RUNNING on borrowed time….

James 4:14 "…whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."

Buffalo River Biathlon

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The BIATHLON was a 6.8 mile trail run on the Buffalo River Trail from Dillard’s Ferry to Spring Creek, followed by a 4.6 mile kayak race from Spring Creek back to Dillard’s Ferry. It took place on Sunday, April 29, 2018. My curly-headed middle son and I registered for the biathlon relay. He is not supposed to run over a couple of miles in order to preserve his hip for as long as possible… but he is a prize-winning rower! He and his teammates have won multiple canoe races. Although I handicapped him as an older runner, and he would have to solo pilot a kayak instead of a canoe, we thought we would make a pretty awesome team. We did!

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We arrived at Dillard’s Ferry in plenty of time. I lined up to run the trail portion of the biathlon, and he prepared to board the big green bus to the relay exchange to wait on me to make it there on foot over the mountains and through the woods.

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Forecast of the day…

I started at a healthy pace. We ran downhill briefly and then started a steep climb… for nearly a mile.

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We got to run downhill after we hit the summit of that first climb, but the trail was technical and the single track prevented passing very easily. The race became a leapfrog event as we walked and jogged steeply downhill for a mile. At some point along the route, I almost ran off a cliff where the trail seemed to keep going straight, but actually turned left. THANKFULLY, I caught myself just in time. I heard that others did the same. Otherwise, the trail was very easy to follow and clearly marked for the whole journey. We began to climb again for mile three, followed by another brief, steep descent as I begged a man to allow me to pass on the technical one–runner-wide track. After many minutes, and three polite requests, I made a final demand to pass, as I practically strode on his heels, and he finally gave me clearance! This was the only episode of poor sportsmanship I encountered. Generally, the runners, including myself, stepped aside cheerfully for those who needed to pass. Everyone was cheerful and encouraging, and working hard. From mile 3.5 to 4.5 runners were walking, bent at the waist, working up the steepest ascent…. My mind settled on the analogy in the book I am currently re-reading, Hinds’ Feet on High Places… The climb was a real battle… hard… hot… relentless… and it was making me stronger while wearing me down… building me up, and teaching me endurance through the strain and struggle… Life is like that.

Finally, exhausted from the prolonged heart-straining ascent, we reached the crown and relished running down the sixth mile to the road. My heart was singing the water’s song from Hinds’ Feet on High Places as I crossed a little creek and enjoyed the tinkling of a lovely brook…

Come, oh come! let us away–
Lower, lower every day,
Oh, what joy it is to race
Down to find the lowest place.
This the dearest law we know–
“It is happy to go low.”
Sweetest urge and sweetest will,
“Let us go down lower still.”
Hear the summons night and day
Calling us to come away.
From the heights we leap and flow
To the valleys down below.
Always answering to the call,
To the lowest place of all.
Sweetest urge and sweetest pain,
To go low and rise again.

The woods were splendidly beautiful.

Back uphill briefly, and then finally I reached the road. We ran that gravel lane downhill for less than a mile… and I saw my son waiting. He gave me a hug, took the timing chip, and was off to lug his kayak down to the river. My sweet son is a considerate soul, and he did not rush or skip around others getting into the water, but when he got in, he took off at a furious rate! He did an EXCELLENT job!

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I then waited… and waited… and waited for the shuttle to return us to the start/finish. We, all of the runners in the relay, missed everything… standing around and waiting. The road was closed to the relay point, so we had to simply wait for the shuttle. So, we waited… and waited… and waited. An hour after finishing the trail, we loaded the van… and waited…

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Long after my son had finished, we were finally delivered to the finish line. My son and I came in 6th place in the relay… mostly because the uphill, single-track trail run beat me up! It was so much tougher than I had expected! I collected my medal, and we left to go play in the river and sunshine with my youngest son. It was a happy, glorious, sunshiny day in the great outdoors!

Biathlon relay

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“The High Places,” answered the Shepherd, “are the starting places for the journey down to the lowest place in the world. When you have hinds’ feet and can go ‘leaping on the mountains and skipping on the hills,’ you will be able, as I am, to run down from the heights in the gladdest self-giving and then go up to the mountains again. You will be able to mount to the High Places swifter than eagles, for it is only up on the High Places of Love that anyone can receive the power to pour themselves down in an utter abandonment of self-giving.”
― Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places

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Yale to Oark 10K Recap

God bless America

Saturday we revisited one of our favorite races, the Yale to Oark 10K! It is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL run!

There were 76 signed up, but numbers dropped to 63 actual participants. The race director, Tina South, commented, “I think the weather had a bit to do with that.  We also had some things going on in our community that affected some of the locals.  We will be sure to plan around the Hogeye Race next year and are shooting for 100!”  There were some serious scary storms across the state the night before the race… and the temps dropped drastically as a result. I showed up in my running skirt, but changed into my capris before the bus ride to the starting line.

When those of us from “the woods” drive our roads, we do so with muscle memory and “the force”… We know where to be the most cautious, and where to just run the machine. That said, we survived the bus ride to the start line… with white knuckled confidence in the driver. It was a lovely trip out on the course. I tried to note landmarks that would help break up my return journey on foot.  The world was so MAGNIFICENT.

We spilled off the bus onto the highway and gathered behind the start line. Those of us behind the front row of runners couldn’t hear any instructions, but we ran when everyone else ran. The course started off downhill, and I may have shot off a bit passionately. The prior Sunday I ran 14 miles, for which I was under prepared… so there was lingering muscle fatigue… and EVERYTHING in Arkansas had turned a fantastic shade of green, including my lungs. I gobbled Zyrtec and benadryl all week, but these conditions affected my body on the trek to the finish line.

