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Friday, April 27, 2012

Passing the bar

I am a runner. It's as much a part of me as my blue eyes and the freckles that still line my nose. Even during the years that I didn't run due to injury, family stress, and plain lack of motivation, I was still a runner. And, even if the day comes when I can no longer move faster than a shuffle, I will still be a runner. Once you run, it becomes a part of you, helping to define you, mostly to yourself, but sometimes to others. I'm not fast, certainly not talented, and not very athletic; yet, still, I'm a runner.

Over the years, most of my family, and not a few of my friends, have alternately thought me crazy, obsessed, or a health freak. They thought I had been drinking the Kool-aid, and, if not stupid, then somehow not quite right. And, truth be told, they have probably all been right, at least to some degree. But, in the last year, there's been a change, a shift of attitude, a dawning of understanding. Because, you see, some of the doubters have become runners. I've watched with delight and amazement as some of my family have taken up the torch and started their running journeys. My daughter, Kaitlyn, who was very athletic in high school, but never a runner, ran her first race the other day (a 6k) and actually won her age group. Yes, proud mama here. My sister, whose health habits and history are a blog post all on their own, has begun to run/walk and is feeling the pull. One of my closest friends began a couch to 5k program in February, after never running a step and vowing that she never would, and is running her first 5k in the morning. Amazing.

My excitement for them is boundless. I remember my first real race - a 5k in Fort Gaines, Alabama. It was so long ago that I can't even remember the year or the name of the race. What I do remember was the feeling. The excitement and nervousness at the start, the Confederate drum corp that kept time to my pounding footfalls and heartbeat, the rush of adrenaline when I knew the finish line was near. Gary and I ran that race together (although he outdistanced me easily), then went on to run the Crescent City Classic the next year in New Orleans. I was a runner. Many years and hundreds of miles later, I still feel that nervous excitement at the start of a race. The wondering if I had trained enough, if I would be able to achieve the goal I set for myself; the elation when I do, the crushing disappointment when I don't. I actually envy my new running friends a little - they have so much to look forward to, new PR's, exciting new goals to set. The great thing about running, though, is that every run is a new one. Every day is a new day and brings its own set of challenges. Some runs are diamonds, some runs are stones, but you learn and grow from every single one.

As new runners, I want them to treasure every moment. To remember how it felt when they could barely walk a mile, then the satisfaction they felt when they were finally able to run it. I want them to remember the sense of accomplishment they feel at their first finish line and carry that into their lives. Running is such a metaphor for life that you can't help applying the lessons you learn in training and racing to your personal and professional life.

Most of all, I wish them joy. Joyous runs that take them around new cities and down new trails, literally and figuratively. Runs that lead them to places in their lives they never thought they would go. I'm so excited to be passing the bar, watching you run with it, then taking it back for my own race. Happy trails, my friends!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A call to boldness

I just finished reading "The Hunger Games" trilogy, and I must confess, a more depressing trio of books I can't imagine. Yes, they were well written, and the storyline was compelling, but I found myself wishing for the end when I was only about halfway through the second book. There is an encompassing sense of melancholy that hangs over the entire series. It's not that I don't recommend it, the series is thought provoking and imaginative. It's just not escapism reading. Not for me, anyway. However, I think it speaks volumes about the mood of the next generation. Indeed, I would say the mood of my generation, as well. I think we are at a critical point in history, and our next steps will determine the direction of our nation, even the world. We have an entire generation of young people (and older people) who don't know Christ, who think the truth is relative, who think love can't last forever, and who seem to be mired in hopelessness.

So, where do we go from here? As Christians, I think our directives are clear. We have been given a commission to go tell, and we are failing miserably. I know that I am. I'm not by nature a bold person. I don't like to stand out in a crowd, am too much of a people pleaser to enjoy conflict, and have no desire for my voice to be the one that is heard. There is all too often a disconnect between my thought process and the act of speaking that leads me to stutter incoherently or not convey my message clearly. I'm not a theologian or an academic, and my thoughts and opinions don't really make compelling listening. And, yet, I have a ministry. As our pastor reminded us this morning in church, if you've been called to Christ, you are a minister. Not that you will ever have to stand in a pulpit, but you have ministering opportunies all around you every single day.

A couple of years ago, I felt God calling me to deepen my walk with Him. To increase my knowledge of Him, and to learn to listen to His voice. I've called myself listening, but all too often, I've gotten His voice confused with mine and run full steam ahead toward something that was clearly my desire for me and not His. He doesn't stop us when we do that, but he certainly doesn't bless those efforts. So, I've slowed my life down. Don't laugh if you know me well - I really have. I still have more misses than hits, but I am slowly reprioritizing my life to include more time spent alone with Him. Listening. Seeking. Worshiping.

We have a world around us that is hurting. We have to strap on our armour and set out in boldness to bring that world hope. What does that look like in practical terms? I can only speak for myself, but maybe you'll see something in my struggle that will help you with yours.

