A few of my least favorite things.

A few weeks ago, I posted some of my favorite things.  I’m a person who likes to see the bright side, and I have long held the belief that ranting and raving about things is not a productive enterprise.   You know, if you can’t say anything good,  yada, yada, yada.

But, sometimes… Well, sometimes, a gal just needs to rant. Maybe it builds character. Or not. In any case, as I’m feeling a little punchy from not running for too many days in a row,  I thought today would be a good day to give my least favorite things some equal time.

So, with no further ado, here are some of my least favorite things (random and in no particular order):

– Cold weather. Not. A. Fan. Give me triple digit temps with crushing humidity any day of the week. That’s why God dropped me into the South. I really think he was aiming for Kona, Hawaii, and something was lost in transit. Maybe His aim was off that day.

I need spring.  Soon.

snow in ms

– Traffic, lines, and crowds. Age has made me much less sanguine about lots of bodies in one place who don’t respect personal space.

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– People who don’t purchase official race photos, but still use them on their blogs/social media. Truly one of the things that makes me nuts. When the photo on your blog has the word PROOF labeled across it, you’ve branded yourself a thief for all the world to see. You wouldn’t walk into a grocery store and slip a steak into your pants, then walk out without paying, would you? Same thing. Although I think you should support the small business that is trying to make a living by photographing your race, if you can’t afford to buy your (usually reasonably priced) race photos, have a friend come to the race and take pictures with your iPhone.

I could go on and on about this one, it really hits close to home.

– The comments I read online on news stories and social media threads. Truly, I weep for humanity. Keyboard courage has made idiots of us all. Step away from your computer. Seriously. There are some things you can just let ride.

– Social media shares by people who don’t realize they’re a hoax. I don’t know, though. This one sometimes makes me laugh. But, due diligence, people. Do your research. And, if it’s an article from “The Onion”, chances are it’s tongue in cheek.

– And, while I’m ranting about social media… inappropriate oversharing and poor grammar and spelling on social media.  This includes status updates that make us cringe; racy photos in your underwear (or bikini, or barely there dress); and the misuse of “your and you’re”, “their, there, and they’re”, and “to, too, and two”.  Proofread, people.  It only takes a moment. And, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother (or preacher, or Sunday school teacher, or whoever you greatly respect) to see your status/picture, don’t make me look at it.

– The fitness lost after only a few days off. It seems really unfair how fast fitness fades when you’re injured or just taking some time off. Bleh.

After reviewing this list, I’m kind of proud that it’s much shorter than my favorite things list.  I hope I always see more good than bad in the world.

And, I hope it’s warm enough for my long run tomorrow.  I’m sure my family does, too.  Not that I’m grouchy or anything.

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Don’t grow weary

2013 wasn’t a stellar year for me in running or in life.  Nothing major on either front, just small things that piled on top of each other and kept me from being my personal best.  I’ve taken a few weeks off since my last race, running sporadically and riding my bike some, and the time away has been good.  Now I’m ready to get back to business.

When I received an e-mail from You Version  about selecting one Bible verse to make my personal focus for 2014, I was intrigued.  It only took a moment for my verse to come to me.  Isaiah 40:31, the mantra I latched onto during my last race of 2013.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Of course, this verse speaks to me in the literal running sense, but as I thought about how to apply it to my life, I realized it was perfect for me as a focus for this year.  I, of course, have goals set for the year, some involve running, but many are life goals and I needed this reminder that my faith will give me strength to run my race and not grow weary.

This year I will run and not grow weary:

…as I learn to love people again.  This sounds odd, I know, but it’s very easy to become hermit like when you work from your home and spend much of your day alone.  I’ve grown complacent about reaching out to others and inviting them into my life, and I have some goals to remedy that.

…as I grow used to intentional stillness.  At any given point, you could walk into my home and find two televisions blaring with no one watching them.  Or, you might find me mindlessly checking Facebook or other social media – time better spent in quiet reflection.  That doesn’t mean I’ll give up social media or quit letting Big Bang Theory and NCIS reruns make background noise as I work, but it does mean there will be more time spent in stillness.  I often run without music because I love the quiet reflection and creative thoughts produced.  I’m excited to see how much more creative I’ll become as I let God fill the empty spaces in my mind rather than Leroy Jethro Gibbs or Sheldon Cooper.

