Friday, January 31, 2014

Sandsuck (aka "MY") Creek - Foto Friday

Jay took this picture before we officially purchased our house. The creek took this property from being a rental cabin he was scouting for clients, to potentially being our new home.

I love using it as my "ice bath" after a long run. I love seeing it from the front porch and hot tub. I love hearing it while reading in bed. Never did I dream we'd see so many different versions of the creek this winter.

I was shocked when the temperature dropped enough that parts of it froze. Even more so after this week's snow!

Jay didn't want me getting closer and ruining the snow with footprints, but there she is. Mostly covered in the fluffy white stuff. This creek has as many personalities as me - we were meant for each other!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Calhoun's 10 Miler - Race Report

These days I don't enjoy writing race reports. I guess I've done so much racing the reports have become old hat. Or maybe I've done too much racing, taking away the excitement I expect each event to hold.

Maybe I just became spoiled to new personal records, so I now have high standards for myself. The problem with that mentality is new PRs every race are unrealistic - at least as much as I race. I'm signed up for 5 all in the first 3 months of the year, with the anticipation of running a 6th. This weekend, I ran my first of the Knoxville Track Club high mileage series.

This would only be my 2nd 10 mile race ever, although I've ran a couple of 15K which would be comparable for pacing. Last year I registered for the Calhoun's 10 miler, but it was cancelled due to unsafe driving weather.

 This year's weather forecast was less than favorable - wind chills in the teens with heavy winds. While the roads were certainly drive-able, I started questioning Friday night if the weather would allow it to be race-able.

The plan was for negative splits, but I didn't account for the terrain. The chart seemed to show a net gain on the way out and net loss on the way back. Problem #1 - I didn't read it well enough to notice the mega hill at mile 1 (and returning at mile 9).

Problem #2 - I didn't consider the wind being at our back on the way out. Deductive reasoning says it therefore must be a headwind on the way back. I made no adjustments for this in my pace plan. A couple of my Ragnar teammates (Amy & Michelle) had planned to run this as a training run, so I joined them at the start line.

"Cemetery Hill" - a hill so infamous it gets a name. I had been forewarned that it was a doozy, and made myself promise to take it easy and not wear myself out. Both Amy & Michelle are stronger than me on hills, so at the base I said "It was great running with you guys" and settled into my own pace for the climb.

Mile 1 - 10:04

I can run downhill like a champ, so I didn't have any trouble catching up with them in the 2nd mile. I'm sure they pulled up a bit when they heard me swishing behind them. We chatted about books and tried to keep a steady pace. As a mostly downhill mile, I was okay with being a bit fast.

Mile 2 - 9:33

While Michelle was on our Ragnar team, I never got to chat much with her because we were in different vans. For the first few miles of the race, I enjoyed getting to know her better. This made the first part of the race go by quickly.

Mile 3 - 9:46

Before I knew it, it was time to take a gel. In training, I'm trying to go for 5 miles before taking them but for races I like them every 3-4. Given the distance, I had decided to take some at the 3.5 and 7 mile mark.  This started a bit of a climb, so I was already slowing from their pace.

Mile 4 - 10:04

Although not running "with" anyone, miles 4 & 5 were hardly alone. I was starting to meet some of the faster people making their return trip. By mile 4.75, I took a brief uphill walk break. The girl behind me said "Good job Brooke." When I turned to see who it was, I saw a stranger's smiling face. "I assume your name is Brooke," she continued, "given all the people cheering for you by name."

Mile 5 - 10:13

After the turn around gave a nice little decline section, allowing me to catch my breath and return the "lookin' good" comments to some of teammates. My newly made buddy and I stuck together, chatting about this and that, for a little while before she pulled ahead.

Mile 6 - 10:00

The race start/finish was by a lake marina. The wind coming off the water was cold and harsh. Later a buddy told me that gusts topped out at 25MPH. At the time, all I had to work off of was the burning in my lungs. Judging from my Garmin report, I started taking walk breaks in earnest around 5.9 miles.