Miles one and two were good, but I felt the struggle coming… I prayed for my precious friends in their various marathons and on the course with me… and then after mile three, scuffling up a long hill, I finally prayed for myself. I praised the LORD that we were there and physically able to stomp down six miles of pavement, but I asked for strength and endurance and help…

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I had heavy legs and burdened lungs… so I walked in mile 4. I was surrounded by flamboyantly lovely scenery. God’s fingerprints are ALL OVER that course! I breathed deeply and LOVED it. AND then, God answered my selfish prayer in the form of a sweaty, bossy woman. She ran up from behind and told me to get myself in gear and keep running! She informed me that I was her pacer, and I needed to GO. Wow! No one has ever said that to me. I have delivered that very same message to others… but, that’s the first time I’ve been admonished with it. It was PERFECT. I picked up my heavy feet and ran on… and on… and on. It was hard. It was so hard. But, it was stunning. We journeyed alongside a rushing river, baby waterfalls, rugged cliff faces, rolling green vistas, happy cows, flowers, trees, and SUNSHINE.

Miles passed beneath tree canopies and open sky, and finally we turned into the final stint to the school. I stopped just over the finish line and high fived my cheerleader as she stormed in almost on my heels. She did a fantastic job, and I’m so thankful she was there!

I ran this race a couple of years ago… after my son was seriously injured and I broke my collarbone. It was a “return to running” race. I was intensely grateful simply to be able to run and finish that year. This year, I wanted to finish in under one hour… and I DID!

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After sucking down a bunch of water, I returned to the course to meet my amigas. I cheered Helen as she steamed into the final stretch, and then Tina as she powered up a hill with a grin. I found Brittany, conquering this delightful 10K with little preparation… because, why not? She had made a new friend, and they were working together to knock off the miles.

Everyone in our vehicle placed in her age group! Bonus! We won unique, handmade, enchanting little wooden medallions.

bunch of winners

group of winners

We headed directly over to the Oark General Store/Oark Cafe for the world’s greatest cheeseburgers. Seriously. The very best. Ever. AND they have yummy pie!

cafe collage

Completely, utterly, fully stuffed, we rambled over to the Wolf Pen to check out a little more of the Natural State…

 

…and then meandered down the scenic pigtrail, stopping at Turner Bend for trail mix (not me!) before returning home.

It was a fun, challenging, rewarding morning. The race was well organized and cheerfully supported. The shirts were soft, attractive and comfortable. The course was indescribably lovely, and on good pavement. The funds support Oark students in various pursuits, which speaks to this teacher’s heart. I definitely look forward to running this race again and again!

“God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I”
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I said NEVER AGAIN, but…

Here I go again! #runwithpurpose

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Run the Line Half Marathon Recap

On my 23rd wedding anniversary, Sunday, February 18, I ran the line in Texarkana between Arkansas and Texas with some lovely friends and strangers! Terri, Tina, Helen, Desirae and I gathered for our journey on Saturday. Terri drove, and the first stop was, of course, for TACOS!

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We ate at the Tacos 4 Life in Benton, Arkansas. Not only were we treated with GREAT service, the food was. so. yummy.

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Packet pickup was located at the Raquet and Jog sporting goods store in Texarkana, Texas. It was quick, easy, and well organized. Sales associates were very welcoming and helpful. Tina ordered new shoes while there, and Raquet and Jog will work with her all the way back here at home if the shoes don’t meet her needs. That’s excellent!
We checked into our hotel, which was packed to the seams with runners. We had booked with the race discount at the Hampton Inn, and we were not disappointed. The hotel provided a late check out of 1:00 p.m., and the ladies working the desk were friendly, funny, and helpful. Our rooms were just as promised, and very comfortable.
After unpacking the car, we headed out to drive as much of the route as possible to investigate the mixed reviews we had heard of hills… Hills really don’t seem tough when you are touring them from the comfort of a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We run hills at home on almost every route, hills that easily rival the Texarkana race route hills… but we don’t generally race pace them for 13.1 miles… It was going to be challenging, but we agreed that there was a very pleasant amount of DOWNHILL!
After a nice dinner at LongHorn Steakhouse, we turned in for a decent bedtime.
Race morning we parked next to the finish line. There were no problems finding a space. It was an easy, peasy, low-stress experience all morning. We walked to the start line and saw a “Trust Jesus” pole along the way. Had to hug it! “Trust” was my 2016 word, and that lesson took, my friends! …and I’ll just keep on trusting HIM all the way HOME.

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Tina and I ran into the Ice House building to potty just before the start. NO LINES! I headed to my “corral” and located Terri. We huddled for prayer, and she spoke sweet, positive, encouraging words over me. God has blessed me indeed with these runner girl amigas. I love them intensely.

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As the gun sounded, runners crossed the mat in waves. We sped off behind a pacer garbed in lots of facial hair and a tuxedo. Yes, a tuxedo. I passed him after a minute or so, and my strategy was to stay IN FRONT of him for as long as absolutely possible.

We were well bundled against the damp chill when we began… but I shed my jacket and tied it around me before a mile had ended. I handed it to a volunteer as we turned into the first trail of the race route. It was a “disposable” jacket, but I was very happy to find it in the collection box at the end of the race when I had cooled back down. I love a race with a first mile clothing drop!