…as I tidy up my life.  I mean this in a very literal sense.  The ridiculousness of my closet was brought home to me when I tried to cram another new skirt onto already overstuffed racks.  I’ve used the downtime I’ve had over the last month to begin the painstaking process of cleaning out, selling some on eBay, giving some things away, and trashing some things.  I’m not in a hurry, which is a good thing, as I think this will probably take all year.  I’m being  brutal about it.   I may (or may not 😉 ) have had a slight problem with shoe shopping over the years .  I’ve paired down my shoes to the ones that I actually wear (for the most part), and have given, thrown away, or sold the others on eBay.  I even sold a much beloved pair of Jimmy Choo’s!  My sweet little nephew happened to be here the day I was cleaning out my shoes and he helped me move all the ones I’m getting rid of to my guest room, which is the temporary host to all my junk.  He told me that I had more shoes than anybody he’s ever seen.  Sigh.  Out of the mouths of babes.  Anyway, check out  eBay occasionally, you may find some great deals.

…as I hone my craft(s).  It’s sometimes a little overwhelming to realize how little I actually know and how much there is left to learn.  I’m proof positive that you can teach an old dog new tricks, though, and I’m learning how to be a better writer and photographer with every day that passes.

…as I implement good nutritional habits in my life.  I’ve spent the last year or so discovering what works for my body and what doesn’t.  I’ve learned that dairy doesn’t really agree with me, and that I feel best when I use good common sense in my eating.  For me, this means keeping carbohydrate intake to a minimum, focusing on whole, nutritionally dense foods, eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners, restricting wine intake, and allowing myself occasional indulgences.  The only thing I really miss is cheese, so that’s what I indulge in when I splurge.  My holiday menu would have made you laugh.  Almost every dish included some type of cheese.  I even roasted a brie!

…as I explore newly discovered aspects of my personality.  One thing I learned in 2013 was that I love to cook.  Who knew?  I’m excited to discover other new things about myself.  I hope I never stop learning, exploring, and discovering.

…as I pick myself back up.  This year, just like all the others, holds no magic power to make me achieve all my goals, overcome every obstacle, and reign victorious through every pitfall.  I will fail at things.  On any given day, I will make poor food choices, not feel like running, have road rage, get mad at my family, say something I shouldn’t.  But, the power of faith, the sure knowledge that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord, the remembrances of all those other times I’ve tried and failed, then persevered, all work together to remind me that I can not only do this thing we call life, but do it with style, even if I have fewer toenails and more bumps and bruises.

I hope that you’ll focus on a verse for your life this year as well.  The new year is a great time to brush away any mental cobwebs that have accumulated and start fresh.  Happy 2014!

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Finding my stride

The only thing I hate more than running hills is running in the cold.  I really, really don’t do cold.  I’m a southern gal who believes that if we have to put up with triple digit heat and humidity that makes you feel like you’re drowning in a warm, wet blanket in the summer, we shouldn’t have to put up with freezing cold winters.  I know, most runners love running in the cold and rhapsodize about the beauty of running on a still, snowy morning.  For now, I’ll have to take their word for that.   I also know that what passes for cold in south Mississippi is a far cry from real cold.  Still, it’s cold to me.

The thing about running hills and running in the cold, though, is this.  They make you a better runner, strengthening you physically and mentally.  They build character in ways nothing else does, as I was reminded by a friend yesterday.  Making your body do something it doesn’t want to do in order to improve it requires a mental discipline that far exceeds anything I’ve ever encountered before.  That bleeds over into my life in ways that ease the burdens on my heart.

This morning dawned bright, clear, and beautiful, except that it was 31 degrees and windy.  And, my running schedule called for a six and a half miler.    I won’t pretend I didn’t complain, but I also didn’t try to beg off.  Gary and I are running together these days, training for a half marathon in just a couple of weeks (yikes!).  We’re finding our way back to endurance together, easing our mileage up slowly, running a slow, easy pace with no hill training and no speed work.  I’m not looking to set a record at this half, it’ll be a victory for me to cross the finish line of this one.  So, the hills and speed work can wait until my foundation has rebuilt.

The thing is, I’m a solitary runner.  I have always enjoyed running by myself, no one to keep up with or slow down for, no one talking when I want to just breathe, or am struggling to breathe.   So, when Gary committed to training with me, I was probably a little less enthusiastic than he would have liked.    Usually not a big talker, he has sometimes annoyed me in the past by wanting to chat while we were running.  (Those of you who know him know how funny that is.)  Anyway, after some tactful and not so tactful responses from me, he’s learned the only voices I listen to when I run are the voices in my head.  We’ve had many satisfying runs over the last few weeks, the quiet of the trail broken only by the slap of our feet and our synchronized breathing.  (He can’t hear the voices in my head.) Don’t tell him, but I’m really going to miss running with him beside me when he picks the pace up after our race.  Maybe I can make him slow down for the occasional workout with me. When it comes to running partners, I may have hit pay dirt.

