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Monday, July 25, 2016

Week 6: July 18-24 - Good Times & Heatwaves

This week's sky shot.

Happy Monday! I'm linking up with Hoho Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for another weekly review. Read more about my fall goal race here

This sweaty tank sums up the week.
Week of July 18-24
Monday: 3 miles
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 3 miles + walk to/from work (w2w)
Thursday: rest + w2w
Friday: 2.2 miles + w2w
Saturday: 9 miles
Sunday: rest

Total Miles: 17.2 miles
2016 Miles: 544 miles

Last week's hiking helped my legs and lungs. I felt strong on each run, despite the extreme heat. Another new thing: I've been running with groups 90% of this summer and I have to say, it was time for me to get in some solo miles. I also had an epically productive life and work week. Gotta love that. Speaking of which, we caught up on Game of Thrones! Does that count as productive?

Monday was a solid 3. I didn't feel like running, but once I got out there it felt really good. I didn't break any records and stuck to my neighborhood to avoid traffic, but I did get my weekly sky shot.

Actually from Sunday, but since we're talking about Tobias.... 

I intended to run Tuesday night, but had a meeting with the author who's books I illustrate, then ran home so my vet (and neighbor) could examine my dog Tobias. Oh yeah! He got stung in the face on Monday night and she had to give him an allergy shot after his cheek puffed up. (He didn't seem to notice. He just looked stupid.) Anyway, during his exam my neighbor's husband offered Alex and I some wine. A few hours (and bottles) later we were chatting on their back patio and eating burritos, while the sun went down and I knew I'd lost my chance to run. Oh well. We had a lovely time.

Wednesday is group speedwork, but I worked late and two of my running pals begged off, so I decided to wait until closer to dark and got in another solid 3 mile solo run.

Thursday was another off day (scheduled) and I woke up a tad late Friday to get in more than 2.2 miles before I had to drop my car off for an oil change and go to work.

Post 9 miler in my new training group tank top.

Saturday was my normal group run. We started 30 minutes earlier due to weather, and while it was tough to get up at 5:30, I'm so glad I went. I ran the prescribed group 6 and then 3 more with a new friend to get my scheduled 9. It was my first longer run since Medina (May 28) and I felt great! I forgot that I need to get past mile 4 or 5 to feel "in the zone."

Asian stir fry and pizza

We drove up to Cleveland Sunday for a brunch for Alex's uncles (4 hours total in the car). It was a lovely time, but man it ate up our entire day. When we returned we started watching Stranger Things on Netflix and wowee it's good so far. Kind of spooky, but I love the 80s setting. One cool thing about this weekend: I cooked two meals that involved eggs and potatoes in very different ways. (What a thrilling life - ha!!)

This entire week reminded me why I love running. I went out, kind of followed my schedule, and had fun -- even with the oppressive heat and humidity.

Our peach trees are finally fruiting! 
There's one item I need to address: I'm not really following Hanson's anymore. Over the past 6 weeks I've kept track of my completed workouts vs. Hanson's and there have been so many times I've moved a workout to accommodate group speedwork and long runs. I follow on/off days and enjoy the higher weekend milage, but the constant swapping of Tues/Wed, Mon/Thurs, and Sat/Sun to fit my training group was starting to drive me batty. Plus, my easy days weren't lining up after speedwork/strength. This week, I did a mash up of Hanson's and my training group plan (a generic half schedule supplied to me by coaches) and I really enjoyed it. I will continue using pieces of Hanson's (mainly weekend long run milage and pacing guidelines), but I'm going to stick with my training group plan on the other days. I'm using my group's "advanced half plan" and it covers speedwork and recovery milage, so it's not very different. I guess I can't toot my horn about using Hanson's anymore, but I don't care. I'd rather have fun on solo and group runs vs. stressing out over switched days and "how will this line up?!" - especially in this flippin' heat!

How are you handling the heat? 
Have you watched Game of Thrones or Stranger Things
How do you like your eggs? 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Five: I illustrated a book!