Mile 7 - 10:39

From that point on, I took a total of 11 breaks in the course of just over 3 miles. Normally I'm hesitant to walk during races. I question my ability to start back running, what the breaks will do to my pace, and how the slower pace will affect my mental game. During this race, none of those were issues.

Mile 8 - 11:03

I'm learning to trust my body more and more as a runner. While asthma doesn't define me, it does sometimes limit me. Speed was just not to be had that day. More importantly than what it did to my pace, I'm very pleased with what it did not do to my determination.

In those 3 miles with walk breaks, I ran less than half-mile spurts. Yet I was still able to power walk and run quickly enough to keep my pace up to a decent speed. The last mile containing cemetery hill yet again came in at my slowest.

Mile 9 - 11:51

Running down the hill, I was able to gain a bit of momentum and pick up my stride. By this point, a fellow KTC Socialite had come up to pass me. For the remaining mile, I tried to keep pace with him.

Mile 10 - 9:58

As with most races, I didn't quite run the tangents, so I ran this certified course a bit long. I didn't mind the extra tenth or so, because I was able to see what kind of kick was left in the home stretch.


My chip time was 1:44:35. I didn't meet my time goals. This race, however, did teach me I was mentally strong enough to push through and give up. Given that my mental game is the weakest part of me as a racers, I count this race as a success!

Overall: 193/240
Age group: 18/22

Oh, and technically a PR from my only other 10 mile race. Although, save injury, I knew a PR was guaranteed from my previous 2:08:41 time. As Michelle pointed out, no matter the circumstances (or the 3+ years that have passed) I've come a long way in my running to shave off 24 minutes and 6 seconds!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dear Diary,

It seems to be coming at me from all sides. Once again, I have someone pressing me about what I can do for them. This afternoon I found myself confronted by the 3rd person in a week who doesn't have a clue who I am at my core, yet is trying to advance their agenda through me.
  • The neighbors who're trying to offer unsolicited financial advice.
  • The coworkers who expect me to clean up their messes.
  • The relatives pointedly asking me to promote their business.
Each time I've had a strong reaction in my gut.
  • Clearly they have no idea our actions were carefully considered in our 5 year debt-free plan.
  • Do I always draw the short straw because I'm a girl? Non-confrontational? Or both?
  • Have I ever even promoted my own stuff on Facebook? Why would I act differently for someone else?

Its hard for this girl who's struggled with self-esteem issues all my life to understand the dangers of pride. Finally, I'm starting to see the good qualities I possess and damn it, I want everyone else to see them too.

I hope this is just a growing pain. A brief pit stop on the path to being comfortable in my own skin. Obviously I'm not there yet, or else I wouldn't care how others saw me. I'd be confident enough in me as a person to not care what they thought.

Much like last week's Less of Me post, I'm not sure this post makes much sense. Maybe I'm indulging my pride by talking about it. Then again, maybe a reader will pray for me in this specific area. Or else give me an incredible tip on overcoming pride. I'll take whatever I can get!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mt. LeConte Hike - via Boulevard trail & Alum Cave

Jay blames my constant in-training state. I blame his constant on-the-couch state.Whatever the case, he and I don't make it into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park nearly enough. Monday, in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I had the day off work. 

Back on Veterans Day (our last holiday off - not including the big 3) I had made plans with friends to hike 13.3 miles taking a new trail. The Boulevard is the longest of the 5 different ways to make it to the top of Mt. LeConte, and at just under 16 miles puts it just out of day hike reach. 

Instead, we decided to play car shuffle - going up the Boulevard trail but down Alum Cave trail would make it a manageable 13.3 miles. However 2 cars would be needed - one car to park down at the Alum trail-head, and another to drive to the Newfound Gap parking lot where the Boulevard trail begins. My hiking buddies decided this would be too time consuming, so that left Jay and I hiking the trail just the two of us. How romantical!

