New Balance Zante v3 Review: My “Metro Shoe”

The day before the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & and 5K I got to work a shift at the “Solutions Desk” at the race expo. This is my favorite station because I get to solve problems for a group of my favorite people: runners. I also get to meet runners visiting from out of town and first-time racers. There’s anxious, adrenaline-fueled chatter about the weather, course, pace, gear and training setbacks. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, almost apologetically, “But I’m not fast,” I could’ve bought a new pair of running shoes.

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Me, solving problems.

Oh wait, I did.

My beloved New Balance 860v7s were beyond wear. My Garmin told me I’d logged 770 miles in them since July and considering I didn’t wear my watch on every run, these wheels were clearly overextended. So, two days before the race, I went to Fleet Feet and picked up another pair of 860v7s in a new color.

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So pretty.

“But you just got a new pair,” my husband complained. Oh, silly, silly Ray.

Last week, as a Publix Savannah Women’s race ambassador, I was given a pair of the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante version 3s to review. As a die-hard NB fan, and owner of last-year’s version, I already knew I’d love these. They’re incredibly lightweight, sport a low profile, contour fit and an accommodating toe-box, and are the perfect complement to my joggers, which have become what my husband refers to as my “giving-up pants.”

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Joggers + Zante = Giving up (in a good way)

But run in them? Not so much.

It’s not them. It’s me.

See, there are three things I’ll never cheat on: my husband, a race or my running shoes. I’ve worn the New Balance 860s for about 20 years now, and I’m not changing anytime soon—not even going to dabble. So, while many people have said the Zante is an ideal, lightweight racing shoe, it has been designated as my official “metro shoe.” It’s the shoe I wear post-race, when anything else would feel like a pair of strappy Payless 4-inch stilettos made exclusively from man-made materials not unlike plastic zip-ties pulled taught.

This not only gives my feet the support and kindness they deserve, it also gives my 860s a needed break to air out and maybe even extends their life. They work as a team, my 860s and my Zantes. They’re like Sonny and Cher, prosecco and OJ, left foot and right foot.

Plus, there’s something cool—something a little Mr. Rogers—about having specific shoes for specific activities, and going through the ritual of changing shoes from running 6 miles to running errands. And having something you call your “metro shoes” is inherently hipster. (At almost 40, those opportunities are few and far between.)

I didn’t wear my new 860s for the race. That’s what is called a “rookie mistake.” Instead, I beat out whatever pulp was left in my old shoes and ceremoniously retired them after a respectable 1:47 half-marathon finish (in my book).

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RIP my good friend.

Then I promptly showered, slipped into my joggers and Zantes, and gave up.

(You can get your Zante V3s at Fleet Feet Savannah, which retail for about $99. How you use them is up to you!)

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Another (rough) race is in the books

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Just Sluggin’ Along

So this has not been my best racing year. But instead of letting that discourage me (as it did after the Rock ‘n’ Roll debacle in November), I’m looking to the bright side, asking myself, “What can I take from this experience?” And hopefully, next year, the high-price I’m paying for this data collection will turn into a Boston qualifying time as a 40-year-old even though I will not be 40. I repeat, I will not be 40. Yet.

I knew going into the Publix Women’s Half-Marathon that I wasn’t prepared. Not to top last year’s PR, anyway. I have been running regularly, but hadn’t gone further than 7 ½ miles. And yet, when I stood at the start line, the plan to start slow, run by feel and finish strong, disappeared along with all my best judgment. You know, that thing that tells you not to eat Mexican food the night before a race? (Which I also did.)

As always, the first mile was great, except that I was alone. That morning my running partner, Lindsay, called to say she wasn’t going to race because the forecast promised a downpour. Lindsay doesn’t run in the rain, in the wind, in temperatures below 48 or above 78, or on Fridays. Some would call her a finicky runner, but I prefer “particular.” She also told me that she’s also never going to race again.

“What?!” I’m pinning my big for the 10th time, trying to get it “just right.”

“I just don’t think it’s for me,” she said. “I get too anxious.”

I had already retied my shoes twice, visited the bathroom three times and re-checked my Garmin’s charge at least a dozen times. Racing makes us all anxious.