Welcome to another Friday Five with Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia! Since this week is a Free Friday so I thought I'd talk about something a bit different: illustrating a children's book

Background 
The short chapter book (ages 6-11) is titled Princess Bella and the Dragon's Charm and it was written by Pete Planisek. He's written other short stories and novels – including a Frankenstein series– so a kid's books was a bit of a departure from his normal, gothic fare. I came on board after he'd tried out a few other illustrators. I used to draw all the time for work [portfolio sample], but nowadays I do more analytical documentation, so it was good to get back to artsy stuff.

Fancy author photo
Learning Experiences
Content Creation:
When we began working together I was traveling a lot for work and had freelance clients. It was tough to find time for drawing. Additionally, I truly believe in the phrase "if you don't use it, you lose it." My drawing skills had all but vanished in the years my job took a turn from art to planning. After several months of very little progress I finally hit my stride. We're going to work on a second children's book and I think it will be a smoother process (on my end) and I will produce better and more engaging art.
Chapter 4 evolution: version 1 vs. version 4 (click to enlarge)

Some promotional bookmarks
Layout + eBook:
For now, the book is an eBook. Pete is looking to publish physical copies as early as fall. Physical copies will allow library and classroom purchasing, giveaways, and lead to more in-store events. I'm looking forward to a physical book so we have more control over the layout. One thing about eBooks: you have to be very flexible with the layout to allow for different fonts, font sizes, and even page color. I did not lay out the eBook version, so I don't have any tips or tricks, but I am looking forward to seeing how the physical copy layout progresses. I have an InDesign file of how I want it to look, but we'll see what's truly possible! (I will post an update when physical copies are available.)

Release Party
On April 14 we had a book release at Barnes and Noble. Pete talked about his process and how this book differs from his others, while I gave a little insight into illustration (3:45). By the way, Pete broke his foot just before the release!



Freebies
We're in the process of creating an activity bundle to go along with Princess Bella and the Dragon's Charm. In the meantime, we have a few coloring pages and mazes for download.

Download PDF
Buying the (e)Book
The eBook is available for purchase on Amazon | Barnes and Noble | eJunkie
For more information, visit Enceladus Literary.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Week 5: July 11-17 Hiking the Smokies


Happy Monday! I'm linking up with Hoho Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for another weekly review. Read more about my fall goal race and training plan here

Week of July 11-July 17
Monday: hike 9 miles (3,894 ft loss)
Tuesday: hike 6.3 miles (796 ft loss; 682 ft gain)
Wednesday: hike 10 miles (2,504 ft gain)
Thursday: hike 5.2 miles (1,286 ft gain)
Friday: off (travel)
Saturday: run 5 miles
Sunday: rest

Weekly Miles: 30 hiking miles, 5 run miles
2016 Total Running Miles: 526.8 mi

Our route over 3.5 days. [click image to enlarge]
This week was all about hiking and camping. Be warned: there are lots of maps and photos below!
We arrived in Pigeon Forge Sunday, spent the night in a hotel (and went to a brewery), then set off for Smokey Mountain National Park on Monday morning. We got a late start because Alex wanted to swim after breakfast and we each took one last shower. We parked at Clingman's Dome (the highest point in the park), strapped on our gear, took some photos, and headed down the trail.

Day 1
Day 1 [interactive map on Strava]

Monday's hike was all downhill (6,316ft to 2,415ft) on the rocky and technical Forney Creek Trail. I've backpacked the Smokies once before on the same trail, but we stopped at campsite 68 (about halfway) and only spent one night.  Huge difference: I wasn't a "real" runner yet (I ran about 1-2 miles per run), was very out of shape, and didn't understand nutrition and hydration so I was super tired almost immediately. This time I felt good.

*shakes fist at stream*

What I learned on Monday: I suck at technical stream crossings. We took a break to eat and drink about halfway, then had forced stops for seven significant stream crossings. It must have rained recently because the water was high and the crossings were tough. By crossing #4 I was over it and hollering, "if we have one more crossing I'm going to DIE!!!" I tried crossing without shoes (ouch ouch ouch, my feet are too delicate), with shoes (they got soaked), and by crossing 7 I still hated it but I was getting better at hopping from rock to rock with my giant backpack and trekking poles.

Enjoying the fire
By the time we arrived at camp I was thankful we wouldn't have any more difficult crossings for the rest of the trip! Monday's campsite was on the creek and we were all alone. I set up camp while Alex made dinner and a fire. All-in-all a great night, but I could tell I would be sore the next day.