Some might see this as a story of a man who never exercises insisting on hiking a difficult trail, only to get pooped less than two miles in. I, however, choose to see it as the story of a man who shouldn't have been physically able to do the hike, yet somehow* pushed through to find a way.

And by somehow, I mean his wife behind him encouraging him the whole way.

And by encouraging, I mean nagging. Also, there might have been a bit of confusion about "dried plums." Because of this confusion one member of the hiking party may or may not have smelled like a giant sewer drain. The other party may have felt the need to press on, lest he get down wind of said sewer smell.

Unlike some of the more well traveled trails, once we pasted the Charlie's Bunion fork to the right, we didn't see another soul until we reached the top. We only saw one other set of (human) foot prints - and we're not sure they were made the same day.

The snow and ice made for some rough going. The levels varied by elevation and sun exposure.  Some parts felt like frolicking through Narnia. Other parts (like the picture above) were a bit scary. Without a ledge or something to hold on to, we had to be very careful about our steps.

We experienced all of the following: blisters, leg cramps, sliding & falling into a tree resulting in a bruised shoulder, over-dressing, under fueling, and general crankiness.

And it was worth every bit of it. Easy for me to say, given that of the above-listed ailments only the last 2 were suffered by me. 

Unlike the other trails, Myrtle Point is only 0.2 off the Boulevard trail, and offers some of the best views in the park.

Then we hoofed it the additional 0.7 to LeConte Lodge for a few more pictures and lunch. Unfortunately, they don't put the date up during the winter months when the lodge is closed.

I had high hopes that the hike down would be easier, and in some ways it was.

The Alum Cave trail is practically straight down (or up, depending on which way its traveled), but given the lower elevations we had to hike over a lot of icy patches.

While the shin-high snow in places made the hike up laborious, the way down included sheets of ice beside cliff drop-offs. Alum is a well traveled trail and has wire ropes bolted into the rocks in places. On a few occasions, I just held on tight and let gravity and the ice do all the work.

We had our fair share of obstacles, but Jay and I both agreed our frustration at the end was much like the end of a vacation or the Sunday night blues. The hike was gorgeous and well worth all the trouble, but we were ready to be done!

Next up: Presidents Day!
Hike: TBD

Friday, January 17, 2014

Less of Me

Sometimes all it takes is one good blog post to get me thinking. Other times, it takes another.
And another. Sometimes it takes a 2nd writer chiming in. Then there are those times, I'm so dense it comes from unexpected places.

My life was like an old routine.
 Everyday the same d@mn thing. 
I couldn't even tell I was alive.
Artist: Jamey Johnson
Song: "High Cost of Living"

My life is not my story, its helping others live theirs well. Sometimes it means I'll be volunteered for things I don't want to do. I'll get stuck doing the thankless dirty work.

Choosing Grumpyiness When Life is Easy: As Told to Twitter by @FruglTrophyWife

I started the day not knowing how I would make this into a cleverly worded blog. How I'd wade through the jumble in my head.




In all of this, I keep coming back to the same thought: He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30. Funny, looking at it in different translations doesn't change anything.

More of him.
Less of me.

Now to figure out how that looks in real life.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday - 2014 Goal Edition

Last year, I set a goal for myself to read 75 books. I felt short of the goal only making it to 72. My total averages over a book a week, so I'm not going to be to hard on myself for not quite reaching it. I'm trying again this year to read the same number, but having a bit of a slow start.

Completed in 2014:

Unconventional by JJ Hebert

I liked the characters and found them relatable. Maybe because I (a Christian) met my husband ( an agnostic) on MySpace back in the day (kinda tells our age and the age of the book.) There were parts I wondered what the book's point was. Finished, I'm still not sure, perseverance? But something about the characters felt comfortable, familiar. Maybe a good book club book. Something I'd like to talk thru with someone. I feel like there is more to the story I'm missing.

