having a hard time listening to him and everyone else who has advised me over the past week. My brother Joe told me to focus on one goal for this year with my running. My boss, and super-runner, Terry told me to focus in on which goal is most important to me. Two of my co-workers, Sheila and Mark, both told me to chalk the streaking up as a win and move my focus to my other goals. I am just so stubborn...and perpetually, irrationally disappointed in myself, that I am finding it hard to let go.

So, how did the streaking start, and what are my goals for this year? The streaking started as a friendly competition between the staff members at my work. I work for a running specialty store, so you can imagine that I took the challenge on full-force. According to the guidelines of the competition, I officially won today. I completed day 41 streaking, but that is not enough for me for some reason. Probably because I decided last minute that I would also make that my New Year's resolution. I have all kinds of ankle, knee, and Achilles pain with the streaking I am doing, but I am so torn up over the prospect of quitting. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of days when I don't want to run, it's not necessarily the anticipated loss of my coveted daily run. And let's be clear, I love running, but I am just really starting to feel drained.

Since deciding that I would streak this year, I decided to try to meet the initial (Neptune) qualifications for the Half Fanatics club. So I am now trying to get everything lined up to run three half marathons in 90 days this spring. Along with running those three half marathons, I am trying to set a ridiculously impossible new half PR. Keep in mind that I am only on the second week of training for the first of three half marathons, and I am feeling like these new goals on top of streaking is seriously going to be detrimental overall. I have never attempted streaking before, and I have never run more than one major race in a racing season before either, so I can't help but feel like I have taken on too many things at once in true Michelle style. On the other hand, I just keep feeling like quitting the streak would be failing.

Well, I'm not sure where to go from here because I really thought that writing it all out would lead to a clear conclusion. It seems that I was wrong because I still feel just as torn as I was when I started writing this. I guess I will be posting an update at the end of the week!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Runner's Rambles: January is for Dreamers

For the most part, I think about running all day long. I left teaching to work for a running company, so I am really not exaggerating here, folks. I really like running, and I like my job, but it sort of turns out that this is a bit of a blessing and a curse. Why? Because I sure can put quite a bit of pressure on myself. I have been running for a few years now, but I am just getting comfortable calling myself a runner. And I’m not so sure I’m “comfortable” with it at that! I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have to fit into anyone else’s vision of what a runner is, and that I can and have to decide who I am and what defines me daily.

In the February issue of Runner’s World, Mark Parent wrote a great article for his Newbie Chronicles column.He wrote about the way we change over time, how we define ourselves, and what we are willing to do to reach goals we set for ourselves. He addressed the elephant on the calendar, so to speak, that many people are looking to redefine themselves during this time of year. He took the stance that things like New Year’s resolutions often don’t stick because we associate them closely with an event that happens once a year, which turns the goal into a one shot kind of effort. He writes, “January is a month filled with ghosts of failures past. January is the month of dreamers.” I think I might agree with him on a certain level because I cheated a bit on my New Year’s resolution; I started in December.

Parent remarks, “February is for doers.” I am excited for February. As I sit reflecting on the past two days’ runs that I had to drag myself out the door to do, only just beginning training for my first half marathon this year, I can’t help but look forward to February. I want to be a doer. I want to be a person of action. I want to be excited to act. I think a day will come when streaking just becomes second nature, and that’s the day that I am really looking forward to. For now, I will just keep moving closer to that day, one determined step after another. It is a choice that I will continue to make daily. That’s the thing I have really learned about defining yourself; it is constantly a work in progress.

“Finally, there is a day when you say to yourself, I’m in. This is me.”--Mark Parent

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Training and Racing and Streaking! Oh my!


It's that time again! Spring race season will soon be upon us, so training starts tomorrow. As of right now, I have two half marathons and a five miler on the books for this spring. I am not necessarily going to be doing speed workouts for the first of the two half marathons, but I will be continuing to STREAK, so the rest days will actually still be running days for me. The designated "walk" on race week of this schedule will also be a run for me. I am pumped for my half marathon in March because my Anything For 10 sister, Grace, will be joining me again! I will be running the five miler with a co-worker, and then it looks like the second half this spring will be my solo race to focus on smashing my current half PR.


Today was day 32 streaking! I have been Instagramming my streak, so if you want to keep up with me more frequently than my blogging currently allows, then follow me on Instagram @mdickersonruns! I am also sure that training will lead to more introspection and crazy encounters for your enjoyment here on my blog.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year in Review and Looking Forward to the New


I set out to be a more thankful person in 2013. As I look back on the year, I realize how simple that goal should have been for me. There were days when giving thanks for what I have seemed more difficult than others, but I truly am blessed. In 2013, I counted my blessings, left the teaching field to pursue a job where I can connect with people and talk about running, ran a marathon, started a running streak, and best of all, I married my favorite person. It seems that for me, 2013 truly was one for the books.

I love making a resolution every year. It is nice to feel like you're starting new and moving forward with purpose. This year, I have decided to try to run 365 consecutive days, and focus on keeping my house more organized. I am thinking the organization will prove to be the harder resolution. I am not an organized person in general, and we plan to make a small move here in PA this spring. It seems that I may in fact be making a resolution for Matthew to also be more organized so that we can stay on track with everything going on this year. Hahaha! I am also hoping to shave some time off my half PR and run my second marathon.

Happy New Year to everyone, and remember throughout 2014 that you can do ANYTHING FOR 10!! 
Be happy, healthy, thankful, and present in your life this year!