Day 2
Day 2 [map on Strava]

Tuesday kicked off with breakfast (maybe I'll outline what we packed in a separate post?), then we set off down the Forney Creek Trail to hook up with the Bear Creek trail. Tuesday was the first time we were on horse trails and we saw some horseshoe prints (but no horses). There were two large stream crossings, but thankfully there were nice, solid bridges! We occasionally had to walk narrow planks to go over small streams, but they weren't too bad. We stopped for lunch on a bridge over a beautiful stream and arrived at camp early enough to read, relax, and do a little laundry. (Though the laundry did't dry quickly due to the humidity.) Once again, we were alone and it was lovely.

Day 2 was relaxing
What I learned Tuesday: have a recovery day on Day 2. I'm so thankful we had low milage after Monday's nearly 4,000 ft elevation loss. My legs (and back) were super sore. It was difficult to stand up from a sitting position and going downhill was painful.

Day 3
Day 3 [map on Strava]

Wednesday was our biggest day: higher miles and uphill climbs along the Bear Creek Trail, Welch Ridge Trail, and Appalachian Trail. The first two miles were pretty intense. We had to take breaks every 30 minutes and the weather was warmer and humid. (Overall, it was in the 70s every day, mainly due to the higher elevation.) Honestly, in the morning I was dreading this hike; my legs were still sore, but by the end of the day I knew I could have kept going. This is good to know for future trips. We kept our milage under 10/day in case I couldn't handle it, but I think I'm up for more milage in the future.

Oh yeah, we saw a bear! I heard a crack and we looked to the left to see a black mass running away. Alex figures it was about 100 feet away. I'm happy it didn't want anything to do with us...

Taking a break after a big uphill
What I learned Wednesday: I hate shelterhouses. We stayed in a shelterhouse along the Appalachian Trail on Wednesday. I wish we hadn't. The people were really nice, but I would have rather stayed at another lonely campsite. The shelter was full with about a dozen people. It's weird, too. There's a building with "beds" (wooded shelves for people, basically) and you can't put up your tent outside. Usually they have a bathroom, but this one didn't. I didn't want to socialize (I like being alone in the woods) and to make matters worse two men snored so loudly. People were tossing and turning and Alex and I only got 2 hours of sleep!! It was terrible!!! Alex isn't even a light sleeper and we both had earplugs and covered our heads with our laundry sacks. Also, what's the point of a building if it does't keep bugs and critters out? So, due to my newly discovered hatred of shelters, I don't really want to hike the Appalachian Trail unless I can find campsites.

Day 4
Day 4 [map on Strava]

Thursday was our final day (really a half day since we finished by noon). After our 2 hours of sleep, we made oats and coffee, packed up, and set off on our final 5 miles. It was a pretty steep climb, but the scenery was lovely. We went through patches of fir trees and ferns that looked like a fairy land. Near the top we had views of the mountains, though it started to get misty and foggy by the time we reached the car. We saw a few people along the trail, which was a first for this trip (I assume because we were close to a visitor's center and on the Appalachian Trail).

What I learned Thursday: I wish our trip was longer! By day 4 my legs were still sore, but feeling good. If I had it to do over again I would have stayed out there for at least 6 days.

After!


After the trip
Once we emerged from the woods, we went to the Gatlinburg strip for lunch and shopping. We checked into our inn, cleaned up, went to dinner, then vegged out while watching Unbroken. The bed and breakfast was nice, but I got 20 bug bites in the garden! (I got one on our hike!!) We drove home Friday, arriving in town after 6pm.

I'm the one in aqua.

I woke up early for my Saturday group run, but instead of joining the entire team I went to a new satellite location (new this season) and ran with a much smaller group of ~20 people. My friend Angie and I liked the change of scenery and we're going to go to the small group next weekend, too. It was nice to get some running miles on my legs. They were pretty tired after only 5 miles, but whatever: I ended up hiking more miles than I was supposed to run this week. All with a heavy pack on my back. ;)

Future follow ups
I'll have a few more posts about this trip including more photos and maybe a roundup of what to pack (including food). I learned a lot, but thankfully didn't overpack or forget anything!