This morning’s cold run was brilliant.  I felt strong and solid the entire way, the sun felt good when it poured through the trees,  and the wind wasn’t blowing too much down the trace.  We both needed this head clearing run.  I hope it cleared his head as much as it did mine.

Any experienced runner will tell you, never judge a run or race by the first mile.  It takes at least that far to set your pace, develop a breathing cadence, find your stride.  That’s always true for me, in running and in life.  The first mile hurts, just as bad news hurts when it’s first delivered.  But, running hills, running in the cold (or heat), making your body move when it really doesn’t want to, build your foundation so that you understand in that first mile that by the time you hit the second mile and all the following ones, you’ll be okay, one with the world, and able to move forward til the end.  Life is like that.  Getting up, dusting off, and moving forward when events knock you down makes the next set back a little easier to recover from.

So, if you need me on one of  these cold, blustery mornings, I’ll probably be running, .  Building my character by finding my stride.

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Define yourself

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I’m mostly a fan of social media. Like everything, it can be used for good or evil, so monitoring it and setting limits on myself factor highly in my accessibility. I hide those people whose posts are mostly negative, and I seek out those who motivate me.

One of the pages I look at daily offers motivational quotes for athletes, primarily runners. One recent post was by elite marathoner, Deena Kastor. She talked about how we grow as humans and athletes by training when it’s difficult, and she closed with a simple quote by her “seldom without words” coach as she headed out to run the Chicago marathon in 2005 (which she won). He simply told her, “Define yourself.”

Those words resonated with me at a time that I’m struggling. In training and in life, it’s been a dicey time for me. What’s strange about this time is that my struggles are ALL mental. There’s nothing wrong physically and my life is much the same as it always is, but still, I’m struggling. So, I took those words to heart. Who exactly am I? Where do I see the next phase of my life taking me? Deep thoughts for a nice fall afternoon.

I don’t think we ever truly know how others view us, but, unfortunately, I think we all too often decide who we are based on our perceptions of others’ opinions. So, as I define myself, I don’t want to consider who others think I am.  The only opinions that factor are mine and God’s.

Who am I?


I am a woman defined by faith.
My relationship with God trumps all the others, but not in a “so, there” kind of way. My faith defines me, it makes me look at others with compassion, understand the true meaning of love, and reach out to those who aren’t like me. I’ll always be a work in progress, but I’m humbled by the fact that God loves me, warts and all.

I am a wife. I’m so unbelievably thankful that God knew what I didn’t all those years ago when He brought me my man.  I was a really dumb kid, and God came through.  Love. That. Man.

I am a mother. My girls mean the world to me. They are strong, independent women that I take great pride in, even if I had very little to do with who they have become.

I am a runner. Running is so much a part of me that when I’m not able to train, or when my training isn’t going well (like now), my whole world seems slightly skewed, a little off color, not quite balanced.

I am an artist. Whether through the camera lens, or through my writing, art is a huge part of my definition. I’m not proclaiming greatness, photography and writing are simply the ways that I express myself. I make no apologies for my art, it may or may not be your cup of tea. What others think doesn’t matter in my definition of me, my thoughts and creative processes are my own: hop aboard and ride along, or simply turn it off, that choice is yours.

I am a woman who:

loves deeply; is a loyal friend; tells the truth easily; lies badly; likes wine a little more than I ought to; runs very, very slowly; is strong in a crises, but breaks down afterward; loves the outdoors and marvels at the creation of an all knowing God; argues passionately about those things that matter and tries not to argue about those things that don’t; loves her extended family as though she gave birth to them; sometimes worries too much about split times; cries too easily, especially during cheesy movies; sometimes wants to quit, but finds deep reserves to keep on keeping on; loves to laugh; appreciates beauty in multiple forms; often sees beauty where others don’t; sometimes shuts out the world with a good book (or reruns of Big Bang – hey, I never claimed to be perfect); falls a lot, but has learned to pick herself up and keep moving forward; often doubts her own abilities, but is learning to lean on God during those times; stands at attention, hand over heart when the National Anthem is sung, and sheds tears easily when “God Bless America” is performed at a ball game; believes in miracles and the power of prayer; understands the role doubt plays in faith; hates confrontation, but stands up for what she believes; will pray for you when you are hurting, and will listen when you need a friend; hates “selfies” and what they say about the self involvement of the next generation, but enjoys looking at images that spread joy; looks at our next generation with wonder, awe, and concern as I see the world we’re handing down to them; encourages those who need a boost, but seldom willing to let others boost her (a HUGE failing on my part); knows her failings much better than she knows her strengths.

