Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fiesta Time Again!

Once again Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies hosted the Sevier County Food Ministry Fiesta. My parents and I decided to join the fun, and headed up to Gatlinburg after work on Monday. Unfortunately my husband is a poopy head Jay had to work and couldn't join us, but I had enough fun for the both of us.

First we registered for door prizes, then it was time to peruse the silent auction items. I wanted to bid on these guys, but the home owner's association of our community wouldn't be too thrilled with them.

We didn't take home anything from the auction, but it was fun to look through the items they had. A couple items interested me, but thankfully for the Ministry, the bid price went too high for me.

 The aquarium itself hasn't changed much since the last time we were there, so we didn't spend a ton of time on the exhibits. I did, however, enjoy snapping several pictures as we walked through.

I attempted a family selfie on the shark-tank conveyor belt, but the area wasn't light enough for the picture to turn out.

In addition to seeing all the featured creatures, my dad and I enjoyed the hands-on experience offered by this hard-shelled dude. My mother yelled to startle me right as I was about to touch it, so I got her back by flicking the water in her face.

A good hand washing later (as instructed by the signs surrounding this particular tank), and we were headed into the main hall to hit the buffet.

Thankfully the menu included ground beef and chicken, rather than marine life. (Although the final dish I did not partake of might have included shrimp).  As the event name suggests, the fare included tacos, nachos, rice and refried beans. I may or may not have gone back for a second helping of beans, queso, and nacho chips.

We ended up running into and enjoying dinner with my dad's sister, his niece and her hubby (plus their baby twin grandkids) as well as another nephew with his wife and kids. Yes, you read that right. I have a first cousin with grandkids. His family is crazy-big, plain crazy, but also fun.

As we sat around talking, we heard the winners of the door prizes. My mom won a "penguin painting on a black background" we imagined something along the lines of a velvet Elvis, only replacing Elvis with a picture of a penguin.

Instead, she got this:

In case you couldn't figure it out, that's the artist MoMo on the right. And her (his?) painting on the left. Who knew penguin art was a thing?  Of course my smarty-pants father questioned if the white streaks were paint or penguin poop.

All-in-all, a fun night for a great cause!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Something to Talk About

In the days since my marathon, I've found myself with more time on my hands than I know what to do with. Well, that's not entirely true. I could be more tidy and keep my house cleaner, but I figure if the slack schedule the first 3 months didn't hurt us, it surely isn't high priority now.

Jay and I have come to depend on our DVR since we moved into the cabin a couple of years ago. Before that watching most of our shows online allowed us the convenience of watching on our schedule, rather than when the networks chose to air the shows.

Current shows
  1. Gotham
  2. Modern Family
  3. Brooklyn 99
  4. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Recently retired, and still missed shows
  1. Psych
  2. Monk
  3. White Collar

What do you do when you have little or no motivation to post a blog? I want to write. My soul craves it, however dramatic that might sound.

The well, however, is dry. 

I seriously sat down and thought OOh, I'll write about mine and Jay's TV habits. Snoozefest!

While I enjoy my stream of consciousness blog posts, I haven't participated in several weeks. No real reason other than the weekend sneaks up on me before I have time to schedule my posts. Spring time is always a busy season for me, so there is little time once the weekend arrives to blog.

If I wrote about what is truly on my mind, I'd whine about how I need to lose weight for my upcoming cruise, or else how tired I am thanks to seasonal allergies.

I'm going on a cruise in 47 days.
Flowers are blooming, the grass is green, and the sun is shining.

Don't you just feel sooooooooooooooooo sorry for me??
Yeah, didn't think so.

So instead, I'll use these next 3 minutes to pump you for ideas. I'm not currently in training for anything, so those posts would be boring, not to mention a lack of race reports in my future. I'm doing a lot of reading, but I'm not sure the titles I'm selecting would be of any interest.

While I have taught Bible study a couple of times this year, I'm no closer to starting my own class than the last time I mentioned it. I think my church offers new teacher orientation in May, so I should learn about scheduling and details then. I suppose deep down I'm waiting on them to tell me I'm not Baptist enough to lead a class.