Run… run… run…

The first trail was quite nice. We had been concerned about crowding on the Nix Creek Trail, but we had plenty of room. There were a few wet, slimy spots along the way, but it was generally clean and pleasant running. I adored running through the blow-up Razorback tunnel near the Texarkana, Arkansas high school! We were on the trail for about 2.5 miles before we exited to the streets. At mile four we turned, and the real hills began. There was one little hill after another, with a couple of personally challenging ones. (Hello, Miles 5 and 10!)

run the line elevation with mileage

Elevation over Distance

Miles 5-7 were highway miles. Each completed mile was creatively and clearly identified with metal markers in the shape of the state we were currently running! There were plenty of volunteers and law enforcement personnel to keep us safe and on track. In the end of mile seven, we ran like true superstar athletes through another blow-up mascot tunnel and enjoyed miles 8 and 9 in Spring Lake Park, which seemed like a fantastic place for families to gather and play. There were portions of the trail where I could see other runners far ahead or behind on the route. When I looked back, I could see a decent distance between myself and the 2:00 tux. I praised the Lord, and kept working. Exiting the park, my left shoe and sock got soaked. Mile ten involved numerous little twists and turns in quiet damp neighborhoods. It just wore. me. out. My feet got truly wet. In the course of the race I shed ALL the sheddable clothes… even my hat! I never do that! There was no sunshine, and there were delightful cool breezes exactly when necessary. So, it was basically perfect running weather to labor hard and push toward a tough goal!

run the line last few miles 2018

Mile 10.5 – 11 punched me in the face… the tuxedo-ed pacer suddenly approached, and I begged him, “please don’t pass me in the last 3 miles.” (I couldn’t even do math!) He did. He passed me… without a single word of encouragement. Lord, bless him. However, his ONE running partner (Wow, the 2:00 crowd dwindled drastically in the last few miles!) was very nice and encouraged me. He told me I was in good shape, running a great pace, and that there was downhill ahead… which was a bit true… after every uphill there WAS sweet downhill! AND the final sprint to the finish line would be downhill! I struggled to KEEP THEM IN SIGHT! But, they lost me completely in the last mile. Relay runners were dashing past like it was easy! I liked it! (OH, yes, I checked ALL the fly-bys for ankle straps!)
I finished with a few tears of frustration (and pain), knowing that I had JUST MISSED my goal. But, then I got happy… I haven’t been that close to 2:00 in years! My chip time was 2:00:37, and that was good enough for the top ten in my age group! I walked all the water stations, because I can not drink and run… I struggled in the last two miles… I EARNED that 2:00:37, so I’m not going to cry over the 37 seconds! It was a great race, and I am extremely grateful to have been able to run it!
Terri finished soon after me, and earned fourth in her age group! Desirae RAN the entire race, which was her heart goal! Tina and Helen finished together with smiles! We all really enjoyed the course, the support stations, the fellowship with one another, and the victory of doing once again what we were once unable to do! We celebrated not quitting when we reeeeally wanted to just. stop. running. We won!

run the line 2018 garmin stats

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Photos on the line!

we run the line

This was Desirae’s first runner girl trip, and we broke her in well.

Thanks to the late check out, we were able to shower before eating at the Olive Garden (BEST lemon cake in the world!), and making our long, sore trek home. Another pavement adventure in the books!run the line half 2018

Happy anniversary to my donut-eating Champ (legit award he won twice!), who always lets me be me. Because you’re mine… I ran the line!

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(photo from 2014)

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Bench Trail 4-miler 2017

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Monica, Tina, Crystal and I ran the Bench Trail 4-miler on December 16th, 2017. I love this race because it happens on my favorite little mountain! This was not Crystal’s birthday, but it was her “birthday race,” and I was coming off of the St. Jude Half marathon. We leapt into pace together and did quite well encouraging one another. We finished together and each won first place in our age divisions! Monica won first female overall! Tina also placed! It was a great morning on the mountain. Crystal and I had to take off right after the race due to prior commitments, so Tina collected our prizes. We each won a commemorative tumbler. Results here. The trail was delicious. Organization was wonderful. All runners received adorable wooden ornaments and fantastic long-sleeve tech tees. So, the swag is great for a tiny trail race, but the jaunt through the woods is the greatest!

…and that was the LAST RACE of 2017! What a fantabulous way to run out of one year and into another!

I ended this year with just over 1,000 miles. I’m quite excited about that. It was a FULL and RUNderful year!

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St Jude Memphis Half Marathon 2017

 

the medal

This race is SO MUCH FUN! I love it! Awesome cause, organization, support, and shirts!

Tina, Ashley and I took off at lunchtime to head to Memphis for the expo. First stop = TACOS 4 LIFE in Conway! Tacos are my love language! YUM!

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We three rolled through Arkansas into Memphis and parked in Mud Island to visit the expo. Bib and shirt pickup was pretty painless. The line for dropping off donations and picking up singlets was the longest wait of the night for us. It was definitely worth it however! Several of my lovely friends had responded to an email I sent out in a marvelous way. They donated to St. Jude in appreciation of the fact that NO FAMILY RECEIVES A BILL! That is more wonderful than anyone who has never had a pile of medical bills and a sick, hurting child can ever truly comprehend. It’s amazing! Please donate! We walked around all the booths and checked out the blinking, spinning Russvegas medal for 2018. Tina bought new shoes, and then we headed out of the expo. Ashley had signed up as a water stop volunteer, so we found her details, and had a photo op with a random Elvis, because… well, MEMPHIS!

with Elvis

We traveled to Tina and Ashley’s hotel and then to meet Terri at the Cracker Barrel. This is my favorite pre-race meal venue. I order a LOT of potatoes (hashbrown casserole and mashed) and roast beef. Everyone was well stuffed when we left.