It’s true that there’s a lot of pressure—pressure we put on ourselves. I know I’m probably not going to win a race unless it’s made up entirely of 3-legged Chihuahuas, but I do want to get faster, beat my best time, maybe even snag an age-group medal. I don’t pay upwards of $25 to race for fun; I’ve come to accept this about myself. Many people can and do, and a part of me admires that—that 1% of me who says things like, “Just do your best.” But the other 99% of me might be a little competitive (and my sister just rolled her eyes at my use of “might”). And in age-group racing, our biggest competitor is always our self.

My self was fast last year.

This year, my less conditioned self went out too fast. I managed to hold pace for nearly 3 miles, somehow forgetting that there would still be 10 to go. I slowed considerably, and then, around mile 6, I retched. The retching continued for the next three miles, fist to mouth, trying to keep what I imagined to be a flaming, devil-faced fajita from coming up. I was thirsty. My head ached. I considered the medical tent, but knew as soon as I stopped I’d feel fine and the medics would be all, “Oooh, are you tired? It’s a race, you’re supposed to be tired.” (OK, a medic wouldn’t say that, but I would.)

On the switchbacks, I could see I was losing distance. When the 1:45 pacer passed me, it would take everything I had to stay under 2:00. About 2 miles from the finish, I saw one of my daughter’s 4th-grade classmates working the water station.

“Mrs. Goto!” she yelled out enthusiastically, waving her arms. I pulled myself together, because while it’s cool to be a mom who can run a half-marathon, it’s totally not cool to throw-up on your daughter’s friend. In fact, it’s social suicide.

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14th Age-group, 1:54:11

Faking that you feel good always helps. I smiled big, took a swig of water and headed toward the finish. Shortly thereafter, I heard the sweet twang of Lindsay’s voice cheering me on. She ran alongside me for about a tenth of a mile, and those were the best steps I’d taken all day.

I didn’t fling my fajitas. I finished strong. I also finished 14 minutes off last year’s time, but still under 2 hours. See, that’s what you have to do to reconcile a bad race. You have to consider the worst-case scenarios and appreciate how they didn’t happen: At least it stopped raining. At least I didn’t fall down. At least a 3-legged Chihuahua didn’t beat me.

 

 

But here’s the real takeaway: train for the distance you want to run.

Today, Lindsay and I began training for the Azalea 10K with a clearer purpose. And yes, we’re going to race together again…weather permitting.

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My other running partner, Robin, got a PR–without training. But I don’t like to talk about that.

Apparel You Can’t Miss at the Savannah Publix Women’s Half and 5K Fashion Fitness Expo

Years before I was ever honored to be a race ambassador for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K, I was a already a New Balance groupie. I’ve worn the NB 860s series for the duration of my running “career” (unpaid, but with hopes of grandeur). So when the race’s title apparel sponsor sent me their newest collection of bolds and brights to review, I couldn’t wait to log some long miles in them.

First, you should know that I don’t “do” color. As a Northwest native, black is the new bright and evergreen feels like neon. I come from the land of “don’t-notice-me-just-appreciate-my-intellect.” We grocery shop in fleece. We dine in fleece. We sometimes even get married in fleece. Fleece in a wide array of grays, browns and neutrals.

It took years of being in the South before I traded in my white and navy running shoe for—gasp—a barely-there turquoise. I thought everyone was staring at my feet as they called out for recognition. No one did. Except me. And yes, I fell face-first on the path around Forsyth Park.

Sixteen years later, I pray each year that the latest version of the NB 860s will be bolder and brighter. Not because I want to overcompensate for a waning intellect, but because my sense of running style has finally caught up with my (sometimes) sharp mind (except at mile 20—at which point I turn into the cerebral equivalent of an amoeba). Simply put, bright = fast. Show me a sprinter who wins in all-whites and I’ll show you the pig that just flew by.

This year I was delighted by the bright purple 806 V6 kicks I pulled from the box, their rubbery delicious new-shoe smell pouring over me. I actually inhaled, deeply, and got a wee little new running shoe high. And the clothes are equally as fantastic. The shirt is what I would call a 7-minute miler, complete with SPF, this adorable back-vent and supreme wickability (yep, I’m making that a word).