Looking through my photos, I found no flower pictures. Maybe I should do a landscape post each week. Currently my azaleas are blooming beautifully. I only say "my" because they are on the land our house is on. We've certainly done nothing to facilitate their growth. I suppose God, via nature, has a way of making things happen naturally.

And of course, I could always return to blogging about my thankful list. I could certainly stand to focus on the positives more in life. While I feel as if I'm building my gratitude muscle, it certainly could stand a bit more growth.

What am I leaving out? Do you have favorite topics I'm omitting? Do you want to submit questions to have me answer? I'm an open book and you know I'd ask you something about poop if you opened yourself up to my questions.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Courage to Start

I purchased 2 stickers for my car at the Disney Marathon expo 4 years ago. Of course one was the obligatory 26.2 decal, proclaiming to the world that I am better than them I run crazy distances for the fun of it.

The second, however, explains how I truly feel about all this running and fitness stuff to which I devote so much time and effort.
Starring at this quote prompts a couple of questions.
  1. Why are the first letters of "courage" and "start" capitalized?
  2. Do I really have the courage? What prompts what I do? 
My training buddy and I decided upon a sprint triathlon for the summer. While I love running, doing it in the hot and humid summer months are miserable. 

With our eye on a tri, we decided that cross-training through the summer would be the perfect fit. Regular swimming and biking would keep our cardio up, while providing us an alternative to the head index versus treadmill debate we always have in the summer. With only 2ish days of running, and short distances at that, we wouldn't lose run fitness either.

 Neither of us are confident swimmers, and open water swim would require some work and dedication on our part. She did a bit of research and contacted the director of a local master swim group. For the past 2 weeks, she's attended the sessions. By her assessment, they are challenging but she can already see improvements to her swimming.


I don't think I have the courage to try it out. I have a whole list of reasons I'm not doing it. The reality is, if I wanted to, I would make a way. But I don't wanna.

Heck, its even taken me 2 days to put the words together for this blog. 

As the gambler says, you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Only I don't know which this is. Do I let myself off the hook? Accept that I can't be good at everything. Or do I push through, and force myself to face this anxiety?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ragnar Trail Atlanta - Event Report Part 3

Previously at Ragnar: Part 1, Part 2

After finishing my night time loop, I hoped to get some more sleep. Running in knee socks made cleaning the mud off my legs a breeze. I did, however, have one flaw in my evening plan. I made no plans for a recovery meal after running. At this point it had been 7 hours and 5 miles since my last meal. I settled for an oatmeal creme pie, some peanut butter filled pretzels, and beef jerky before hitting the air mattress for another snooze.

The team spent the morning hanging out at the camp site and I had plenty of time to chill before I tackled the green loop. While it is the most tame of the 3 trails, I wouldn't call it easy by any means. Perhaps it was my sleep deprivation or poor fueling, but by this run, my legs were toast.

Bob handed off the timing belt one final time at 1PM. The sun had come up and started drying up the soupy mud, but there was still plenty left on the trail. The footing wasn't as treacherous as the night before, but there were some spots were this girl got dirty.

The heat and humidity of the day also took a toll on my overall pace. While I wasn't racing these loops, I did wear my Garmin to have a record of my performance. It also helped me to know how much of the trail remained.

I charged my phone so that I could cart it along with me and take pictures but I forgot it. After getting on the trail, I didn't beat myself up too much. It was certainly the least interesting of the 3 trails.

Towards the end, I passed a dude who was walking. He let me know that he hadn't run in years, but somehow thought Ragnar was a good idea. By this point in the race, his knees were toast. His pacer brother was ahead on the trail calling back and trying to encourage motivate him.

Brother: Less than a quarter mile to go.

Me: I'm pretty sure he's lying to you. But the faster you go, the closer you will be to done.

The brother informed me this was dude's 36th birthday celebration. As we crossed the 0.2 to go mat, I mocked him for being old. Then his brother encouraged him to sprint the last part in.

Me: You aren't going to let an asthmatic girl beat you, are you??

He answered me without words, as I ate his dust.

Earlier in the morning, I told Gretchen I would love her forever if she met me at the exchange shoot with a frosty adult beverage. As I handed her the timing belt, she handed me a can.

An empty can of beer.
Son of a baconator!