Kissed in Paris by Juliette Sobanet
I just finished this one last night, and it was everything I love in a book. Lighthearted and fun. The story was predictable, but in a way that didn't discourage me from reading. I didn't realize this was the 2nd in a series, and had no trouble with the story having not read the first.

Currently Reading:

When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore

I'm only a few chapters into this one, and I'm struggling a bit. Being such a heavy subject, Moore tries to set the book up in the first few chapters. I'm only in chapter 3, but find myself wanting her to move on with things. Perhaps its because the subject matter is foreign to me. She makes a strong distinction between sins of rebellion and sins of supernatural temptation. Rebellion is more familiar to me, and NOT the focus of this book.

The Patriarchs by Beth Moore

This is one of her classic Bible study workbooks, and I'm only on day 1. I'm excited to delve in and see where this particular journey through the Word will takes us.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I hesitated in starting this book. Give the setting (Nazi Germany) and the narrator (Death), I kinda dreaded this one. Too many people recommended it for me to skip it, though, and now I see why. The story and characters are easy to follow. While the subject matter may become heavy, the reading process doesn't feel that way. I look forward to reading it. 

What are you currently reading??

Friday, January 10, 2014

One Final Gift

Christmas 2013 - The year I was disappointing by the gifts my husband gave me. Or rather what my husband didn't give me.

Here's what I opened Christmas morning: a DVD set, The Runners Bible (which isn't for runners at all, but rather people on the go, and a made-in-our garage medal holder. Actually the previous statement isn't accurate. The medal hanger wasn't complete (no way to hang it on the wall ironically) nor was it wrapped.

I know, I know. First World Problems.

Our theme is supposed to be Want, Need, Wear, Read. However my "wear" didn't arrive until the day after Christmas - darn those untimely Amazon drones! On the 26th I opened pair of black arm sleeves for running - exactly like my mother got me a couple years ago. He misunderstood a conversation I had with his father over Thanksgiving and thought I needed a pair.

Still my big gift was no where to be found.

We visited his parents the weekend after Christmas. We spent New Years at my sister's house. When we arrived home, there was a package on our front porch. Finally. Only it was an iPad mini, sent to him by a business associate. 2013 came to a close, his actions led to an oopsie that led to my ass breaking my computer AND no super-cool-i-promise-its-coming gift.

 my precious!

Finally, Jay got on the computer to live chat with the company he had ordered from. They assured him it had just been shipped, but offered no explanation as to why their "Be there by Christmas" guarantee translated into January 2014.

A week into the new year passed with nary a sign of the gift.

Yesterday, as I was participating in Throwback Thursday and realized it was the 3rd anniversary of my first marathon. I had all but given up on the promised gift ever arriving, but sure enough it came in the mail. Jay draped it over the loft wall to properly display his creation.

One evening, while I was with the KTC Socialites, he had gathered up all the race bibs he could find. Due to all of our moving they weren't all in the same location. He took pictures of each individual bid (he could find) then cropped the pictures to upload into a design. He found the runner clip art, and the following quote which lines the top and bottom of the blanket:

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."

ME: Where did that quote come from?
HIM: The Internet.

(A quick Google search attributes the quote to Dr. George Sheehan.)

When I first started running, I took great care writing on the back of my bibs - distance, time, date, weather conditions. He was able to arrange and appropriately label according those markings.

The 5Ks were positioned towards the top, and the other distances were placed near the bottom.

Bibs of the same race, multiple years were also positioned alongside one another.

My 2 marathons were displayed prominently in the top right corner. The half marathons were places in-line below - grouping together those I have run multiple years.

And a dedication on the side:
To My love and favorite runner Brooke {Middle} {Maiden} {Last} from Jason {Middle} {Last}

I asked why he didn't just lie and say it was my marathon 3rd anniversary gift. Or save it for Valentine's and give it to me when I'm not expecting it, counting it belated. Then he pointed out the date in the bottom right corner. Only I didn't look, really look until taking pictures for this blog post. 
(For the record, neither did he.)


