Friday, February 28, 2014

The 5th Anniversary Post

Last October/November was a busy season for me and I got way behind on blogging. Which reminds me - I still haven't blogged about my Ragnar Relay experience. Jay hasn't let me forget my failure to blog our 5th anniversary celebration.

Jay's parents wanted to do a weenie roast at our house for his birthday (October 24th). That night Jay & I (along with my parents) attended a Light the Night Leukemia Lymphoma walk to celebrate my cousin's first year of being cancer free. I can't say enough how sweet it was of my darling to spend his birthday celebrating someone else.

The following day, I hopped in a Van and headed down south for a Run. Then the week following his stint as our chauffeur, my dad has total knee replacement. The weenie roast was pushed to the following week - mine & Jay's anniversary.

Back off ladies - he's mine! 

I don't know if we bore them to tears or they just love being helpful, but so much gets done around the house when Jay's parents come for a visit. Anywho, back to the story. They'd offered to take us out for our anniversary dinner - anywhere we wanted. Jay picked a local trout house in Gatlinburg.

Our anniversary fell on a Friday, so I went to work while they worked around the house.

ring ring
Jay: You need to be sure to get home quickly tonight.
Brooke: I have a stop to make after work, but I'll be ready to go.
Jay: No. Come straight home.
Brooke: Ummm...
Jay: Mom can't eat after 7, so you'll have to get home ASAP so we can get to the restaurant.
Brooke: Ummm...I don't have a card for you yet.

Truth - I didn't have him anything. But his mama had to eat early, so straight home I went. Only when I arrived, she was still in her jammies.

Then Jay encouraged me to change into jeans for dinner. So I picked out a pair of cute skinny jeans and my awesome leather knee boots.  Only Jay expressed his dislike of the outfit. Understand that my man never comments on my outfits, unless its to compliment me. He had an agenda. 

"What about my trail shoes? Will those work?" I asked. When he answered affirmatively, I knew where he was taking me - the nature trail in our subdivision. It gets muddy and he didn't want me to ruin my good boots. I also realize why I had to rush home. In the fall, daylight in scarce after I get home from work.

Sure enough, we got in the car and turned left out of our driveway, instead of right. But half way there is had to stop and turn around. He'd forgotten his battery powered drill. What the what? After a few lewd comments, we were on our way to the nature trail.

There are 5 footbridges like the one above. We were celebrating our 5th anniversary. On each of the bridges he'd screwed a sign with the year and a picture from that year.

Our 1st anniversary trip to California.
Our 2nd anniversary trip to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

Over each bridge, as is tradition on hikes, we stopped halfway over and kissed. Dark was falling and he encouraged me to walk quickly!

3rd at the Smoky Mountain Brewery with some buddies.
4th at Hillbilly Hot Dog in West Virginia
(as featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives)

Then, at the 5th bridge, there was something a bit different...

My love,
I know you said you wanted to listen to this song live on our 5th anniversary
(baby you song
you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise)
Cruise on over across the bridge and look for the hidden box!
Thanks for being a gem of a wife!
Love, Jay
Autumn in Tennessee means lots of fallen leaves. Especially on a wooded trail. The hidden box took forever and a few hints to find. When I did find it, it was in a garbage bag. Opening the bag I found a box (he'd made with scrap wood) with bags inside. He'd tagged them with numbers.

#1 was a bottle of hard cider
#2 was a bottle of hard cider

We popped the caps, had a sip, and continued.

#3 was...

Crap. I can't remember. I know it was something that led to us dancing to our wedding song on the moonlit trail. (And now you know why he'd brought a cider for himself. White boy don't dance.)

#4 was a picture of a cruise ship, promising our 6th anniversary would be spent aboard one.
 And promised something to wear in the next bag.

#5 was a set of ocean-blue earrings. 
Some long-name for a precious stone.

Poor thing didn't consider how we'd haul all this stuff back on the trail. In the dark. We ended up taking the long way around, which was an actual road rather than a trail. We figured the risk of injury was less. Finally we got back to the house and went to the trout house for dinner. After dinner we headed up to Moonshine Holler for some samples and life music.

the dude from the TV show Moonshiners

Now for Jay's blog about our anniversary entitled All of that Work and All I Got in Return was this Stupid Blog Post 4 Months Later.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Russell Field to Spence Field Loop

Once two strangers climbed ole Rocky Top...

Okay so it was 4, and we did come down. We just haven't made it back up again. This picture was from 2010 - one of the hardest hikes of my life. I was anemic at the time, but didn't know it. We've tried to go back, but I'm starting to reckon we never will.

In the years since, we tried another trip to Rocky Top/Thunderhead via Spence Field, but failed miserably. We took a wrong turn at a trail intersection and didn't realize it until most of our day was eaten up. Once we corrected our course, it was too late to continue on to the top.

Over the Presidents day weekend, 3 of the 4 of the original crew decided to make the attempt again. The days before had brought us snow in the foothills, so it was no surprise to find the trail covered in the mountain elevations.