It starts with love. We have to learn to be beacons of love and light in a dark world. That means learning to love everyone. This is a hard one for me. I've gotten to a place in my life that I want solitude more than social encounters, even with those that I already love. Times of solitude are fine, deeply needed even, but we can't go there and stay. God wants us out in the world, among those hopeless people. People that He already loves. People who are difficult to love. People who don't look like you or sound like you or believe the same things that you do. People who need to hear or be reminded of His love, His hope, His future completely entwined with ours.

We can't be afraid to label sin what it is. But, in doing so, we have to remember that there are no degrees of sin. One sin is no better or worse than any other. Which makes us all sinners. Romans 3: 9-18 speaks to that very clearly. (Also Romans 3:23) I know I've had enough self righteous church people in my life to last a lifetime. So, as we love people, we learn to listen to them. We learn to meet them where they are and gently encourage them. Show them how God loves them by loving them that way yourself. This is not ever easy, for me it seems particularly hard sometimes. There is a very thin line between righteousness and self righteousness, and it's vitally important to learn where it is. That's where the learning to love comes in. We don't have to know how our sinful friends will come into the kingdom. God knows how. The same way you'll be allowed into the kingdom in spite of your sin. What we have to do is show them hope, love, the future God has planned for them. And we have to accomplish this while being very aware of those planks in our own eyes.

We can't allow our own shortcomings to prevent us from being bold. God has a very long history of using people who were neither talented, beautiful, wealthy, or even particularly smart. He will give you what you need, and bring people to your life who need exactly what you have to offer. He has brought so many mentors into my life, people who provided exactly what I needed during each season of my life. It's time to pay that forward.

This is a post that has been on my heart for weeks. When I started this blog, a little over a year ago, it was to share my journey throughout the upcoming years as I seek some physical goals. But, the more important purpose here is to open up my spiritual walk to any one who may be even remotely inspired to begin their own journey. Not by me, my walk is tremulous and stumbling at best. But, perhaps as I chronicle my journey, you'll see that your journey, too, is of Kingdom importance.

There's work to be done. That's why we're still here. Be bold.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:17

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I'm sitting on my deck this beautiful Easter evening reflecting on the perfection of this High holy day. I love Easter. Much more than Christmas, because the message of this day is what leads to eternal life.

It's been such a peaceful weekend for our family. It started Friday evening with a wonderful worship experience at our church. I have to admit, it's a little hard for this good Baptist girl to get used to untraditional meeting times, but it was well worth it. We had an amazing service in a standing room only crowd, and I know that same experience was repeated four more times throughout this Holy weekend to the everlasting Glory of God. Saturday morning, we slept in, then I went on a long run with my favorite running buddy, my man. We won't have the luxury of sleeping in on Saturdays before long runs much longer, so we took advantage of it. We went to the Longleaf Trace, a local rails to trails project, and ran a less traveled part of it, so there weren't tons of people. It's a beautiful section, alive with the sights and smells of springtime: the smell of honeysuckle, a lazy beaver pond, green as far as the eye can see, and flowers blooming in the most unexpected places. This morning, we left early and went on our first kayaking trip of the season with our youngest daughter, Kaitlyn. We were the only ones on the water; the birds, frogs, and river creatures didn't seem too disturbed by our presence, and we had church right there on the creek. Then, a grill, a grillmaster (Gary), a good book, and a hammock finished off our day.

As I lay in the hammock, I thought about how it seems like forever since I've been this relaxed. I think I've been running full steam ahead for the last twenty years, and it feels really good to slow down a little. Over the past months, I've made a concentrated effort to stop and smell the roses more often, and I had forgotten how good they smell! The last few weeks I've rediscovered that I actually enjoy cooking, and it's whole lot cheaper than all the eating out we usually do. Not to mention how much better for us it is.

Where did we lose the art of simplicity in our lives? When did it become all about working unitl we dropped, then digging deep to find leftover scraps of ourselves to feed our families? The untraditional worship time we participated in this week really helped me to rediscover that we've allowed others to guilt us into saying "yes" to too many things. I have been so guilty of that in my life. Saying "no" is really hard when it is a worthwhile project, but I've too often said yes, and my family paid the price. They never complained, but I feel it now, more than ever.

So, along with the other goals I'm trying to achieve this year, I've added a new one. One that was inspired by the events (or lack of them) this weekend. Truly simplify my life. I don't just want to pay lip service to it, I want to weed out all those things that keep me from being the most effective, influential, and powerful woman I can be. Don't misunderstand those adjectives. I don't mean that I want to be rich and famous. I can say, without reservation or pretense, that I don't. But, I want to have time to enjoy with my family, restful, re-energizing time that fills me up and prepares me for the world. Time to really listen to God, to dig deep in His word and find out exactly why it is that I'm here, then the energy to act on that. God has placed some deep desires in my heart that I'm not sure I'm ready or able to accomplish. I know, then, that there are some things in me that He is trying to refine out of me in order to make me ready. One of those things I feel sure is pridefulness. The message of this weekend has shown me that another one is "busyness". I've been entirely too busy and have gotten too little accomplished over the last years. My only hope is in Him. So thankful this day for the gift of the cross.