PS - This truly makes me love the blanket even more. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I'm a heartless robot. Or maybe its the sheer irony of how he labored hours upon end to make this gift perfect. Quite possibly its because I foresee a future of Christ-a-mases in which I giggle, laugh, and think about how much my husband loves me.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pushing to 3,000

As with everything in life, my thankful list has its own ebb and flow. Sometimes I can write dozens of blessings per day. Other times I have to look back over the past month and remember what happened.

I'm currently trying to pull myself out of the slacker end of things. 9 days in, and this is my first thankful post of the new year. My goal is to sit down every evening to write in my 1,000 gifts journal and also post a handful of those things each Thursday.

In my last post of the year, I shared #2145. I'm presently at 2225. I try to focus on gifts of time spent with those I love, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't count the items I received under the Christmas tree as blessings.

2147) Church library books
2157) Christmas eve snow
2158) Running in the snow
2164) Christmas lunch with friends
2172) Healthy blood work numbers
2180) Christmas eve steak dinner tradition

(The list got jumbled as I was recounting a week after the events happened. Not everything happened in order as its listed, but rather as I remembered to be thankful.)

2192) Visiting with Jay's WV relatives at the barn/house they are building in the country.
2193) Homemade blackberry wine
2194) Old timer stopping by for a chat.
2202) Errands for $0.25 - from the Princess & Little Man
2204) Princess's spa treatment
2207) Cheese roll-up dance - Little Man & I acting silly
2210) Broken glass - Jay not injured
2211) Jesus healing me overnight 

2215) Rental guest book entries ---> people enjoying their stay at our cabin 
2217) Dunkin Donuts after church with Mother
2218) Snow!!

2220) Safety + no power loss + no frozen pipes during snow/sub-zero temps
2222) Trying (and enjoying) new class at the gym
2224) iPad mini!!

What do you have to be thankful for so far this year??

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

High Mileage - Training Tuesday

While I've been training for this month's 10 miler since last year (yes, I'm going to use that until I can't any more), I officially signed up today! The Track Club offers a discount to those registering the "High Mileage Series" and since the timing works perfectly for March's marathon, I signed up for the trifecta.

Sure, at this point in my running career 10 miles isn't a big deal. Racing it isn't even all that intimidating.  After all,  I've only ever ran one 10 mile race - Cross Knox on 10/10/10. I was under-trained, under-prepared, and it was freakin' hot for October! I didn't make it under the 2 hour mark. Barring on-course injury, it would be incredibly difficult for me not to PR.

(For reference, I did a slow and miserable 10 miles this weekend in 1:41.)

Crazy enough, I'm actually a bit excited about the elevation profile for the race. As with any of my local races, this has some pretty serious elevation gain, but I love the symmetry of the chart! Okay so I'm mostly just being goofy, its an out and back so of course its symmetrical. What I love about the chart is how the scary part is in the first half.

I learned in my last race I have got to make a serious attempt at negative splits when I race. Thanks to the elevation profile, I'm all but forced to.  While I do have a time goal for this race, I plan on going out conservatively in the first 5 miles, then when I hit the half way point kick it up!

My current 15K PR (9.3 miles, so very comparable in distance) is a 9:43 pace, and I certainly want to better that time. My shoot-for-the-moon goal is a 9 m/m pace. I've been doing a bit of speed work and a few pace runs, but I'm still not totally confident in my goal. Of course this race will help me set my pace goals for the rest of the race series.

Two weeks later will be my first opportunity to participate in the Strawberry Plains Half Marathon. Tentatively 2:04 or under is my goal, but as I said, adjustments will be made after the 10 mile race shows me what speed I'm currently working with.

I know several teammates who have PRed on this course, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do. The elevation chart shows just enough change to be interesting, not enough to be scary. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. If you've done the race before, please just let me go on believing it.