Terri and I returned to the expo to pick up her bib and shirt. I tried to pick up a shirt for our friend who couldn’t make it to the race due to illness. This is my only criticism for the St. Jude Memphis marathon. The policy of tying bibs to shirts makes it impossible to get someone else’s shirt on his or her behalf. I did not want to pick up her bib, but she paid the entry fee and should have been entitled to receive the shirt. However, since she was unable to be there in person to pick up the bib, she forfeited the shirt. There should be a method of shirt pickup for those who opt not to run. However, that is my ONLY complaint. I love this race.

Terrie and Leslie at the expo

Terri and I had a room at the Peabody. She had reserved a room with two beds, but the hotel staff had given away all of the rooms with two beds when we arrived. They did not give us a discount or any concession other than an offer for champagne and strawberries… which we did NOT need or want. As much as we love one another, we didn’t want to share a bed OR champagne and strawberries before running a half marathon! (or ever, really…) However, we made the best of it. We strew our belongings around our little room and its tiniest-ever-first-world bathroom, then set out to explore our historic lodging! We adored the ornate, elegant fixtures and details in all of the public areas of the hotel. The nostalgic touches scattered around, and the gigantic gingerbread house, and the massive Christmas trees made me feel like I’d walked through the wardrobe and gone back in time to another place… but the very modern fiesta thumping and bumping on the mezzanine kept me rooted. Terri may have  turned (DID) a few cartwheels in the course of our adventures down corridors and into interesting nooks…

Gingerbread house

We finally went to bed (together) and snoozed pretty well until way too soon to arise… but too late to regain deep sleep. So, we got up unnecessarily early, since we were lodged basically next to our corral, and prepared for our journey. Tina arrived, and we hung out until about 30 minutes before the race began. The hotel was crawling with people. We prayed, exited, and easily found our way into our crowded corrals. Yay!

We were IN the corral this year, not stuck on the sidewalk pushing in as the race began… there were athletes of every size, shape and age as far as the eyes could see in every direction! I got a last minute hug from Monica‘s sister as she passed through our corral on the way to hers. What a blessed meeting in that throng of strangers!

Terri and I had an unspoken plan to stick together. We pace well together and enjoy running together in a companionable silence.  After the race began, we had to occasionally hit the sidewalks to maintain our pace in the congested mass of runners. It was going well, but I had to stop at a mile and a half to use the porta potty. Sigh.

So, I waved Terri on…

As I exited, I reminded myself that I had promised within my heart to run this race with joy. I’m not going to WIN a half or full marathon at that level! Running those distances for this aging MoM is simply a triumph! I want to have fun! I want it to be a fiesta on my feet! I know how much pleasure and pride I stole from myself by setting a time goal for the Marine Corps Marathon, when originally I had just wanted to run it as a celebration! I didn’t want to repeat that mistake. So, I resolved at that moment to simply run the course and rejoice in the fact that I was there and able to do so. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! It was WORK, but it was good, hard work. I did my best, and it was enough. The crowds, and the costumes, and the music, and the palpable enthusiasm were infectious and joyous and WONDERFUL! It felt like Christmas to me on the Memphis pavement Saturday!

Miles flew by…

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My heart soared and pounded as I entered the hospital campus… I took advantage of all free hugs and high fives. It was truly a celebration of HOPE and an atmosphere of VICTORY. The faces lining that path were precious and full of EXPECTATION…

I LOVE THIS RACE.

A couple of miles out of the campus my left knee began to really bother me. When I walked for water, it was agony to start running again… but, I did. I decided at mile eight that I would make no more water stops… If I just kept going the knee ached harshly, but didn’t threaten to lock up. I was pretty sure it was my IT band.

I saw Terri running in front of me! It was about mile 10? We were approaching another hill in the near distance when I caught her. We ran together again for a bit, then she stopped for water, and I kept going to maintain my rhythm and not test the knee further… This is the third time I’ve run this race, and the first time I decided that it is HILLY. There are so many hills. The road itself is slanted for all the miles… In my mind, I’d never acknowledged that… I’m distracted by the people and the signs, etc. Now I will remember that tidbit! Hills! Slanted, rough pavement! Excitement and struggle, and sweat, and striving, and celebration everywhere!

The final mile is DOWNHILL! It’s a fabulous finish! You pound down hill into the Autozone Park to receive a lovely, well-earned, heavy medal… and you can choose to exit to the food, or lay around on the grass of the ball-field in the sunshine. This year’s method of funneling the runners out of the ball-field and up the steps was less well orchestrated than in years past. Sweaty, sore runners were at a packed standstill for long  minutes, and then crawled up the steps en masse. It still went relatively well considering the sheer number of bodies exiting at the same time. AND, there were COKE PRODUCTS at one of the food tables! I was ecstatic! I’d much rather have a post-race soda than a beer (gross)!

I quickly and easily retrieved a sticker with my results while exiting the Autozone Park stadium. Outside the gates, I was just steps away from our hotel. We all made it there in time to watch the famous Peabody ducks march! It was a fantastic culmination to the celebration!

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A bunch of aspirin, a good lunch, and a long companionable trip down the interstate later,  I made it home in time to decorate the live tree my son and husband had cut down while I was running. It was a magnificent experience, and splendid memories in the vault!

Merry Christmas!