Psalm 39:5-7
New Living Translation (NLT)
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.”
6 We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A rant

I haven't run in a couple of weeks, so you'll have to excuse my testiness. After this post, you'll probably feel a lot more empathy for my man. He has to put up with it all the time.

Yesterday, we here in South Mississippi who use a certain cell carrier were treated to a rare day of silence when someone cut a fiber optic cable which apparently is the cable that runs the world. Now, you may think my rant will be directed at the cell phone company who dared to take away our service for an afternoon. You would be wrong.

As I traveled around doing my afternoon errands, everywhere I went, people were raving and baring their collective teeth that we have no cell service. A lot of these people were working at jobs where I know they have a land line, so any cell phone usage was strictly personal. When I dared to make the comment that all would eventually right itself, I was practically booed out of line. I stood my ground, though. One man informed me that he uses his phone for business. I calmly told him that I do, as well, and that I knew my clients would be understanding of their inability to contact me for a few hours. Everyone seemed to believe we were going to be out of service indefinitely with no way to communicate, and even more dire, no way to post about it on Facebook! I did not observe it myself, but I'm told that the cell phone office was filled to overflowing with irate and loud customers, yelling at the sales people who have no ability whatsoever to fix the problem and were probably just as put out as their customers were.

When did we become so dependent on technology that we can't survive an afternoon without it? Now, I realize many of us (including my family) have gone to cell service entirely and don't have a land line at all, which certainly leaves us susceptible in emergencies. But, if I'm not mistaken, I made it all the way to adulthood without the convenience of a cell phone, and I certainly had my share of emergencies. "Back in the day" we used common sense to figure out what to do when we needed something. I fear common sense has left the building. Or, it has shriveled and died from lack of use.

In all fairness, I saw some pretty ingenious use of technology yesterday as folks overcame minor emergencies and business issues. One guy I know was able to access his Facebook page and asked any of his friends who could call his wife to tell her to check her email and messages because he was locked out of his house and was late for a business appointment. The message trickled down the line, and soon she was on her way. Now, that was the way to handle a crisis. Rather than blowing up and screaming in frustration, he calmly assessed and figured out the best way to remedy his dilemma.

I guess my rant can be boiled down to this. There are real emergencies in the world. Real crises. Not just outside our little neighborhood, but right here where we live. People who are in need for basics, like food and rent money. An afternoon without cell service is not a crisis. Inconvenient and frustrating, yes. Not an occasion to ruin someone's day who is just trying to make a living.
My advice to everyone who lost their minds yesterday is this: Get a land line or learn to appreciate the occasional lapses of silence that cell service will inevitably have.

I don't often rant in the blogosphere. I do, unfortunately, rant to my family on occasion. Now you know how they feel, and I know you'll join them in celebrating that Dr.. Rouse just cleared me to run!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Warrior updates

Race results have posted and I thought I would share the updates with you.  I knew it was certainly the slowest 5k+ that I had ever done, and sure enough, it was.  My pace was a little over 21 minutes which was actually a little better than I expected after all the ado.  The girls rocked 17 minute paces and Gary's time doesn't count, because he was babysitting me.  I'll share some of those highlights in a minute.  When we were checking the age group results last night, we saw that in the 80-90 year old women's age group, an 86 year old rocked a 17 minute pace.  May I just say wow!  And, may I also say, I'm really tired of getting my butt kicked by octogenarians.  I have got to work on that.  

One of my favorite moments in the race occurred on the slanted rope wall.  Gary scaled it first, with the agility of a mountain goat, then he turned at the top to see if I needed help.  I scaled the wall pretty quickly, but I soon discovered that was the easy part.  The knots in the rope end about a foot shy of the top and there really isn't a place to put your hand to give yourself a boost over the top.  Plus, you're a little reluctant to let go of the rope long enough to grab the top, cause it's a long drop back to the ground.   Gary grabbed both my wrists and held on tight while I tried to figure out how to propel myself to the top.  As I scrambled for purchase, Gary held fast, at one point pretty much holding up my entire body weight by my wrists. He finally said, "You're going to have to do something."  Yeah, he has a knack for stating the obvious.  Finally, I heard a shout from below telling me to use the knot.  I put my foot on the knot and gained enough momentum to push myself over.  Gary scampered down, and I methodically climbed down after him.  

The race itself is fun. Muddy and slippery.  After the fire pole incident, I was limping pretty badly, but was grimly determined to finish.  I was gingerly picking my way through a mud bog, and this really cool young man said, "Here, take my arm to balance."  I did and was able to get through the last bog with his help.  I loved that.  He didn't know me at all, but he saw I was limping and he slowed down his race to help me with mine.  How cool is that?  Chivalry isn't dead, after all.  Gary was there to pull me through most everything, but he's pretty heavily invested in me.  This young stranger's name was Hank, and I told him I hope his wife knows he's a keeper.  He assured me she did.  Don't give up hope, girls!  There are really good guys out there.  You may have to look in a mud hole to find one. though.  