Turns out, Amy had my real beer waiting for me outside the tent.

The aforementioned heat and humidity got the better of Gretchen during her run, and she went straight from her hand off to Todd to the medical trailer. After we saw she was going to be okay, plenty of goofing on her occurred. I vowed not to post those pictures, but I'd love to meet with you for drinks and have a good laugh at her expense.

She had recovered well enough to join us as Todd completed both his and the team's final leg. Then it was time for team pictures and our latest bling!

 This is an experience I definitely want to repeat in the future. Hopefully without the thunderstorms. And who knows, maybe next time I'll actually train on some trails!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ragnar Trail Atlanta - Event Report Part 2

Previously at Ragnar: Part 1

While I changed into clean gear and Gretchen ran the green loop, a storm rolled into camp. I've been scared of thunder and lightning my whole life. Thankfully its gotten better as I have aged matured, but I still sometimes scream when a bolt of lightning startles me.

Needless to say the forecast of 30 MPH winds freaked me out. Given the number of vehicles/people participating in the event, our cars were parked almost a mile away and wouldn't provide us any shelter.

The team took down anything we feared might blow away, put some camp chairs in the tents to help weigh them down, and stood watch. Thankfully, there were enough people out holding our canopy to allow me to retreat into my tent. I tried to read or do anything to keep my mind occupied. I ended up sending a text message SOS to my Bible study group asking for prayer. They chatted a bit and provided script to help comfort my fear.  

Meanwhile, Gretchen finished her mile lightning fast. (See what I did there?) Todd barely took the hand off and got onto the course before a 1 hour delay was announced. When the rain slacked a bit, G and I sloshed through the mud to the crowded mess hall for some dinner. 

The storm itself, however, raged on. Ragnar extended the delay to 2 hours. We were later told this was the first time that call has ever been made. What it meant for our team was that runner #8 (Todd) and runner #1 (Nicole) would miss out on the legs they would have ran during that time. 

Once the relay started again, the darkness of night had fallen. To make up for her missed run, Nicole accompanied Pam (runner #2) on her night walk. Amy (runner #3) convinced Todd to do the same.

On the sleep front, once the storm subsided I shut my eyes around 9pm (ish) and actually got some decent sleep. I was up in plenty of time to get changed and head to the tent for my 2nd hand off which came in the 2 o'clock hour. 

I ran the yellow loop this time, but added to the rock and roots on the trail, I also had to be careful running through the mud. At points, the mud collected water and went up to my ankle - with no easy way around. I walked the most treacherous parts of the mud, as well as up the steep hills. 

While this night run was similar to road Ragnar in its serenity, my headlamp did little to aid my vision. Bob had passed off his flashlight, along with the timing chip, and I found myself very grateful. 

The skill level of the trail runners present varied from one extreme to the other, but few seemed to be in the middle like me. I found myself passing quite a few walkers on the trail, but also being passed by seasoned trail runners on the accent.

With a couple of miles to go, I heard a lady clearing her throat behind me. "Let me know when you are ready to pass." I said. She assured me she truly was just clearing her throat and enjoyed the pace we were running. We stayed together, chatting for the remainder of the run. Once we crossed the 0.2 mat (positioned there to let our teammates know to get read), she picked it up a notch and I did my best to stick with her.

The morning and the evening were the first day. (To be continued.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ragnar Trail Atlanta - Event Report Part 1

While this past weekend was my 3rd time participating in the Ragnar Relay series, this will be my first official blog wrap up. I love the experience that is Ragnar, but leave the weekend exhausted. This time, however, I want to put some thoughts into words before I forget.

Team captain Amy, of Girls Just Wanna Go Run with Boys too, arrived on Thursday to scout out our home for the next couple of days and set up camp. This allowed Todd (her husband), Gretchen, and I to arrive late Friday morning. While this meant each of us got to spend the night in the comfort of our own homes, it also meant a 3am alarm for me.

We experienced heavy traffic thanks to a total lane closure on I-75, and the rain began shortly into the drive.  Our team start time was noon, so we had plenty of time to get there and get our stuff unloaded before the first runner was off.