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”    Luke 2:13-14

 

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FCA River Valley Run 13.1 Recap

On November 4, 2017, I enjoyed a special chunk of time with my nephew at the FCA River Valley Run! It was a lovely autumn morning. The kickoff of the race was the best! A huge flag was suspended in the sky, shining through the heavy fog. A mist-shrouded crowd of runners and walkers listened with  solemn silence to the poignant sound of a solitary saxophone playing the national anthem into the fog… BEAUTIFUL! Recap:  It was a small race. We enjoyed the inspirational verses at the mile markers, and didn’t enjoy the inadequate course/medical support, or the abundance of concrete/sidewalk; but it was a GREAT cause, and we were blessed to run/walk!

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Marine Corps Marathon 2017

“Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion…” I feel like I am suffering from a bit of postpartum depression… NOT to minimize true PPD, but I feel as though I gave birth to something momentous… and now, it’s all over. I’m sad. I’m exhausted. I’m sore. The build up, the preparation, the months of training and planning and hoping and praying… and the real struggle and agony of the feat itself… The medal at the end and the sheer physical emptiness…

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One year ago, October 21, 2016, my first born son graduated from MCRD San Diego and became a United States Marine! To celebrate that anniversary, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon last Sunday on October 22nd.

I RAN THE MARINE CORPS MARATHON.

Each year since the passing of their brother and husband, my friend Ashley, her sister Devyn, and sister-in-law Torey have participated in the MCM. Cpl David M. Sonka and MPC Flex gave their lives in service to our country. So, these sisters and widow run the marathon or 10K in his memory. The MCM is a symbol of the commitment, pain, and pride involved in serving our country. This year, I joined them, and four other tough friends and training partners, for that trek on the pavement in Washington D.C. and Virginia. The journey to that race was long and filled with so much life, hope, expectation, and enthusiasm. It was beautiful, and agonizing, and amazing, and I am SO THANKFUL for the experience.

AND this recap of that experience will be of MARATHON length and proportions! Steel yourselves…

Way back in April, Ashley, Devyn, Torey and I ran the Marine Corps 17.75K in order to secure our ticket to the Marathon. We used that golden ticket and booked our entries to the People’s Marathon! “The mission of the Marine Corps Marathon is to promote physical fitness, generate community goodwill and showcase the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps.” Tammy, Deborah, Cynthia and Rose all entered the lottery and also gained race entries! We were all so excited! We trained. We planned. We prepared to conquer that MCM course! …and marathon weekend finally arrived!

I flew into Dulles on Friday morning. My brother, who lives in Ashburn, met me and took me to his apartment to meet my sweet niece. She was 2 months old that day, and the most perfect, happy little bitty human imaginable! My sister in law, brother, precious niece and I then traveled to National Harbor to check out the expo and collect my bib and lovely pink Marathon shirt. I was so excited about the color this year! I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a tank top and a hoodie at the Brooks booth. My brother talked me into getting the hoodie, because I REALLY liked it, and I’m so glad he did! I’ll wear it until it falls apart (which will probably be well after I do, since it’s completely synthetic material).

I found the pace car to take a picture for Ashley. She, Torey, and Devyn were present for the opening of the expo and signed David’s and Flex’s names big and proud on the rear of the pace car. After they left, multitudes of names and messages joined theirs. I was brought to tears (not for the first or last time) trying to express to my brother the significance. He didn’t need an explanation. He said seeing the car put it into perspective.  We wandered around a bit. I didn’t expect to see any of the other girls, who had all arrived earlier than I had. However, I turned from a booth and saw Tammy buying lights, and the other girls with bags full of goodies. We, of course, had to take expo pics!

Leaving the expo, we walked around National Harbor, bought candy, took pictures, and ate a fantastic meal! The weather was awesome, and it was a great day!NATIONAL HARBOR

Saturday, we slept in. I played with my adorable niece, my brother made lamb chops for brunch, and then he drove me to the air bnb where Ashley, Torey, and Devyn were staying. He and my sister-in-law were basically fantastic. He is my “little” brother (12 years younger), but he did a great job taking care of me last weekend. I love him and his little family, and visiting with them made the trip so much more wonderful!

The girls and I took an uber to the MARSOC Foundation prerace dinner Saturday evening. ‘The MARSOC Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides benevolent support to active duty and medically retired MARSOC Raiders and their families, as well as to the families of Raiders who have lost their lives in service to our Nation.” This was a great way to help prepare our hearts and bodies for the next morning’s race. The speakers gave moving and motivational addresses, and I was thankful to learn about the Foundation’s work. (Get involved HERE.)MARSOC dinner collageBack at the rental, we sucked down pedialyte and prepped our race gear.Snapchat-478394500

We woke early to dress and walk a mile (literally) to the metro. Our stop was not crowded, but the car filled rapidly at the successive stops. Hundreds of drifit-clad bodies poured out at the MCM stop and walked another mile (literally) through security to the runner’s village. We stopped at the port-o-potties, which remarkably didn’t take long, then headed to the Wear Blue meet up… “wear blue: run to remember is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military… wear blue: run to remember exists for the fallen, for the fighting and for the families.” Ashley, Devyn, and Torey were wearing blue for David.  I was introduced to the Wear Blue Circle of Remembrance, which is a beautiful tradition honoring the fallen before the race begins. Runners circled up, said their names and then spoke aloud the names of those being remembered on the course that day. Prayers. Tears… again. Perspective. I’m so honored that these sisters and this young widow gathered me into their circle of remembrance.CIRCLE OF REMEMBRANCE

Then the walk to the “corrals.” There are no formal corrals in the MCM. There are pillars labeled with projected finish times, and runners place themselves where they choose. There were more port-o-potties on the shoulders next to the corrals, with lines stretching into the woods. I took advantage of the opportunity, then huddled in my bathrobe with the masses waiting for the start. There were flyovers and the American flag in the sky to signal the race start… and finally, the Howitzer sounded!The outfit.jpg

Self-seeding corrals are not a successful strategy in my opinion. Maybe I did it wrong? I lined up where I knew I could keep the pace and not go out too fast. However, the thousands of runners clogging my “corral” did not all maintain the projected pace. Many were walking within a mile or two… which would not have been as big a deal if we weren’t PACKED for miles. I ran an extra half mile overall maneuvering around people who were running more slowly or walking (and also by going in and out of water stations). My splits were off from the mile markers within the first two miles. My feet were kicked from behind multiple times because we were so congested. It took nine miles for the runners to space out enough for me to catch a stride and keep it.