The not so great result of the race is the ankle injury.  It is still very swollen and bruised.  I can walk without limping today, but I decided to go see my bone and joint guy just to make sure nothing was broken.  He's almost on retainer anyway.  The good news is that nothing is broken.  The bad news is that it's a fairly serious sprain.  He wants me to stay off it for 10 days, then he'll look at it again.  I think I'll be running again in two weeks.  I'm kind of counting on it, so send healing thoughts my way.  By the way, explaining how I got the injury to my doctor was kind of fun.  His only comment was that it had been a long time since he had seen a fire pole injury.  I would bet good money that the last time he saw one, it wasn't on a 50 year old woman.  He's awesome though.  He's been my ortho guy for many years, and the thing I like the most about him is that he knows the importance of getting his patients back to their sports.  He would NEVER tell me not to run again, and I have heard that from doctors before.  

Can't say enough how fun this race was.  Yes, it's hard, but it's a good kind of hard.  There were a lot of glitches with the organization of it that I would like to see fixed, but the race itself was pretty well organized.  I probably won't be doing another one this year, but will absolutely do another one, maybe next spring.  But, I'm kind of hoping they don't have a fire pole.   And, that 86 year old woman better watch her back.  She'll be 87 by then.  Maybe there's hope for me yet.  

If you need a little inspiration, click on the link below to see what a true warrior looks like.  I didn't get to see or meet this guy (would have really liked to), but he puts my humble efforts to shame.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting our Warrior on

I think that normal families get together with their grown children a little differently than we do.  They probably go to Disneyworld, ride Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain, take a safari through Animal Kingdom and walk in Downtown Disney.  Or, they go to the beach, rent beach chairs, dig their toes in the sand and read a good book.  Get in the water a little, maybe pick up a game of beach volleyball.

Well, normal doesn't really apply to us.  When we get together with our grown girls, we usually strap on scuba gear and jump off a perfectly good boat to see what lurks below.  Or, we go whitewater rafting, kayaking, or hiking through tropical rain forests.  And, I don't think any of us would have it any other way.  Well, the girls and I might enjoy digging our toes in the sand a little and reading a good book, but we usually get a dose of that sometime during the year.

This weekend, we drove to Houston, Texas, where our oldest daughter lives and the four of us participated in a Warrior Dash in nearby Splendora.  May I add, this was Gary's idea.  If you're not familiar with a Warrior Dash, it's a race with obstacles sprinkled throughout.  It's only a little more than a 5k, but, as their website proudly proclaims, it's the most hellish 3.2 miles you'll ever run.  True that.

I was a little nervous going in, not for the run, but some of the obstacles looked a little out of my league.  Scaling walls with ropes, crawling through barbed wire, net bridges, and mud, mud, and more mud. I'm an old broad, for pete's sake.  But,  I have to say for the most part, the obstacles were a pleasant surprise.  Lots of mud and water, lots of slipping down, but the first wall climb went okay.  I'll admit I wimped on the vertical wall, I was having trouble with my sugar & I was a little afraid I would get to the top and pass out, so I went around.  I think that's the only one I missed, though.  The girls were lightening fast, but my man stayed to babysit me, so he and I were not so fast.  I did okay until I got to the fireman's pole, went down a little faster than I thought and landed wrong & twisted my ankle pretty badly.  I limped the rest of the way, but fortunately, all the obstacles after that were mud or swimming under barbed wire, so I was able to finish with my dignity more or less intact.  And, let's remember, this isn't the first race that I've limped across the finish line.

Things to remember if you plan to run a Warrior Dash:
1) Make sure your tetanus shot is current.
2) Make sure your shoes are tied on tightly.  You'll probably lose them at some point anyway, but at least they'll stay on most of the time.
3) Don't get cocky.  I don't care if your playhouse did have a fireman's pole in it when you were growing up and you slid down it a million times, things are a little different 40 years later.
4) If you're trying to set a record, get a grip.  It's a fun run.

If I do another one (and the chances are good), I'll need a volunteer to babysit/run with me, so Gary can actually race.  I'm thinking Hollye McInnis, Debi Cox, or Debbie Flynt are good candidates.  Get ready, girls.

I have to say, this was more fun than I thought it would be.  That said, I'm icing my ankle and hoping for the best.  But, I think this is a great race to do to awaken your inner child.  You remember her, don't you?  The one who ran like her feet had wings, jumped into mud puddles, slid down geronimo poles, and leaped over buildings in a single bound.  Oh, wait, that last one was a super hero, I think.  Anyway, very fun way to spend the afternoon with your family.  Sign up for one soon.  You won't regret it.  

Preparing for battle
The Warrior Richards clan
Warrior Kait
Warrior Misty
The clan after the battle
Warrior princesses

Another after the battle shot

The muddy warriors

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stone Bruises

It's been a long, dark winter.  Or, at least it seemed so to me.  Not particularly cold, thank heaven, just dark and endless.  I've never been a huge fan of January and February, but this year I'm more thankful than usual that they're done.