As I seek to define myself, I know that my gaze has to be heavenward. Sometimes that’s hard for me, I have a stubborn propensity to want to do it all on my own. How goofy, yet how human. My prayer for the upcoming year (I had a birthday last week & haven’t set my yearly goals yet) is that I will turn to God more frequently in prayer, I will listen more quietly and with less petition, I will heed His word and His will for my life.

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In running, in life, in all that I do, I pray that I will reflect God’s definition of me.

I am who I am

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If you’ve ever been to an Atlanta Braves game, you know that one of the highlights of the game is the “Tool Race.”  I wish they would dial back the commercialism some, but it is fun in a silly way and a nice break from the tension of the game.  Home Depot is one of the sponsors, so each of the “runners” is a tool (with appropriate logos emblazoned strategically):  “Two Bit” (the drill),   the hammer, the paint brush, and the paint bucket.  The bucket has replaced the saw this year, I think, because I don’t remember seeing him before.  And, I would have noticed, because, as it turns out, he runs a lot like me.  Slow and unwieldy instead of sleek and fast: he pounds along.  He used his cunning in one of the races the other night, and either pushed down or tripped all his opponents to win that race.  Of course, that came back to bite him the next game, when hammer and Two Bit clotheslined him and he fell.   Maybe I would win more races if I knocked all the old broads out of the way and steamrollered through.  Hmmm….I’m not crazy about the karma thing, though, so I guess I’ll keep plugging along and concern myself with keeping my own body upright.

I’m training for a half marathon at the end of November and just entered week 3.  This morning’s run called for an easy six miler, and I accomplished it with the appropriate amount of energy, ending with a nice feeling of accomplishment, and without leg pain, so it’s a win.  It was slow. Excrutiatingly slow, actually.  But, all my runs are, it seems.   I sometimes let that eat away at my self esteem, feel less like a runner, or compare myself unfavorably to other runners, which further erodes my confidence.

As I ran this morning, I plodded along.  Slow and steady, trying to put miles on my legs while staying injury free.  About mile four, a young woman ran by me,  passing me like I was standing still.  The inevitable comparisons started in my head, and I tried to quiet them by concentrating on the podcast I was listening to.  Believe it or not, it was about that very thing.   Comparisons.  Andy Stanley’s messages offer Biblical solutions for real world problems in a way that exemplifies exactly what Jesus taught us to do.  This podcast was from his  “Your Move” with Andy Stanley section, which takes sermon series he’s done in the past and replays them.  It was entitled, “The Comparison Trap – The Land of Er.”

I loved it because it encapsulated exactly what I was feeling.  I want to be fastER, strongER, thinnER, fittER than I am.  All those things, in themselves, are okay.  It’s when I allow the inevitable comparisons with other runners to eat away at my motivation and make me feel less than I actually am that the trouble starts.   The young woman who blew past me this morning was at least 25 years younger than me.  I look at other runner’s times, and think “I’ll never be able to run that fast, why am I even trying?”  My head tells me to stop that, and lists reasons why someone may be faster than me (age, sex, genetics all play important roles), but my heart is heavy with the “Er” factor.  And, your head can say all it wants, until your heart understands, it’s tough to reconcile.

So, I’m working on eliminating the “er” from my life.  I will always want to be faster, stronger, thinner, and fitter, but the only comparison I’m going to make is to who I was yesterday, not who the runner in the corral next to me is.  I am who I am, God’s perfect creation, struggling to be who He wants me to be, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  But, it’s my journey, no one else’s.

Don’t think that means I simply shrug my shoulders and accept that I’ll always be slow.  Quite the contrary.  But I don’t have to be the best or the fastest runner, I just have to be better than I was yesterday.  And, just when I think about quitting or giving up on one day being marginally faster than I am, Diana Nyad gives her 28 year old self the finger and swims from Cuba to Key West with no shark cage at age 64.  Geez.  Talk about an “Er” moment.  She gives me hope and is a reminder to never give up on yourself or your dreams.

4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
5 “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.” 6 And yet,“Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”

Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 (NLT)

I’m running with one hand outstretched, asking God to fill it with ability, contentment, strength, and peace.

Lessons I’ve learned on my feet

1008971_594861103867484_1948854523_oAs a runner, I’ve learned as much about how to live life from training and racing as I’ve learned about running.