There were many hills in the beginning. The weather was cool to start and nice for the first quarter of the race, but we quickly warmed up, and the temp continued to rise. Even as the temperature rose, the shade and a breeze kept things bearable for the first half of the race… and then things got NASTY!

Before mile 11 I was already talking to myself about what I would drink when I finished. Then I remembered that Ashley’s dad was waiting in the Blue Mile with a Dr. Pepper for me! That Sonka family ROCKS! But, before I got there… the Blue Mile… tears, again… The signage began at about 11.5 miles, and the silence was solemn. Footfalls and labored breathing were the only sounds as we read the names of the brave souls lining the road… David2

It was a beautiful memorial mile… It was the ideal place to remind the runners WHY… We are alive. We can run. We can do hard things. We can. At about 12.5 miles the cheering, shouting Wear Blue team lined both edges of the road with a mile of flags cheerfully snapping in the breeze. I found Kevin, Ashley’s dad, and downed half a gloriously sweet, wonderfully throat-burning Dr. Pepper before pounding that pavement with renewed vigor.

HOWEVER…

I knew at the halfway point that my A goal would not be met at the MCM 2017. There would be no PR. I had been very sick the week before. I went to the doctor, but it was too late. I, my son, and my husband were down and out for the weekend. I took all the drugs and drank all the fluids and tried to rest enough, but my body was not recovered. I was still congested and coughing. I don’t know if that is a reason, or an excuse, or both, but at mile 13.5 I mentally performed a “body check,” and I knew… So, I just ran. I was DETERMINED to run every mile of that race. I was doing it FOR A PURPOSE. This battle was of my own choosing, and I remembered my “cloud of witnesses.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

running MCM2017

Weeks before the race I sent out a few texts and emails to some special people that God had placed on my heart and in my life. I asked for specific requests that I could place before the Lord on my MCM journey. There were others who did not even know they were on the list… but, they were.  I had my laminated little mile-by-mile list clenched in my sweaty hand for nearly the entire trip.  At every mile flag, I threw those individuals up to Heaven. I said their names. I prayed their requests. I begged on their behalf at the throne. When I didn’t know what to pray, I said so, and asked for intervention from The One who knows it all, from whom NOTHING is hidden. Every time I got lost in my own little mind and misery, I checked the list. It made all the difference.

At some point in the second half I caught up to Tammy. I had seen her earlier across the road in the returning traffic, and she was killing it! She had trained for a PR, and I knew it was in her… she was on pace to destroy that goal! But, the marathon had other plans for us all last Sunday. Twenty-six miles is a long way, and a lot can happen in those many miles… As the pavement heated up, and the sun bore down, Tammy adjusted her goals. I saw her ahead and ran to her. We prayed. We praised God that we were THERE. We were pounding the pavement on strong legs and feet in Washington D.C. in the MARINE CORPS MARATHON, and that was a mighty huge blessing! We planned to carry on together, but were separated in the next huge, congested, chaotic water stop. (There was plenty of water, and there were plenty of hands to pass it out, but the sheer number of runners turned the water stations into mobs.) I looked for her unsuccessfully in the throng, and then had to carry on alone.

I powered through mile after mile… the shade ran out and the breezes became rare…

I took my first ever mid-race selfie!

first race selfie      I even took a couple of running videos! Hello, I was running in our nation’s capitol!

At mile 19, the 4:30 pacer caught me. I had not seen a single pacer at any point  before then. I feel like she was running behind in her goal… but, she was pulling her group along. I kept ahead for a few yards. Then, I thought, I’d just run with them. Onlookers cheered hard for the 4:30 pace group as we passed. I quickly decided to let them continue without me. The group was crowded, and my feet were being kicked again. I was too close to my physical limit to maintain someone else’s stride, and I certainly didn’t need to get tripped. So, I watched that flock surge ahead and just kept making “relentless forward progress.”

Before “the bridge,” there was an open fire hydrant… and it felt like the tears of angels (which would only be tears of untainted joy). That cold wash of water on my hot salty skin was a balm…

…and then I met THE BRIDGE… the long, hot, sunny, long, hard, mean, long, hot bridge. I beat it. But, it nearly beat me… Halfway over the bridge, with nary a water stop in sight, my stomach revolted. I experienced extreme gastric distress… agony. Step after step after step, I just kept going. “If you’re going through hell, keep going. ” (Churchill?) I needed to walk. People all around me began to walk. But, I didn’t. It would take longer to get anywhere if I walked! The sun and the pain, and trying desperately not to have a terrible accident on the middle of that bridge… anguish and agony. But, God is good. I wore a lovely tank printed by Hometown Tees with a sparkly Proud Marine Mom design on front and USMC MOM on the back. This meant that at EXACTLY the right moment, someone would touch me and speak words of encouragement to me. It had happened earlier, and again on the bridge, just in time. A man came alongside me and said, “Mom, you are doing awesome! That’s good stuff right there.” … and it pushed me. Thank You, Lord. Also, I chose my playlist, but God orchestrated that shuffle! The Zach Williams song, “Fear is a Liar” fed through my earphones and spoke truth to me. I could do this wretchedly hard thing. Because when I am weak, God is strong. He makes me strong. I threw that fear in the fire and kept going… over the bridge and down the bridge, where Marines yelled positive, helpful, encouraging things like, “There’s water around the corner!”  And there were port-o-potties at the water stop… They were facing the opposite way, and maybe they weren’t meant for us, but that foul little stop was one of my favorites on the whole course! That was mile 22… and I left my mile-by-mile prayer list in that potty, but I knew who were my final 4… and so I prayed, and I ran.