We all go through seasons of life that range from mountaintop highs to deep valley lows.  This winter certainly hasn't been a deep valley for me, but it has been dark and gloomy.   It reminded me that we all have events in our lives that leave stone bruises on our hearts.  You remember stone bruises.  You used to get them when you walked barefoot as a kid.  You stepped on a rock or stone and it hurt in the moment, but really didn't leave a mark.  Then, later, you moved your foot or stepped on that certain spot, and there it was, the pain you thought was gone.  

I woke one morning this week to the sight of dogwoods blooming outside my bedroom window, and I can't express how thankful that made me.  I love spring.  It is, hands down, my favorite time of year.  I sneeze my way through it, but what a small price to pay for spring!  Spring is a reminder of the faithfulness of God.  How, every year,  no matter how cold or dark the winter was, He'll bring spring to us again.  We just have to soldier through those months of cold and darkness and trust Him.  He's ever faithful.  This week has been a much needed reminder of that.

Life is tough.  Sometimes, too tough.  As I've gotten older, I've realized the fragility of life and how whimsical tragedy is.  Darkness touches us all.  Many that I love are going through very dark seasons, death of a loved one, divorce, loneliness, financial crises, serious illness, chronic pain, watching beloved parents decline.   It makes my dark path seem bright in comparison.

So, I pray.  I search for reminders that God is faithful, and when you're looking for them, you're sure to find them. Gary & I went for a hike today at Black Creek.  He has taken on my training (I'm sure you'll hear more about that in upcoming weeks) and today was a five mile easy hike.  Here are some signs of God's faithfulness that we saw on the trail.

If you are going through a dark time in your life, start looking for signs of His faithfulness.  I promise, they are all around you.  We'll always have those stone bruises on our hearts, but there are wonderful, life affirming ways to ease them.  Look for them.  Reach out and take them.  

3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
                                                                             Psalm 23: 3-5

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Seaside Half Marathon

What a beautiful day for a foot race!!  So glad mine was at the beach.  This is what it looked like as my sister & I headed to Seaside.

Mel (my sister) and I came down to her house in Destin on Friday and spent a wonderfully lazy day shopping, eating, and reading while it rained yesterday.  We got up bright and early and headed over to Seaside, Florida for a 7 am race start. On the drive over, Mel read Hebrews 12:1 to me several times.  I really have to commit that one to memory.  I drew on it throughout all 13.1 miles.  Spent some time around mile 5 praying for all my friends who were racing today, some here, others in New Orleans.  Hope they all had excellent, record setting runs!!

The race started okay, the first 4 miles were spent adjusting some mild wardrobe malfunctions, but I was pretty much on my target and felt great.  At mile 4(ish), I got a wonderful surprise - my man was here!!  He didn't tell me he was coming, so I was deliriously happy to see him.  I handed off my Ipod (which will not get to race again - it annoys me during a race), my gloves and my arm warmers.  I don't know if you can see the huge smile on my face, but Gary took this when I first saw him.  All today's blog pics (including the sunrise beach) are courtesy of my man.

Still felt really strong until Mile 9, when my right hamstring started giving me grief and I got a stitch in my right side.  I stretched some during the 1 minute walk breaks and was able to stay on course.
That's me in the black/purple skirt.  

Stayed on pace until mile 11 when the nausea hit, then serious GI distress set in.  Not to be deterred, I slowed my pace and walked a bit.  I put my left hand on my tummy & lifted the right one to God and asked Him to take the tummy issues away until the race end.  Man, He's faithful.  Nausea subsided, tummy settled some, had a slight side stitch, but I maintained a walking pace for most of mile 11, then picked up the run at mile 12.   Mostly ran to the end, with just a few 10 second walk breaks, but mile 11 did me in as far as time went.  Finished 2 minutes over my goal pace, but I'm putting this one in the win column.  After 2 weeks with a tummy virus, not training for as long as I needed to, then hamstring issues, I'll take it.  Hopefully, by my next half, I'll be properly trained and all injury issues will be distant memories.  Hey, a girl can dream, right?  It's not until the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so I think that will give me plenty of time.  

Loved this beautiful race, it was well run, clean, lots of volunteer help.  Not much crowd support, but there were some great signs along the route.  One of my favorites:

That's my man's shadow, he liked the sign, too.  Unfortunately, it was pretty true for me today.  

Will certainly try to do this race next year.  They have GREAT swag:

At the finish line with my new Vera Bradley purse!

Next up: Warrior Dash in Spendora, Texas in two weeks.  The whole family is running.  Are we ready, girls?  You know Dad is going to kick butt!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Race nerves

Race weekend is here, and it's as exciting as ever. But, I'll admit it. Race nerves have set in already. I know I can do this, but there's always the element of unpredictablity on race day. That's what makes racing fun, but also what makes it a little nerve racking. I would say it is only nerve shattering for newbie racers like me, but I think race nerves cut across all levels of ability. They don't play favorites.

Worries about weather, old injuries, tummy issues, and the ability to finish at all, much less finish strong, war with each other inside my head. Tummy issues in particular concern me. Without venturing into the territory of oversharing, I would covet your prayers on race day about my GI issues. They seem to be the biggest thorn in my paw for this race.