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Last year, the Impact 3-inch short was released in a somewhat conservative (my jam) line-art pattern and I bought two pair because I loved them so much. NB quickly followed up with a more organic tie-dye pattern, which I also bought, channeling my inner Woodstock. This year, they’ve gone balls-to-the wall with color and pattern but still offer a subtle Seattle-gray option. Whatever color I opt for, I’m going to run chafe free, because that’s the true magic of these shorts which I will continue to buy until my bones crumble and my plantar fasciitis compels me to crawl. But honestly, even then I’ll crawl along in some cute just-long-enough-to-be-appropriate-but-not-too-long-to-be-“mom shorts.”

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This Thursday, I’ll get to “model” (i.e. walk awkwardly and make duck-lips) some more of New Balance’s latest line of running gear at Fleet Feet Savannah’s Ladies Night Out event at 7 p.m.. And when I hit the Publix Savannah Fashion Fitness Expo on Friday,  April 1 (no joke) you can be sure I’ll have my debit card in hand. This year promises to be even better than last, offering an incredible inventory of race wear made for discerning women runners. Sure, I’d love for you to race, but you don’t need to be a registrant to attend the expo on Friday. Just stop in, say “hi” (I’m working the registration from 5-8) and get some great swag and catch the fever, and, the color.

A Perfect Pre- and Post-run Recipe for Runners—and a Publix Gift Card Giveaway!

I’ve never met a fish taco I didn’t like. But I’ve also never met one I could make. Until now.

There are two reasons why I love everything my friend and trainer, Jodie Kofod, cooks. One, I didn’t make it. Two, Jodie’s meals are healthy without tasting healthy. Dress tofu up any way you want, but it’s still a protein sponge. See, my rule is if you have to marinate, deep fry, bread or baste something just to make it edible, it’s most certainly not good (I’m talking to you, fried alligator bites).

So when Publix asked me to share a quick, healthy meal for runners, I knew I had to call on Jodie–who holds certification from AFAA NETA ACE, Johnny G Spin, TRX and kickboxing, as well as nutrition certifications–and my other girlfriend and workout buddy, Alli. In addition to being more fun than a bottle of tequila on a bus with the Rolling Stones (Jodie knows from actual experience), Alli owns a beautiful home that, unlike mine,  has “things to cook with.” Things like pans, bowls and salt.

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The motley cooking crew: Alli, Jodie and me.

My parameters for the recipe were simple:

  • It has to be easy (for obvious reasons)
  • It has to be quick
  • It has to taste good
  • Everything has to be readily available at my Publix
  • It has to be gluten-free, not because I have celiac disease, but because gluten sends me dashing into the woods about every two miles, but that’s another post for another time.

“How do fish tacos sound?” Jodie offered.

I love fish tacos. Perfect.

“So, corn tortillas, fish and salsa?” Cool, I can do that.

“Not exactly,” she replied, looking at me like I just blew my nose in her gym towel.

She texted me the grocery list (I’ve added the price points):

  • Fresh fish, do not attempt alone—ask woman behind the counter ($18.32, I’ll explain)
  • 2 Publix canned black beans ($1.70)
  • Sriracha ($2.99)
  • Margarita mix ($4.09)
  • Publix fresh salsa ($3.49)
  • Romaine lettuce ($1.99)
  • 2 Limes ($1.00)
  • Avocado ($1.00)
  • Cilantro ($0.99)
  • Corn tortillas ($2.15)
  • Plain Greek yogurt, large ($3.00)
  • Sauvignon blanc, obviously ($11.99, don’t judge)

Total damage: $52.71, plus whatever the government wants.

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The helpful woman behind the Publix fish counter suggested tilapia for fish tacos, but I recently had a bad run-in with the species when I attempted to make it at home without supervision. So I asked what else would work. She recommended “any sturdy white fish,” and pointed to a large fillet of something called “corvina” from Argentina. It was about $10 pricier, but hey, it wasn’t tilapia.