Is there anything else I should cover about this trip? 
Do you have any Appalachian Trail or hiking goals? 
Do you ever plan trips during the week so you still have your weekend? ;) 
How was your week? I'm gonna catch up on blogs soon! 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Week 4: July 4-July 10

No sky shot this week, just a flower from Thursday

Happy weekend! I'm linking up with Hoho Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for another weekly review. Read more about my fall goal race and training plan here

Week of July 4-July 10
Monday: rest + walk to work (w2w)
Tuesday: rest + w2w
Wednesday: Alex's birthday, w2w + dog walk
Thursday: 3.5 miles + w2w
Friday: 3 miles
Saturday: 4 miles
Sunday: ?

Weekly Total: ?

Bday drinks
This was another odd week. Honestly, the first 4 weeks of this plan have been odd.

Anyway, the off days for Hanson's week 4 are Monday and Tuesday. I planned to go to speed work on Wednesday, then go to dinner with Alex after for his birthday. Around lunchtime he decided he wanted happy hour dinner and drinks and asked me to skip my run. Of course I obliged the birthday boy. We went out for dinner, did some shopping, then came home and (by his request) walked the dog. It was a really nice.

I woke up early-ish and ran before work Thursday. The humidity was a sky high 90% and my pre-run fuel (toast and peanut butter) wasn't sitting well. I intended to make up my Wednesday 5 and go to my Thursday running group for a slow 3 after work, but in the end the morning run was cut by stomach problems and I skipped the group run to assist Alex (he was very stressed going into a busy weekend and needed help prepping for our upcoming trip).

Friday selfies: Sweaty morning and dressed for pizza

On Friday I ran another soggy 3 before work. I fueled properly (Honey Stinger waffle), but went too fast for my plan (9:21, 9:10, 9:05). I really need to enforce slower times on easy days. Regardless, Friday's run was fun and positive BUT (! this whole week is full of buts !) my left calf and shin hurt a ton after I got out of the shower. I wore a compression sleeve on my leg and went to work. We went out for pizza with an out of town friend and when I came home it still hurt. By bedtime it was almost pulsing and I couldn't get to sleep for a while...

All my helpers on Saturday morning

Saturday was my normal group run. The halves had 4 miles, the fulls 7, and I had 6 on my schedule. Initially I'd assumed I'd run with the fulls, but when we hit the half turnaround at 2 I knew I couldn't run on my leg. It wasn't terrible, but something wasn't right. We finished 4 miles and I went to the on-site trainer. The trainer pushed on my leg and it hurt in a 2-3 inch section on the inside of my shin. She said the fact that I did not have targeted pain meant it wasn't a stress fracture (yet). I explained my new shoes (New Balances I've been wearing for a month) and how I used to wear Sauconys with an insole. She said I should try the insoles in the NBs and gave me several calf stretches and instructions to foam roll. Before leaving, she added that if I tried the insoles with the NBs and the pain didn't subside in the first two miles I may need to go back to my old shoes. Long story short: I went home and did the exercises she prescribed and felt better, but a tiny dull hum of pain remained. We'll see what happens with the shoes...

Sunday... well, I don't know yet. If there's time I'm going to attempt to run slowly and with insoles. BUT there may not be time, because...

Before we cut out some things... because we're hungry people.

Alex and I are heading off into the wilderness for a hiking trip. We'll be backwoods in the Smokies for 4 days with a stay at a swanky lodge when we're finished. I'm (still) packing and trying to cram as much in our packs as I can without overdoing it. We have 6-9 miles a day, which isn't bad, but may prove to be interesting with a full pack and thousands of feet in elevation change. We did a short 2-day trip in 2012 – before I was running far – and I was dead tired and super sore the day after we finished. I'm hoping I'm in much better shape and there will be more fun than pain!

We'll be hiking and camping in this area.
So, I apologize in advance: I won't be commenting on blogs for a few days, but I'll catch up when I get back. Next week's recap will include 4 days of hiking and potentially a few days of running.

Have you ever gone on a multi-day backpacking adventure?
Ever had shin pain? 
Aren't foam rollers great... but also terrible when it hurts? 