Ran across this verse in my Bible reading today.

 "1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." Hebrews 12:1

May this verse apply to our lives every day, in every way.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spring is near!!

I'm not one to wish my life away, but I have to say I'm glad to see the end of this dreary month approach. January and February of this year certainly won't go down as my worst, but it's been gloomy at best and downright depressing at worst. I haven't been faithful about keeping up with my blog, and writing it is very cathartic for me. Enough of that! On with spring!!

Along those lines, I'm headed to Destin this weekend in anticipation of running the Seaside Half Marathon on Sunday. I'm very excited, it will be my first race since NYC, and my first half marathon in over a year. This is my favorite distance, one in which I think I can eventually be more competitive.

My training has been off. I took extra time after the marathon to nurse my knee, which no doubt was at least partly responsible for my extended bad mood. But, my knee is better and I had a couple of better than decent long runs, so let's do this thing. The exciting thing about a race is that anything can happen. I'm not expecting a PR, but I'm also not going to rule one out. I've been basking in the taper the last week, with spin workouts and some extended walks. I plan to run tomorrow morning, as Gary & I are on our monthly sojourn to Natchez, and I love running here. It will be a really short, easy run. Just a little reminder to my legs that they have work to do this weekend.

Gary & I walked around downtown and went to the river this evening, and I can tell spring is near. The soft, warm breeze, coupled with the occasional whiffs of newly budding trees was like balm on a wound. I'm a southern girl and I need sunlight, warm breezes, and the occasional view of water (gulf or river) to soothe my soul. I'm thankful for every day of my life, I would just make them all warm days by or on the water if I could. Cold, dreary weather makes me cold and dreary, and I'm more than ready for the lightness of body and mind that spring brings.

Happy runs to you this week!! And, if you're racing this weekend, good luck!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


What inspires you?  What gets you off the couch or out of bed and out the door with your workout clothes on?  What makes you go for a run when you really don't feel like it?

Running has so many inspiring faces.  People who have overcome great odds to persevere in their sport and achieve great things.  I've met some of those people, read or heard about many others.  They all inspire me, but to be honest, theirs aren't the faces I see when I get up for a pre-dawn run in the cold.  Those stories may get you started by realizing what a glorious gift you've been given in the ability to run, but they won't necessarily sustain you for the long haul.  I call that the "clean your plate" inspiration.  You, remember, when you were little, your mother reminded you that there are children starving in Africa, so you should always clean your plate.  Never understood how my getting fat would help those kids, but there it is.  That type inspiration may get you started, but it will only take you so far.

So, what inspires you?  I read a lot, pray diligently, train smart, and still I have days when the desire is just not there. I have to dig deep to find it.  I'll share some of the tools in my inspiration arsenal with you and maybe you can make some them your own.

I'm inspired by family.  My husband is in amazing shape and stays fit so that he can enjoy life.  He doesn't do it for vanity, he does it so he can hike, swim, scuba dive, ride his dirt bike in races, and take care of his family.  He recently signed us and our 2 daughters up for a "Warrior Dash".  We girls all know that he will probably kick our butts, but it certainly keeps us on our toes.  We have amazing vacations that take us to far reaching horizons, but which are extremely physical.  I want to be able to enjoy those things, and being fit is a huge part of that.

I'm inspired by failure.  A few years ago, on one of those amazing vacations to Puerto Rico, Gary and I were hiking up a mountain.  It was beautiful, a tropical rain forrest showcasing God's handiwork.  But, I couldn't do it.  The effort was too much, and we ended our hike way before we were able to enjoy it fully.  That day was a turning point for me.  I never want to have to turn around and go back down the mountain without reaching the mountain peak again.  Physically or spiritually.  I still fail with regularity, and each time, I'm inspired in a new way.  Unfortunately, God uses failures and mistakes to teach us life lessons.  Sure wish he would use success the same way.  But, the lessons I've learned the best, the ones that have stayed with me, were found in the throes of failure.

I'm inspired by others.  When I find my enthusiasm flagging, I pick up a running magazine or book.  I follow several bloggers who write motivational posts that encourage and sustain me.  While this may be a form of "clean your plate" inspiration, it works.  I love reading about older women who have come to the sport late in life and are still running marathons in their 70's, 80's, and 90's.  While watching the senior Olympics recently (I know, I'm such a nerd), there was a woman runner who won her event who was 95.  Now, if you saw her on the street, you might have thought she was late 50's at the most.   I want to be that old broad.  I'm over halfway there, after all.