About 2 miles in, our fearless guide started questioning our path. Why we let her lead after the wrong turn last time, I'm not sure. Laziness? Blind trust? Grace and forgiveness? Yeah, we'll go with that.

About 3 miles in, she again started questioning the path. "We're good." I assured her. "We're encountering all the landmarks the trail description listed." But around mile 4, my confidence started to waiver. We pulled out the trusty cell phone and reread the description.

Okay so maybe we didn't notice the intersection because of all the snow, but the second description matched. We were on the right trail. Or were we? Agreeing not to make any further judgments until the 5.1 mile mark as described. We pressed on until...

OOH - the shelter!!!

Crap - the wrong shelter!

Somehow we'd missed the original turn and wound up at the Russell Field Shelter instead of Spence field. Kelly had remarked how the hike up was the toughest she'd ever done. Odd, given we'd done the trail before. Only we never had.

We ate our lunch, attempted a fake smile, and pressed on toward the goal. At first it was difficult, knowing the 3 extra snowy miles were because of a mistake. Soon we got lost in our alphabet game (movies, music, books) and enjoyed our little stroll through Narnia.

Of course by the time we arrived, we needed another snack, but unfortunately the clock and our wet feet weren't on our side. We didn't get the opportunity to head up to Rocky Top or Thunderhead.

Having to cut the trail short (after an oopsie made it long) was disappointing, but I difficult to stay that way with all the beautiful scenery around us. On the way down, we made it a point to stop and see where our big mistake occurred.

As we traveled up, the trail was snow covered. We were watching our feet and didn't see the sign. The warmth of the day melted the snow while we were up top, so the mistake seemed foolish.

If "Brooke's Folly" netted me a fun day of fitness with friends, I can't complain! But for your own sake if I say "Seriously, just trust me!" Don't. I'm begging you!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

For the Craft Impared

In the Pinterest age, it seems as if everyone is trying their hand at projects. What's a girl who's craftiness peaked at Kindergarten to do?

The turkey I made for my darling last Valentine's, when he requested I spend $0.00 on his gift

My passion is for the writing. For all of our sakes, I sure hope I'm better with words than construction paper and glue! I have 2 people to whom I hand-write letters once a month. Some months are more of a challenge than others. This past month, I struggled to find make the time to write my cousin a letter. I ended up with a one-pager, but added it in a cute Valentine's themed card.

Where does a Pinterest #Fail like me get such cute cards? The Dancing Elephant! These 3 girls (along with their parents) have a heart for Cambodia. The money they raise from their cards, magnets, and other designs go to helping children over there.


For the sake of transparency, I want to state outright: I'm not getting compensated for this blog. They didn't even ask me to write it. I just love the work they do, and admire the reason they do it! The rave reviews don't end with me!

Now I have a new problem - how do I confess to my cousin that middle school girls have more skill and creativity than me?

Friday, February 21, 2014

All Fancied Up - Foto Friday

This past weekend was the 13th Annual "Special Evening...A Special Cause" hosted by Cure Finders to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research.  

Each year Jay & I get gussied up along with friends, coworkers, and (for the past few years) my parents in honor of my boss's 2 children with CF.

Our tasks typically include seating guests, helping with silent auction bid sheets at the end of the evening, and guest check out. As the evening progresses, we always have a good time.

As a friend of mine says, only boring people get bored. Service with a smile? But of course! 

As always, I can't wait to get the professional photo of Jay and me.
 While I got quite a few goofing with my friends, I only have 2 of BJay the couple.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure - Valentine's Style

For Valentine's Day my husband either choose to forgo a card/gift and instead littered  the driveway


I have an incredibly romantic, creative husband.

The snow is gone, but last I checked we still have spray paint and ketchup in our driveway.

Hope you felt cherished this Valentine's day - no matter how your loved ones expressed it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Strawberry Plains Half Marathon - Race Report

The Strawberry Plains Half Marathon is the 2nd part (of 3 races) in the Knoxville Track Club high mileage series. I never intended this race to be anything but a part of my training building up to the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. 

To say I’m not very good at starting slow would be kind. I suck at it. I decided SP would be a “training race” – more than just a run, but not an all-out effort. Not knowing where to start, but knowing for sure I’d have to purpose to be slow, I decided I would start at a 10:30 pace. 

Then I played around with some calculators. I knew I was capable of a 2:10 race – I blew up at Secret City, had a horrible race, walked a lot, and still finished in 2:11. All things considered, by the time I made it to the start line, I’d decided upon a 10:15 pace for the early miles.

Amy, Sharon, & I all had the same strategy so we met up at the start line and stuck together. We positioned ourselves too far back in the line, and had to fight around the crowd. We’d hoped this would keep down our pace, but we over compensated. Along the way, we caught up with Johnny, who had mentioned running with us early in the week. Between passing and slowing down, the first mile wasn’t consistent.

Mile 1 - 10:01

We knew this mile was too fast, so we tried to slow things down a bit. Then we got lost in conversation and noticed our pace getting faster. Between the 4 of us, it seemed like we kept catching ourselves going too quickly.