I began to take goodies from strangers! Candy and soft drinks and fruit in miles 23 and 24… an adorable little girl ran up and gave me a canned Coke at the end of mile 24 and I drank it next to a few Marines. We joked about them not getting Coke in the Crucible… and I was SO glad to be in the final few miles of my crucible. There was another open fire hydrant before the last two miles, and I got fully and blessedly soaked. I decided not to take anymore fuel, but to just get it DONE!

The last mile… there were people cheering and kissing their runners as they passed. There was noise and joy and profound physical anguish and torment.  Step after step and then the last hill. THE LAST HILL, with Marines yelling, and my heart pounding, and my own absolute stubbornness to push me onward and upward. I ran up that hill and turned toward the finish line with triumph. I whooped and hollered and crossed that mat absolutely ON EMPTY. I gave it all. I did not meet my A goal, but I DID MY VERY BEST… I gave MORE than I thought I could give.

I stumbled into the chute to receive my medal. The young Marine who met me and thanked me (me!?) and placed the medal around my neck asked, “You’re a Marine mom?” I nodded, and as I said, “Yes, my son is deployed,” I began to ugly cry. He gathered me in, and he hugged and patted me so very well until I collected my senses. I adore the United States Marines! I wandered out to have my picture taken and try to find my way to the post-race celebration.

Finished proof2

Hundreds of runners and I walked, and walked, and walked… very slowly… until finally (1/2 mile later!) we exited the gates and entered the finishers’ celebration area. I found a spot of shade next to the Brooks blow-ups and took off my shoes. My feet seized up and as I massaged them, I began to cry again. I was pitiful. I was alone, surrounded by thousands of strangers. I hurt EVERYWHERE. I got a text from Cynthia, who finished a few minutes ahead of me, but was in the aid tent back inside the gates. I couldn’t make myself walk back there. None of my other texts were going out, I had very poor signal. So finally, in my socks, I continued to walk toward the Marine Corps band. I sat and listened for a while, then found the world’s busiest McDonald’s and bought fries and Dr. Pepper. The fries were awful, but the drink was great. I bought a Diet Coke from a food truck, finally put on the paper finisher’s jacket, and sat in the sunshine until I got texts from the girls that they were headed in my direction. I walked toward them, and we met for hugs and photos. No one got a PR, but we all beat defeat. We finished well.

MCM MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Ashley, Devyn, Torey and I caught an uber back to the rental. A delicious, quick shower later and my brother arrived to collect me. We visited Great Falls, Virginia, which was incredibly gorgeous, and then went out for dinner. It was a loooong, FULL day.

Great Falls

Monday, we slept in, then visited Harper’s Ferry. The weather had turned cool overnight, and the clouds I had prayed for arrived a day late. It was a windy, overcast, perfect day for a walk through history. I enjoyed every minute of that time spent with my family… even as my aching hips, feet, and legs complained, they carried me up miles of steps and hills. It was so very WORTH IT!

Harpers Ferry

Tuesday, I woke up in the wee hours to head to the airport. I flew with Delta, i.e. the Devil’s Airline. Six hours after my originally scheduled arrival time, I was home, without my suitcase… but, home. The suitcase arrived damaged at work the next day, where regular life had resumed as if an intense volume of exploits and adventures had not just been crammed into a brief little epoch of time…

I vacillate between anger at myself that I missed a goal I felt was completely achievable, and intense pride that I did as well as I did, that I didn’t stop, that I literally forced myself to keep pounding, when I did not have to do so, and couldn’t fathom doing so… I feel so much joy in the memories made, and so much grief that the event so longed for, so anticipated, has ended… is gone… post-marathon blues? post-partum depression? I birthed an epic experience, with travail and exultation… and I’m mourning it.

EGA medal

Time for a new goal… another dream… another journey. ADVENTURE AWAITS!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.

But one thing I do:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  

I press on toward the goal

to win the prize 

for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 3:13-14

 

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RussVegas Triathlon 2017

Russvegas Tri 2017

I don’t swim… I mean, I can swim, but I don’t SWIM… if I’m in over my head, and anyone touches me or splashes water in my face, I’m in full-fledged panic/need-a-lifeguard mode. So, a triathlon was never in the books for me. UNTIL, I learned that I could participate in the Russvegas Sprint Triathlon as part of a relay team! My son Ethan, his friend Jonathan, and I decided we could totally rock a relay triathlon… and so we did!

Ethan, who is employed as a lifeguard and teaches small children to swim, was the first leg.  As a relay team member, he was required to start with the women. This was a bit daunting for him…. he swims every day, but has not exactly trained for a 500 yards. Five hundred yards seemed SO FAR to me… FIVE FOOTBALL FIELDS! However, a swimmer told me it’s a “warm up” distance for real swimmers. OK. I’m impressed. Ethan did really well. There was a 5 minute lag between the men’s start and the ladies’ start. He did get beat by a lot of women, which could be a little embarrassing… except they TRAINED HARD for this! He also caught up with at least one guy. He gave EVERYTHING, and I am SO PROUD. There’s no quit in him!