Unlike the 12 person road relays, Ragnar Trail teams are made up of 8 runners, plus a volunteer. Amy, Gretchen, and I were left from the original Van on the Run van 2/GJWGR van 1 crew. (Kelly's injury sidelined her this round.) Added to our team were Amy's husband Todd, Kelly's husband Bob, and 3 people we'd never met before: Whitney, Pam, and Nicole.

GJWGR van 2 had their own 8 person team, but they shared camp space with us. Because they assembled their team first, they were GJWGR with Boys. We added the "too."

While waiting for my turn to run - I was runner #6 - I took advantage of my free time and caught a bit of a nap. It wasn't much, but I knew sleep would be little and far between for the next 36 hours.

I ate a normal lunch, knowing I would have several hours before my first leg. Being one of the last runners to start was enjoyable for me.  Of course Gretchen, runner #7, had an entirely different perspective. But more on that later. 

Bob handed off to me and I got my first leg started around 5PM. The air was warm and humid, and by mile 2 I was already wheezing. Our weather in Tennessee hasn't allowed for heat acclimation yet. By the time I hit the actual trail portion, however, I reminded myself this was a "for fun" event, so I slowed down and enjoyed the trails.

Each runner tackles the same 3 trails, but in different order. Red, or the longest, most technical trail, was my first of the event. The picture above shows the mats for transition. The runner on the green trail always hands off to her teammate running the yellow trail. The yellow always hands off to the red, and the red always hands off to green. By that evening, the mats were so muddy the color was indistinguishable. But more on that later.

While most of the red trail reminded me of those here in the Smokies, it also had a super-cool granite feature. Jay and I had encountered similar in Acadia National Park (in Maine), but I had never ran over it. Turns out it was my favorite part of this favorite leg.

I ended this leg feeling like a bad ass. I'm not sure if it was the endorphins or what, but I cruised into the finish line, handed off to Gretchen, and headed back to our base camp beaming.

My decision to change into fresh clothes before heading to the mess hall tent for dinner turned out to be one I regretted.

But more on that tomorrow. (To Be Continued.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

From Training to Living

For the past year, I've lived in a perpetual state of training. The beginning of 2014 found me in week 5 of marathon training. Following that round with 26.2, I began 10K training, immediately followed by 8K training. Then it was time to training for my fall half marathon, and that training bled into my training for this year's marathon.

I had planned to go straight into 5K training, in prep for a late May race. Mostly, I just think I want a break. Maybe its the post-marathon fatigue talking, but I have no desire to stick with a straight plan. I didn't do speed work in the later part of my plan, so I'm not sure what my hesitancy is.

Of course it could just be too soon to think about training. I'm less than 3 weeks recovered from my big race. Add to that the beginnings of what promises to be a big allergy seasons, and I wonder if I'm asking too much for myself. Perhaps I should just allow my body to be active, rather than in perpetual training.

What does that even look like?

My race schedule typically averages over 1 a month. How would my body react to a month without racing?

2013 - 14
2014 - 18

At the moment, I've completed 3 races in 2015. This coming weekend I'm participating in the Ragnar Trail series in Atlanta, but I wouldn't count that as a race. Its certainly not something for which I've trained.

Dare I clear the race calendar and just keep moving? Yesterday I participated in the Total Body weights class at my gym for the first time since January. I enjoyed the change of pace the circuit routine had to offer, not to mention the muscle soreness that hurts-so-good this morning.

I think I'm more addicted to the thought of a plan than I am to actually racing. I don't really trust myself to stay moving on my own. I'm a lazy person by nature, and I've been fighting lethargy since before the marathon. Depression? Exhaustion? Should I fight it? Or give in and let my body have some rest? 

Listen to your body.

If you were to ask for advice, I would tell you to listen to what your body is trying to say. You've just come off a your 4th marathon - a personal best time yet again. What's wrong with a bit of rest and relaxation? I guess it comes down to not being able to trust myself. The longer I stay inactive, the harder it will be to get back started.

Come back to me in a month. If I'm not back at it, you have my permission to kick my tail. But for now I think I'll go easy on myself. Dress for a run, but walk if I want to. Go to weights class, but don't talk down to myself if I do modified push ups instead of full. Take a hike (with my husband) instead of a weekend long run. 