Mile 2 - 10:02

I’d describe the early miles as rolling. Sharon is a good fit for our group because she naturally runs up hills quickly. I naturally run down quickly. Working as a team, we kept each other in check, although still a bit fast.

Mile 3 – 9:55
Mile 4 - 10:15

Not sure what happened in mile 4 to hit our goal dead on, but it was the only mile we did so. Thankfully, one of the reasons we were having difficulty was because it was too conservative. Truth be told, I should have started around 9:45-10:00. Lesson learned, which was the point of this race.

Mile 5 - 10:03 

I had done some homework, reading race reports from previous years. Also, our KTC Socialites team page had some discussion of the course. Everything pointed to miles 6-8 being the make or break stretch of this course.

Mile 6 - 10:04

I’m not sure I noticed a real difference at first, but we committed to staying strong through this portion. I can’t say enough how awesome it was to be able to talk through the race with them. I hope we are all at a similar enough paces to do this through at least a portion of the marathon.

Mile 7 - 9:56 

I would have sworn the hill of mile 8 was huge and lasted the entire mile. My Garmin reports it was 0.41, and climbed 96 feet. It was tough. Then again, we surged up it, so maybe it was just our pace. Either way, looking back I’m very impressed with the pace for this mile.

Mile 8 - 9:53 

I’m good at downhill running, and I told the group of my plan to pick up some time blazing down it. At this point, we were running our own races. Johnny took a walk break for some fuel. Amy’s IT band issues make her a more conservative downhill runner.

Mile 9 - 9:09

Sharon & I stuck together until we reached the rolling return portion of this course. Her strength on the up hills allowed her to pull away. On one of the ups, I introduced myself to Abbi and chatted with her the next mile or so. I very much enjoyed the distraction.

Mile 10 - 9:35

Amy caught up to me and helped me to keep pushing. She’s typically quiet in late miles, however, so I had a bit of a battle in my head. Its race, its okay to be uncomfortable. Keep pushing. Let’s see just how much you’ve got.

Mile 11- 9:19
Mile 12 - 9:16

I’m not sure at what point it happened, but near the end of the race I got stuck behind a car. For an open course, I saw very few along the way. We’d been instructed to run with traffic, and this gal was stalled ahead of me due to runners ahead of her. After a bit of sucking exhausted, I decided to cross the double yellow line and pass her. It very much seemed that she sped up when she noticed me beside her. Maybe this challenge helped get my legs moving faster and ready for a surge?

Mile 13- 9:07
I’m very proud my last mile was my fastest. Sure the mile included a downhill, but so did mile 9. By this point, I was pushing hard. I had gas left in the tank and I wanted to finish strong. Passing the 13 mile marker, I dug deep and kicked it in high gear. 

Some of my teammates cheered me in as I made one final pass then grunted my way across the finish line.
Last 0.18 - {7:42}

Final 2:07:51


Friday, February 7, 2014

Rediscovering My Motivation

I've been experiencing some anxiety when it comes to running. The night before my 10 mile race last month, I had serious race anxiety. The anxiety for this weekend's half started on Tuesday, so I reached out to my Facebook running group. We share our struggles and triumphs, mostly with running but also with life when need be. Our group is dedicated to praying for the members - through racing, injuries, and fear.

(Our group photo, courtesy of Clay)

When I expressed my anxiety to the group, one of the ladies suggested I go back to the drawing board. I race so much these days, getting caught up in PRs and new experiences, I have forgotten why I run in the first place. Turns out, I have had a board laying out each of the reasons I'm a runner.

Several years ago, The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans gave their readers homework - build a motivational board. First up Derek Redmond - "I'm going to finish my race." I remember watching those Olympic games in awe. How could anyone push through injury to finish a race? 

Being active is a part of my life. There are so many things I want to tackle, including a hiking/camping trip through the Appalachian Trail. I've never been camping, so I'm not sure I'll ever be made of sturdy enough stuff to hike the AT in its entirety, but I do enjoy being able to hike on any given day without effort. 

My niece and nephew have grown so much since I made this board! They've been at the finish line of races and I love the encouragement I get from my sister and her whole family. The Princess wanted to bring me flowers at the finish line of one of my first 5Ks. Instead, my mom convinced her to bring me a stuffed animal (from a collection at home). Now I see her gift every night before going to bed.

Something I've gotten away from is having a "race verse." Maybe its because I'm racing too much. Isaiah 40:31 was written on my arm for my first marathon. I repeated 2 Timothy 1:7 over and over during a monster bike climb during my first triathlon. Maybe I should go back to scripture memorization for/during races?

And finally - finishing on the 50. Only this time, instead of going for my fastest 5K time ever, I'll be heading into the University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium to run the last 50 yards of 26.2 miles. Right or wrong, this marathon training cycle is all about getting that PR. No clue what a reasonable finishing time might be, but I'm a faster runner than I was 2 years ago when I last races this distance. That's gotta count for something.

Motivation. Sure PRs are part of what motivates me, but they don't tell the whole story. And its about time I remembered that.