When I got to Alli’s, the cooking lesson commenced. But first thing’s first. Pour the wine.

From there, Jodie instructed us to poach the fish. Since I thought poaching meant killing a protected animal, I just stared at her.

“Put the fish in a microwave-safe bowl and pour in a bunch of the margarita mix,” she explained. Then we salted it, snipped some cilantro on top, covered the dish with plastic wrap and popped it in the microwave. No measuring and, yes, the microwave. Totally my jam.

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The cooking time depends on the size of the fillet, so we put it in for a few minutes, checked it and kept blasting it with radiation until it flaked apart—all in all, less than 15 minutes. During that time, we made this crazy-delicious sauce, mixing equal parts plain Greek yogurt and Sriracha and squeezed the juice of two limes. Sounds disgusting, looks like flesh, tastes like Heaven.

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Thing got wild when the knives starting flying–into Alli’s new floor.

We flaked the fish into doubled-up corn tortillas, topped with rinsed black beans, slices of avocado, more cilantro, Sriracha, romaine, the pre-made salsa and a dollop of the not-so-secret-now sauce. I think I ate five. But this recipe could easily feed four to six normal human beings.

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Then Jodie started to riff on the recipe. “You can actually make them three ways,” she said. “You can wrap them in tortillas, like we did here, or you can put them in lettuce wraps or little baked corn-tortilla cups.”

We pulled long leaves from the romaine and assembled the tacos sans tortilla. Then Jodie showed us how to make the “bowls” by flipping over a muffin tin, coating it with cooking spray and tearing and stuffing the tortillas into the negative space between the muffin forms to create bowls. She baked them on low for a few minutes until they were just starting to lightly brown on the edges. I preferred the soft-corn tortillas for no other reason that it was the easiest; but variety is cool, too, if you’re an overachiever.

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I am not. But Mom, now I can make a pretty bad-ass fish taco, three ways.

Oh, and there’s video, too. So check back in two days and prepare to be…something. Amazed? Appalled? Embarrassed for us? Probably all of the above.

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Speaking of embarrassing…we each have only-children–can you tell?

And here’s the 2-step bonus: (1) Follow “On the Road” on Facebook and (2) find and share this post, and you’ll be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Publix (and if you buy the tilapia and even cheaper wine, you’re covered). Drawing will be Monday, March 28, just in time for you to whip up this pre- or post-race meal for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & 5K on April 2nd! See you there!

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Your moment of Zen: “Is there something in my teeth?”

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Jodie’s Taco Bar

The Right Stuff: What every runner needs in her stocking

No one wants to see you hobble across the finish line, barely holding up your head and barely holding down breakfast. Nope, you’ve got a quarter of a mile to the finish line–so it’s time to pick up the pace and finish strong.

I’m talking about Christmas, of course. It never fails that in the final three days, I’m scrambling to get those last-minute items that tell everyone just how much I love them: enough to shop at Walmart at 11:30 p.m.

That is love. It’s also a form of insanity.

So in the giving spirit of the season, let me see if I can’t at least help you out by sharing what I think are 12 of the best gifts for runners. And maybe you can pay it forward: help loved ones out by sharing this list with them. I’ve already pinned it to my husband’s forehead.