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Books of June 2016



June was a fairly low key month. We ran a trail race, volunteered at a beer event, and I participated in a lot of group runs. We also bought a new mattress, moved our bedroom to a cooler room, and I made baby steps in my clutter removal. In addition to decent life progress, I read some good books. I think I'm getting back into classic lit (I'm in the middle of Northanger Abbey right now), which is a pleasant surprise because 2015 was a classic lit drought. Without further ado....

- - - - - - - -

Hansons Half-Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey, Keith Hanson (Contributor), Kevin Hanson
Review: 4 / 5
Easy to read and I'd recommend to anyone looking to amp up their training. 

I skimmed some areas (gear, race day prep) and focused on the science behind the plan, workouts, and paces to use. Currently, I'm in the first month of my 18 week plan. The milage is high for a half marathon schedule. I do believe goals can and will be reached if one adheres to the plan (which is based on cumulative fatigue), but I'm not quite sure if I want to devote my free time this summer to training (and it may not sync up with my running group's workouts). I think the basis is solid and if followed to a T, I think a PR is almost guaranteed. 

My only gripe: I think Hanson's could use one more plan between Just Finish and Beginner. Just Finish is too bare bones and the Beginner is already a big jump in milage and feels more Intermediate. Based on the plan descriptions I should use Advanced, but there is no way I can fit in that kind of milage and maintain sanity. I'll do a recap of my Hanson's experience when I finish. 

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Review: 3 / 5
First off (before I rip it apart), this was well written and I was able to get through it quickly. I enjoyed reading it, even if parts made me mad. 

Unfortunately, I hate-read the last bit. I'll try to avoid spoilers, but there were a few things that nearly ruined the story for me. First, it was so similar to a Stephen King short I just read in Full Dark, No Stars. Second, Helen being helpful. Why all of the sudden? Third, it was unnecessarily graphic. Some scenes felt like they were added for shock value. We get it, he's nuts. Fourth, Claire was so unlikable near the end. Her (saint) sister took on so much and to be forced into hard labor after everything is absolutely ridiculous. [My Goodreads review had a spoiler that I've removed.]

Ultimately, this brought on my post-Gone Girl genre fatigue. I read a lot of similar books last year (multi narrator, time shifts, twists and turns, so much violence against women, etc) and I still feel icky. What made Gone Girl (and other Flynn books) so good was the lead character taking control (even the meek Dark Places girl). And Amazing Amy wasn't a victim. These girl-thriller books are getting grosser and grosser. No longer mysteries, but almost glorifying torture and rape. Yikes. Oh, and the last chapter from the dad's journal was creepy. Get a grip dude. Kids grow up. 

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Review: 5 / 5
I gave this a low rating in 2008. I wonder if I actually read it or if I listened to a BBC drama and considered myself informed. Either way, it's good. Not the best ever, but better than 90% of books I read so I'll keep it at a 5. Anne Elliot is another great protagonist. I'd write more, but this is a classic and really speaks for itself. 

Review: 5 / 5
I found out about Jasyoga through Oiselle (of course) and by extension Erin Taylor's book Hit Reset. I'm not a yogi, nor have I participated in a yoga class. I've done some free yoga before a 10k and tried to follow YouTube videos, but I don't keep up with it even though I've enjoyed it in the past. 

This book is a great collection of pre- and post- workout stretches. They're quick, easy, and effective. I don't often have time to find my zen, so it was nice to pick up the book and get going. There are great descriptions and introductions, but my favorite part of the book is the full-color photo-based layout. I appreciate the work that went into getting various athletes (and the author) to demonstrate each move. I also like that it's divided into regions. So far, it's been a great guide for someone like me who has a casual interest in periodic deep stretching.

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Review: 4.5 / 5
This is a book I've had for a while, but was too afraid to read in case it was super dry and depressing. It is sad, of course, but told in a straightforward manner which makes it a relatively quick read for such a heavy topic. I was thankful for the different perspectives and divided sections of the story. The writing is simple, but well done. 

Alex and I talked about Japanese internment after I finished and each confessed to learning very little about it during our World War II units in school. I hope schools are reading this (or something similar) these days.
- - - - - - - -

As always, these reviews were taken from my Goodreads. For past months, click here.

What did you read in June?
What are you reading now?
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