Jonathan, who loves biking, was our second tri leg. He was mostly chasing women as well, because of our start time. He made excellent time on that route! I’m so proud of him and his determination! He overtook a lot of the competitors.

Finally, I ran the last 5K leg. It was a flat out and back. The course was excellent. The weather was fantastic. I was afraid it would be hot and sunny, but prayers were answered, and we had a breezy overcast afternoon. It was perfect. The first mile, I went out a bit too quickly since I had to run past all the tailgaters… just can’t run too slowly with an audience! I wanted a disclaimer on my shirt because spectators were cheering for me as if I had just swum and biked before running that 5K! Um, no… I’m not that flavor of tough.  I had no idea how I would do in a 5K, since I’ve been training for a marathon with longer, slower miles. The second mile, I backed off a bit to breathe, and chatted with a couple of the other runners, lauding them for their tri achievements. The third mile, I just kept pushing it. I couldn’t do less than my best, since I’d just watched my boys give everything. I sprinted past the tailgaters again, with so many sweet friends calling out encouragement. I am so blessed.

20171007_155753.jpgWe won the relay division. There were only three relay teams, but we were FIRST! We finished in a really decent overall time! I’m super pleased. It was a satisfying way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Tammy and Randy were there with me to wait and cheer, and they hung around for the festivities. Ethan and his friends went on to row 3 heats in the dragonboat races, and his team took first place there as well. The company cheered his contribution to the victory, which overcame any residual swim shame. (He DID swim 500 yards in well under 15 minutes, so there should only be pride, but… boys!)

There were tailgate tents, big screen TVs, the Razorback game projected larger than life for anyone who cared to watch, food, drinks, excitement and small-town camaraderie… and a group of triathletes who pushed their physical limits to the extreme, overcame challenges, and won personal victories on a pleasant Saturday afternoon in Arkansas.

It was a great day!

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Running with the Squirrels (RECAP)

20170916_155830.jpgSaturday, September 16, I ran with the squirrels again. This was a last minute decision to sandwich a half marathon into my long MCM training run! I needed 20 miles, so why not throw a hilly half into the mix?

Tina and Helen let me crash their party, and we went to Alma Friday night and slept ON TOP OF the interstate (in a hotel) there… we didn’t mind getting up early to dress and head out to the race venue.

We arrived in Winslow, AR and picked up our bibs, then I took off to get three miles before the race. I found one single solitary spot of flattish road alongside the railroad tracks and bookmarked it in my mind for after the race… everything else was uphill and downhill and repeat! However, I knew what to expect. We  ran this race last year… and really enjoyed it. I was grateful that I had decided to join the squirrels again. The route is fun and well supported.

I had time for a preliminary 3 miles before the gun (literally, ’bout-wet-your-pants gunshot in your ear) went off to signal the official start of the 7th annual Winslow Half Marathon. We prayed on our feet and then I settled in for the long haul. Runners soon stretched before and behind me… The road was uphill past eclectic (roadside seasonal and religious shadow boxes alongside rooftop painted messages) and rural homes and fields. All manner of late summer flora and fauna edged the roadsides, and there was a precious breeze for most of the run. The weather was hotter this year, but the sun was only occasionally peering around a light layer of clouds (answered prayer).

I ran… and I walked (cresting the hills). Once I overcame the adrenaline of the starting gun, I was able to talk myself into a healthy mindset. I planned to run a training run, not push too hard, but take advantage of the course support and atmosphere to kill my long run miles… I reminded myself over and over that I would need 4 more miles after the finish, so keep something in the tank.  I carried on steadily and constantly. It was tough, but not ridiculously so… I did a body check every couple of miles, and I felt good. I’ve been struggling some with shin splints, and trying to avoid aggravating them.  I was soooo happy not to battle them at Winslow (answered prayer)! I took water/Gatorade at every station. I ate my peanut butter crackers… and fed a few to the wildlife while trying to get them unwrapped.  I felt really hot and tired, but not flat-lined when I crossed the finish line. I took something to drink and immediately headed back to that railroad track road to get more miles. I ran it out and back twice and then ran toward the parking lot 1/2 mile from the finish line. This was UP a steep hill… multiple people slowed and offered me a ride (RUNNERS ROCK!), but I was resolute and refused. I met a young lady at the parking lot who was also in need of a 20 miler and still lacked 3… I just needed one. more. mile, so we turned back toward the finish line area so I could show her how to get to the “flat road.” We met Tina and Helen as we ran down the hill and they were DONE. They did so FANTASTICALLY WELL! I showed that sweet girl where to go to get her last two & 1/2 miles, and returned to struggle back up that wretched mini-mountain and catch Tina and Helen. I hit 20 miles just as I caught Tina walking up. I was so proud, I nearly cried.

I actually placed 3rd in my age group again this year, even with running long-run-training-speed! (Results HERE!)winslow

Winslow only awards prizes to first place, but I was SOOOO PLEASED with my run! It was TOUGH… so tough. But, I did it. It was a fantastic confidence booster for MCM 2017!

winslow half 2017

Last Saturday was a 15 miler, and TODAY WAS THE LAST LONG TRAINING RUN for MCM 2017!  Whoooohoooooo!

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22 tough miles around town! Ooh rah!

#wecandohardthings #RunWithTheMarines #MCM2017

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