  1. Tickets to the Show. What better way to light a fire under your runner’s uninspired andrealogoass than to sign her up for a race? A great one for seasoned vetrans or those just starting to lace up is the Publix Women’s Half Marathon and 5K on April 2nd. Use the code ONTHEROAD10 from yours truly to score a discount at checkout. Just know that race entries are neither transferable nor refundable, unless you pay a small fee for race insurance.
  2. The Garmin Gods. I’m still shocked when I discover som11095581_10206455380369147_7970270689607647080_oeone is out there moving in a forward direction without the assistance of a GPS watch. I’ve heard people say, “But those are for serious runners.” That’s like saying toothbrushes are only for dentists. Everyone needs to know how long they’ve been going in any one direction whether walking, running or crawling. I’ve had my first-generation Garmin for years, never updated it and it still functions, though admittedly it looks a bit more VHS than Blu Ray these days.
  3. New Kicks. Runners love their running shoes. But not just any shoe will do. I used to ask my mom specifically for my New Balance 860s, size 9.5 and she’d complain that I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t want to be surprised by my running shoe; I want the “responsive cushioning and essential stability that my beloved gives me. Picking out someone else’s running shoe is like picking out someone else’s spouse. It can’t be done. Or, if it can, then you are some sort of freakish wizard and you should use your powers for something greater.
  4. A Shot of Energy. From gluten-free to caffeine-laced, there are so many running fuel options on the market, all of which make great stocking stuffers. Give Jelly Belly Sports Beans for the kid at heart, Chia Energy Gel for the hipster, honey sticks for the purist, and Salted Caramel GU for the toppings lover (and one of the few flavors I can vouch for). Variety goes a long way during a training run.n-RUNNING-FUEL-large570
  5. Rub it Out. The TP (trigger point) Massage Ball falls somewhere between a tennis and a lacrosse ball, and perhaps becaUnknownuse of the complex science behind cross-breeding, it’s also a ridiculous $20. But stick this ball into that knot just under your scapula and it’ll feel like a baby T-rex is hatching from your skull. Hurts so good.
  6. Actually Rub it Out. Because let’s be honest, a ball can only do so much. Unless you’re like my husband and would rather be set on fire than lubed up with oils and touched by human hands, this is a great gift. For the touch-free folks like my husband I give the an electric massage chair and wonder if they even have a soul.
  7. Sock it to ’em. The Italians were right about many things, including pasta, cheese, facial hair (is that just me?) and running socks.
    My adored Balega socks are not cheap, but cheap never kept blisters at bay.
  8. Slick as snot. No, chafing doesn’t mean you’re fat. It
    means you have skin. So lube it up with Body Glide and let things fall/rub/shake as they may.
  9. This Blows. Running gloves– AKA “the hankie”–are a must have. Give them in a variety of thicknesses but always in rs.phpblack.
  10. Air it Out. Think of arm sleeves as AC for your armpits. I like the Brooks  seamless version that is incredibly lightweight and, let’s be honest, adorable. If I get to hot, they transfrorm into wrist-warmers.
  11. Beat the Bump. The FlipBelt is the only running belt I’ve found that keeps my iPhone from thwacking my booty like an impatient jockey. More important, it looks more like a high waistband than a fanny pack. Still not “cool,” but a certainly passable in the name of function.Belt-Close-Up
  12. Magic Tape. I don’t know how KT Tape works, I just know it does. Everywhere.Unknown-1.jpeg

What have I forgotten? Share it here. Better yet, put it in my stocking.

Let’s Run, Ladies: The Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5k

Coming to you on April 2, 2016!

Coming to you on April 2, 2016!

Last spring, I participated in my first all-women’s race. Though I run with girlfriends on a regular basis, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the inaugural Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5k. Would it be…girlie? Like a Lilith Fair concert minus the music, booze and underlying anger for the phallus? As it turned out, the race was one of the best running experiences of my life.

For starters, I was in the front. Like, the for-real front. Because when you eliminate half the population from a race, the mid-packers are suddenly leaders, which is where I found myself. I could count the women in front of me. And while they were busy counting who was behind them on the switchbacks, I couldn’t help but feel that we were all counting on one another as well.

See, I discovered there’s an almost inexplicable thing that happens when women get the rare opportunity to race together. We’re at once competitive and supportive–which is shockingly possible. Because even more than we want to beat one another, we want to simply race our best–to run among our sisters and see what our legs, lungs and heart can do.

Claudia and I raced together that year and held a steady 7:50 pace until the last half-mile when I hit a mental and physical wall. When she said, “Let’s pick it up,” I puffed, “You go ahead.” She hesitated for a minute, then saw in my empty I’ve-got-nothing-left-please-just-let-this-end-and-give-me-my-beer-face that I was, in fact, incapable of picking anything up including my pace, my feet or even my pride.

Claudia and I staying the course.

Claudia and me staying the course.

She blazed forward and I admired her “I’m still in my 20s” sprint to the finish from a good decade out. Another woman caught me shortly thereafter and said, “C’mon, you got this,” as she passed by.