What does your post-race plan look like? Do you always need to be in training to stay active? Or do you workout for the sheer pleasure of it?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Awe of Easter

The life of Jesus has been recounted in my reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John these past 30 something days. A Facebook friend invited me to participate in a Lent Challenge of reading the Gospels leading up to Easter. I'm only a couple chapters away from being finished, and these Easter thoughts from several years ago are still appropriate.

*You watched the video, right? Cause this paragraph won't make sense otherwise.* See the one with the scraggly beard and the knife? See where Jesus has to clean up the mess and reattach that dude's ear from where one of His crazy followers cut it off? Yeah that's me. (The chopper not the chopee)

In my head I know the way things should go. I have everything in neat orderly columns and expect them to stay there. When things don't go the way I think they ought, I lash out. Maybe violently, throwing something across the room or hitting something (never someone I promise!). Sometimes its just with words, saying hurtful nasty things that no one deserves to hear.

Then after that initial surge of adrenaline, I run. I try to distance myself, pretend it doesn't exist. Pretend my Savior isn't getting beaten before my eyes.

After that comes the sorrow. The total and utter humiliation for what I've just done. I'm exhausted - for nothing. Things are the exact same as they would have been had I not ever flown off the handle.

Peter (Jesus ministry Peter, not the post-ascension Peter) is so me, that when I first watch Passion of the Christ I sobbed uncontrollably. Not at the beatings, at the nail being driven in, or the bloody mess that the sin of the world turned Jesus into.

I cried like a baby that moment (in the video up top) where Peter denies Jesus 3 times. After the 3rd time, Jesus looks at Peter - and Peter doesn't know what to do with himself. He's overcome with grief. (Minute 3:09-3:24 of the video)

And so was I.

Jesus loves me this I know. For the song has repeatedly told me so. But comprehension? That's a whole different story. This particular scene in the movie took all the trite things I'd been taught all my life and made them real to me.

Sure, I knew intellectually about how amazing His grace is. Pausing to actually consider it took me to a whole different level of worship and awe.

On this resurrection Sunday, my prayer for you is that each day you awake to His love, and share it with those He has put in your path.

22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3:22-23 HCSB

Thursday, April 2, 2015

FTL of Books

Since being chosen to be a part of the For the Love by Jen Hatmaker launch team, I've started incorporating the phrase into everyday conversation. Hence forward FTL = For the Love.

I love books.
I love the library.
I love characters and stories and new places.

I have a short attention span.
I have a 25 minute commute.

I have grown immune to music as anything more than ambient noise.

Enter my friend Kristi. 
She discovered the voodoo magic that is electronic library lending, and was gracious enough to share such wisdom with me. Thanks to her generosity, I'm a 18 books ahead of schedule for my reading goal.  

Is counting audio books cheating? I'm leaning toward yes, but they sure help pad my stats. And after last year's dismal reading performance, I want all the help I can get!! 
A tutorial vlog about how to sign up and use this service would be super-cool-awesome, but given the restrictions of residing in this county, I doubt it would be helpful for my readers. Of course if you are a lurker who knows me in real life, I'd be more than happy to talk you through it.

What I'm Reading Now

I received my paperback copy of For the Love, so I'm rereading it. This round, I'm taking a chapter a day during my morning Bible study to think on the chapter.

A friend recommended Dean Koontz's novel Lightning to me, so I requested it as an ebook. As with a regular library, there are only so many copies (or licenses in this case) to lend out. I had to wait a bit, but the book became available a couple days ago. If this is any indication of other work by Koontz, he has a new fan!

Currently Listening

I decided to take a break from the Brennan Manning kick I've been on lately and am currently listening to Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. Like her work on the TV show The Office, this is a funny, fluffy book. Perfect for my drive to work, or listening to on my solo lunchtime runs (now that my training buddy is on injured reserve).

Recently Finished Titles

As evidence by the picture, Artemis Fowl is my new guilt pleasure read. While I'm slogging through book 5 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I flew through the first 2 books in the Artie series.

 Help a girl out! Who is your favorite author? Anything that you've recently found so compelling you couldn't put it down? Or annoyed the snot outta your friends on social media thanks to your numerous quotes?