Last in the series is the Whitestone 30K (18.64 miles). Given the distance from my house (over an hour and a half), I passed on the race the last round of marathon training. This round, I have a buddy who's offered to let me stay with her to significantly cut down travel time. Add that to the package deal of just $60 total (for Knoxville Track Club members) for all 3 races, I couldn't turn that down.

*Gulp* Okay so this map kinda scares me. A 200 foot climb over a mile, in the last mile of the race? This, however, is less a race and more a supported training run for the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. I've never done this distance before, so I'm not trying to beat a PR.

Then 4 weeks later I'll be going round 3 with the 26.2 distance at the 10th anniversary Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon! Let's do this!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

All Fun & Games Until...

New Years most always finds me in my jammies, in the home of my favorite sister. This year was no exception. I took a couple days off work to add an extra day for our belated weekend Christmas with Jay's family (Friday night thru Monday) and for our New Years with my big sis + crew (Monday night through Wednesday).

My niece loves to play spa, and her New Year's prices were right so I indulged in a $5 total spa package. Foot rub, foot rub with lotion, foot soak, manicure, back massage, ear lobe massage (not sure where she came up with this one), and back massage with electrical massager. When the massager sparked and burnt a hole in her fleece, perhaps we should have taken it as foreshadowing of what was to come.


For $0.25 a pop, my niece and nephew fought over the chance to fetch me blankets, coffee, or pretty much whatever I asked for. The Princess even solicited Jay's help in earning $0.50 for carrying me into the other room.

Early in the evening, my nephew decided to flip the child-sized rocking chair and use it as a see-saw and slide. At one point he took a hard shot to the rib cage, falling into the butt end of the rocking arc. After getting a band-aid, he assured me "Jesus heals people in their sleep" and that he would be okay.


A coffee mug my mother had brought back from Atlantic City got dropped and the handle broken. Both Jay and my sister were nearby when it happened, and Kelly took the blame.


We went out shopping late afternoon so Jay could use the gift card to a local specialty beer store. He ended up with 10 different kinds, drawn more towards the look of the bottle than the actual beer inside. (He has an empty collection big enough to make someone want to ship him off to AA.)

My sister needed to go to Wal-Mart while we were out to pick up a couple things for dinner, so we grabbed a movie from the Redbox machine on our way out the door.  My brother-in-law had been wanting to see World's End and it was in stock. lists its description as Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind's only hope for survival.


My sis had posted questions my niece wanted answered on Facebook and Twitter, and after dinner we played Family Feud. My sister was the host and helped them cheat. I'm convinced that's the only way we were beaten by 2 people under the age of 10 (& my BIL)! Then of course there was the game of Clue, but after 15 minutes, I cheated and brought the game to a screeching halt.


We watched the part of the movie, had a countdown toast, then finished up the movie. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Let's fast forward to the good part, shall we?

I'm not sure who started it. Maybe the 9 year old wanted to prove how strong she is? Eventually everyone took a turn "flying." Some (like BIL & Jay above) couldn't maintain it for more than a second or two. My sister was the only one brave enough to give the 200 pounder a shot at airtime, proving she is a power-house of leg strength.


Finally it was BJay's turn to show off. Cause we're awesome/fearless/stupid like that. I got some great airtime - Jay was able to balance me for what felt like a long time without any hand holding.

Then, it happened.

"I'll make you soar," my darling love proclaimed as he used his feet to propel me up. Instead of gracefully landing on my feet as he'd anticipated, I came crashing down on my ass.

And my ass came crashing down on the computer I'd left on the floor.

And the computer went crashing into the whiskey glass on the floor beside it.

And the whiskey glass smashed into the wooden chest beside it.

And my hand went down to the ground to brace my fall, my wrist finding a couple shards.

And my wrist bled like a stuck pig onto my sister's light-colored carpet.

Jesus must have healed me overnight like the 5 year old said, 
cause this picture taken the next day makes it barely look like a paper-cut.

And that, kids, is the story of how Aunt Boo claimed Uncle Jay's new iPad mini with nary protest.