At the NYC marathon, Asics did this cool thing where friends and family could write messages for you which would flash on a jumbotron triggered by your running chip when you ran by it.  I LOVED my messages, they made me laugh and cry and made me feel like my family and friends were right there with me.  I have to say, though, this was one of my favorites:

You see why I stay inspired?  Hope your running is inspired this week!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Running like a girl

Boys and girls are different. We all know that. And, I for one, celebrate those differences. I love being a girl! Being different means we run differently. I used to let it bother me that I could train for a year for a race, while my man sat on the couch eating cheese dip, and he would still beat me without breaking a sweat. I mostly don't let that bother me anymore. Today's run was a perfect example. We are in South Carolina and we're staying in the backwoods (I don't know the town - we're at a motorcylce race). There are wonderfully hard packed dirt roads, with little to no cant. Now, I know that if you're a runner, you're already green-eyed, but there's more. I slept in a little, so by the time I started, the weather was upper 40's to mid 50's, with no wind, and beautiful sunshine. It really doesn't get much better than that for a run. I think at one point I heard my knees break out in the Hallelujah Chorus! It was truly magnificent. How was it a girl run? Well, if my man had gone with me, given the perfect set of circumstances, he would have kicked it up a few notches and really pushed hard. It was an 8 miler for me, and I have a training plan for those, which I stuck to (for the most part). I ran my 2/1 intervals, with only a couple of pushes, and when I was done, I think I could have easily tacked on 10 more. I was pleasantly tired on the half mile cool down, and I still have juice in my legs to finish my day. My point is to run your run. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. There are LOTS of girls I know who have a competitive streak as strong as anyone's and run all out on every run. That's fine, too. That is their run. I run for lots of reasons. For fitness, to lose/keep off weight, to keep disease at bay. I run because it makes me strong, physically and spiritually. But, the single most important reason that I run is because I LOVE how it makes me feel. Clear and focused. Ready to face my day. Now, I do include training runs that push me. Hills (Yuk!), speedwork, and strength training (triple Yuk!) are all included in my training plan. But, my favorite runs are those like today. Soul soothers. Reminders of the goodness of God and the beauty that surrounds us. I always try keep my eyes focused on my run, no one else's. I enjoy running with my man sometimes. He really pushes me, and I think that's a good thing. But, I'll keep on running my run, and savoring the sweet ones like today. And I'll do it in a skirt.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Overcoming your legacy

My sister and I took our dad, who now lives in a nursing home, to the cemetery today to visit and tend to our mother's grave.  We do this a couple times of year, and it's always a welcome outing, as morbid as that sounds.  We walk around and read the grave stones and Dad tells us how we are related to each of them, and some of his memories of them, as well.  Today was a beautiful day for it, cool and sunny, and he always enjoys the journey as much as the destination.

Today's trip started me thinking about our legacies.   Not the material ones, but the spiritual, emotional, and physical ones.  And, I started thinking about mine in particular.  I won the parent lottery.  I grew up in a Christ centered, love filled home.  Yes, we had the usual bickering, and certainly had financial challenges, but I grew into a woman filled with faith largely because I learned that at my parent's knees.  From my dad, I learned how to get along with, love and accept others,  and the power of a loving and giving heart.  From my mom, I learned tenacity, perseverance, and how to be a God filled wife and mother.  These, and so many other gifts, were given freely and embraced with pleasure.

But, what about the other legacies?  The ones that  weren't so desirable?  I'm not talking about the size of my nose or the freckles that plagued me throughout childhood and adolescence. I'm talking about more serious issues.  Lifestyle legacies.  Do you have any that you wish you hadn't been saddled with?

My wonderful parents had issues.  They both struggled with their weight, particularly my mom, throughout adulthood.  Both developed Type II diabetes and heart disease, Mom had a stroke at age 70, and Dad has dealt with numerous TIA's and seems to have some neurological hiccups that are hard to diagnose, but frustrating none the less.  How much of their health issues were related to lifestyle and how much to genetics?  I have no idea.  But, I do know that neither of them lived particularly healthy lifestyles, eating like Southerners, and getting very little exercise.

I learned something last year as I trained for the NYC marathon that has taken 50 years to sink in.  I can overcome this legacy of poor health.  One of the things non-runners say to me ALL the time is, "If you ever see me running, it's because something is chasing me."  Well, something is chasing me.  It's obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and poor health.   I can't change my genetic code, but I can change the way I live.

It finally dawned on me last year that what it takes to accomplish the seemingly impossible is simply the  belief that I can.  I never really thought I would finish a marathon, much less NYC.  But, I did.  The training was hard (go back and read some of my whinier posts), and it certainly didn't happen in a day.  But, it made me believe in myself in a way I never have before.  I used to believe that I would always carry around an extra 20 pounds or so.  If I lost it, it would just come back.  And, guess what?  Every time I lost it, it came right back.  Hmmm...... maybe it had more to do with my lack of belief, than it did a "genetic predisposition."

I now know that I can do it.  My mother didn't run 26 cumulative miles in her entire 80 years of life.  Last year, I crossed the finish line of the NYC marathon.  I know she was cheering me on from heaven.    She always wanted us to find the best in ourselves, she just didn't always know how to model that for us.

Do you have a lifestyle legacy to overcome?  An alcoholic or abusive parent?  One who was a spendthrift and didn't teach you how to manage money?  You are your own person.  You don't have to live the legacies that you don't want to.  Life is about choice, and each day brings a new set of choices. Choose to begin an exercise program, then each day, choose to do it.  Some days will be really hard.  I've never struggled with alcohol issues, so I can only imagine the strength that it takes to have to choose daily not to drink.  And, yet, many are able to do it. Choosing to overcome your legacy may be the key to completely changing your life.