At that point, I didn’t have much of anything left in me. But I did feel like I had the support of every runner out there–every woman who ever put one foot in front of the other not because she hoped to break a land-speed record or score a corporate sponsorship, but because one day she thought–for any one of a million reasons–I need to run. And then for some inexplicable reason, she kept doing it.

When I crossed the finish line, Claudia was there to congratulate me on what was still a mighty-fine PR. And then we cheered our friends in, from the girls we trained with to the women who were racing for the first time. Some jogged, some walked, but we all felt like we were in it together–and I don’t just mean the race. I mean the fact that we are all women. All daughters. All runners of various degrees for various reasons.

A happy ending.

A happy ending.

So I was clearly honored when I was asked to be an ambassador for this year’s race on April 2. For me, it’s a no-brainer. The race is in my city, sponsored by my grocery store, my running store, the magazine I write for, and my favorite shoe/apparel brand, New Balance, whose 860s I’ve been wearing for nearly as long as I’ve been running.

I have the privilege of encouraging women of all ages and abilities to join in–to run, walk, or Galloway themselves through a beautiful 3.2 or 13.1-mile course. I’ll be sharing tips, discount codes and product giveaways–the first being a $10 half-marathon registration discount when you use the Code: ONTHEROAD10.

Follow my blog and the On the Road Facebook page for more information–and feel free to ask any questions and share your experiences to encourage others to join us on this unique journey.

Begin Again: Why it’s Possible to Restart Running

I was coming off my fastest year yet. I PR’d or placed in every run I raced in the 2014/15 season. I beat my previous year’s marathon by 24 minutes, finishing at 3:48, and charged to a 1:40 half-marathon PR time. For me, these were not only victories, they were incentives to push harder. I set my sights on qualifying for Boston in 2015—the Mecca of marathons. I even told people about my goal, knowing that saying it out loud meant I would do it.

Publix Savannah Women's Half Marathon PR with Claudia

Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon PR with Claudia

But by spring we had moved into a new home and I let the first qualifying opportunity pass by, knowing November’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon here in Savannah—a course I’ve run many times—would give me another opportunity. Then my friend Robert, who played an enormous role in Savannah’s running community and was a personal inspiration to me, died tragically, and running stopped feeling like that thing I escaped to, could excel at and could count on to kill me but never quite. It felt…complicated.

Nonetheless, I half-heartedly approached the first week of my marathon training and immediately irritated my IT Band—my first injury in 20 years—sidelining me for four weeks. So I took it as an opportunity to re-evaluate my goals. I would put Boston on hold and instead train hard for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half with my running partner, Lindsay.

Then I got sidelined again, this time with a stomach virus that took 7 days and 7 pounds from me. And then…and then…and then…

I don’t lose friends. I don’t get injured. I don’t get sick.

We don’t. Until we do.

And yet I get up four to five days a week, lace up my shoes and run, imagining that it will get easier again, another PR will be reached and Boston will come. Eventually.

What is this craziness? Why am I running hill repeats and tempo runs that make me dry heave? Why am I running toward the next goal as life seems to push it just out of reach?

It’s simple really. It’s hope.

Every day I wake up and try to do and be better. I say I’ll eat better, drink less, write more, laugh harder, love deeper, run faster. Most times I don’t and then I’ll try again tomorrow. But, every now and then, I do.

Today I had my first good run in weeks. Rain forced Lindsay and me inside on a bone-jamming gym treadmill for speed work. My earbuds kept falling out of my ear. Without them I had the limited choice of Fox News and ESPN. I tossed the earbuds, ignored the TVs and just ran. I ran each 800 faster than the last, trying to see how much I could take. Turns out, I could take more than I expected.

We’re all distracted and affected by the endless challenges life throws at us. I’m behind on my grading. Our previous house has not sold and I know we can’t float two mortgages much longer. Tomorrow my dad undergoes a back surgery. My sister has discovered a lump in her leg.

But I also believe with all my heart that things will improve—that I will improve along with them. Because, really, what are the options? It’s the possibility of tomorrow that makes today’s challenges survivable.

A morning run.

A morning run.