I choose every day to be happy, to be content with my life, to live the best life I'm able. That's not easy to do every day.  Some days, life stinks.  Choosing happiness is a daily chore, one I do before my feet ever hit the floor in the morning.  

If you have an "overcoming my legacy" story, share it with me.  I'd love to hear it.  Or, if you have the desire to change your life, but need someone to pray with you, I'd love to hear from you, also.  Share it in the comments, or message me privately if you would prefer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The magic of the run

It was cold this morning in South Mississippi.  I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, I don't do cold.  So, getting motivated for this morning's long run was tough.  I fixed Gary some breakfast and sent him off to ride, then did the morning houskeeping chores, so by the time I hit the trail, it was close to 10 am.  The temps had risen considerably, and I have to say, by the time I started running the weather was close to perfect.

2012 hasn't started off all that well for me.  Usually, a new year is still bright and shiny at this stage, but somehow, this year has been a little dull and blah.  Nothing major, just nagging concerns about some things in my life, as well as more pressing concerns about some of the people that I love.  Life is tough, and there are those in my life who are struggling with huge life issues: illness, death of a spouse, infidelity, divorce, work worries, and bad relationships.  I love being a prayer warrior, but sometimes life seems overwhelming.

So, the run this morning had the potential to be just another run.  Another thing checked off my never ending to do list.  But, it wasn't.  I've mentioned that I'm training for a half marathon the first weekend of March.  I'm really looking forward to it, and signed up for it with the intention of training for a PR.  After NYC, my knee was an issue, so I've taken some extra time to work on it, and as a result, I let the half slip up on me.  Just a month ago, March seemed like a long time away, now suddenly, it's almost here.  So, I dug out my training plan, counted backwards to the week I was on, and set off.  The trouble was, I'm not quite ready for that intensity yet.  This morning's run brought clarity to my training and reminded me what my focus for this year is:  to lose that nagging 25 pounds that I've put on the back burner for the last couple of years.  So, I've revised my training to be much more manageable, while pushing me toward my weight goal.  That means the Seaside half will most likely not be a PR, but, so what?  There will be another race later this year and I'll fix my sights on that one for a PR.

What brought the clarity?  What helped banish the blahs that have floated around me like a persistant odor for the past several weeks?  Was it the run?  No, not really.  It was the time spent alone with God.  Listening to His word spoken to me by one of my favorite pastors. This week's podcast was on "Just one thing..."  Focusing on the one thing in our lives that we really need to change in order to be the person that God wants us to be.  Now, for me there are several, but the message brought much needed clarity and focus to the plans I have for the year.  Listen to it, I won't try to rewrite it here.

I challenge you to find your "one thing" this year.  Pray about it, search your Bible for answers about it, meditate on it with God as your leader.  Don't let anything distract you from your journey.

3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down."  Nehemiah 6:3a 

This morning on Long Leaf Trace
There's really no magic in a run.  The "magic" is in the time spent listening to God speak.  It just so happens that, for me, that usually happens on a run.  It's why I run alone.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January Blahs

I'm by nature a joyful person.  I'm obnoxiously upbeat, always see the silver lining, my cup is half full, I bathe in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, my grass grows on the green side of the fence.  But, I'll admit it.  I have the January Blahs.  

I thought this was a phenomena unique to me, but apparently, the world at large suffers from it as well.  Something to do with the frenzy of the holidays, then the back to reality slap that the first of January brings.  

I've been holding mine at bay for the last few days, but it set in with a vengeance today.  At first, I wasn't sure why, but I think I've put my finger on the nose of the problem.  I need to run.  I need some long, soul cleansing, mind blowing, sweat inducing runs.  Lucky for me, I have a half marathon to train for.

I took some extra time off after the marathon to baby my knee.   The knee is better, I still think my problem stems from my ITB tightness, so I'm working on strengthening my quads and foam rolling like a crazy woman.  I hate strength training, by the way.  But, it seems I'll have to grit my teeth and bear it if I intend to run for life.  And, I do.  

A minor illness sidelined me this week for a couple of days, after hitting the ground running last week.  It made me anxious and mildly depressed.  I don't have a lot of mood lifters besides running, so I've been trying some different things this week to try to break out of the rut.  I've cleaned out part of my closet without showing any mercy.  I'm even going through my shoes!  I have a LOT of organizing to do this month.  Hopefully, I'll get it all done and have a major rummage sale that you're all invited to.  I've been listening to contemporary Christian music almost exclusively, and I'm in that state that Paul refers to as "constant prayer."   And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Ephesians 6:18

Not being able to run this week has made me especially thankful that I CAN run.  I think of so many of my friends and family who don't have that option and it makes me more determined than ever to run as long as God allows me to do so.  As I have prayed, I've been humbly thankful that God has brought this joyful activity into my life, and even given me the grace to love it.  

Looking forward to Sunday's long run.  Goodbye January Blahs!