Some things were no brainers. Like, “don’t put sunscreen on your forehead,” or, “tape the toes whose nails you want to keep whenever you run long,” and “don’t leave your used running clothes in the laundry basket with your other dirty clothes overnight.” Yeah, real “duh” kinds of moments, but I’ve never claimed to be quick on my feet.

Other lessons took longer to sink in, but when they did, I knew they offered insight into how to live my life, not just on how to run for life.  Some carry deep, insightful lessons, others offer simple common sense.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along my journey so far:

Toenails will grow back, but they’re never really the same.

I learned: We will heal after heartache, whether it’s death, illness, broken relationships, or financial woes.  But, it will, and should, change us forever.

Wear sunscreen on any exposed skin below your eyes when you run unless you want to look 70 when you’re 30.

I learned: Take care of the body you have, you’re not getting another one this side of heaven.

Perseverance and discipline trump talent. 

I learned: You may not come in first, but you’ll always finish if you stick it out through the hard times.  And, sometimes finishing is the bigger victory.

A hard run cleanses and heals, ridding your body of toxins and clearing your mind. 

I learned: Hurt, heal, and move forward. Healing almost always means feeling the pain that comes with the hurt before it will begin to get better.

 Winning doesn’t always mean coming in first. 

I learned: Sometimes, the victory is just getting to the starting line, in running, and in life.  If you only feel victorious when you succeed, you’re never going to learn or grow.

Embrace discomfort.  Breakthroughs come in training when you learn to push through the pain and tough it out.

I learned:  We grow the most, learn the most, and mature the most during times of hardship.  We learn to call on our faith, depend on our reserves, and endure the tough times of life.  Most valleys are surrounded by mountains, or, at least, hills.  It’s just a matter of pushing forward to the other side.

You can’t control the conditions on race day.  A normally mild race may have a heat wave, or a snow storm.  Be prepared to alter your race plan accordingly.

I learned:  You can’t control life.  Sometimes, it really throws you a curve ball.  Be flexible and learn to make the best of bad situations.

 Injuries are inevitable, but just because you’re down, it doesn’t mean you’re out. 

I learned:  Life may not turn out exactly as you planned, but staying focused on finding the right path and being open to change will lead you to the best life you can live.

When you’re injured, take time to heal.

I learned:  After any major life event, slow down and take the time to lick your wounds before trying to move into the next phase of your life. We mere mortals want to get back to “normal” as quickly as possible following a life trauma.  Sometimes, we need to just be still, listen for God’s voice, and let Him heal us with the balm of time.

Don’t try to go too far or too fast too soon. 

I learned: In life especially, slow and steady really does win the race.

Know when to push it and when to reign it in.

I learned:  There are moments in life that we have to seize quickly lest they slip away, and there are times when we have to sit back and let them come to us.

And, one last, but VERY important lesson:

Always carry toilet paper.  :/

You know, because stuff happens.   🙂

What are some of the lessons running has taught you?

Doubt

It feels like every post I’ve done over the last few weeks has been about motivation or inspiration. Can you tell I’m struggling this summer? Not so much with the heat, but with the whimsy of a 51 year old body that has threatened revolt every time I’ve revved my training back up. First, with a back injury, followed by several weeks of intensive chiropractic/stretching/no running. I began to ease back into my mileage, adding more cycling days, and had a really great week a couple of weeks ago.

Gary always tends to the tires on our bikes before we ride, and I think, before that ride, he put wings on my tires. I hit speeds of 23 mph, with an average speed of 18-19 mph. For me, that’s flying. I almost handed him his helmet on that ride, but being a man, he couldn’t stand to see me win, so he kicked it up a notch and passed me in the last 5 yards. Whatever. At least I made him work for it.  Anyway, loved that ride, and began to think that I might actually be coordinated brave enough to try clipping in on my bike on the next ride. Ran well that weekend and looked forward to the week ahead.

Which brings us to last week. We got up on Monday morning to ride, (as we were headed out of town later that week to see the Braves play), and I could not get it together. Gary flew off, and I pedaled through quicksand for 13 tortuous miles. I had gotten too much sun that weekend at a fun girl’s day at my sister’s pool, so I blamed it on that. However, later that day, the unmistakeable sign of a urinary tract infection began rearing its ugly head. By Tuesday morning, it was full fledged. A day of torture, including an extended doctor’s visit, then, finally, blissful medication ensued. I’ve had at least one UTI per year for the last 30+ years, but this one hit me pretty hard. I enjoyed our trip to Atlanta, but really didn’t feel up to par. Is this what it means to be over 50? Getting older is not for the faint of heart, is it? Sigh.

Needless to say, there was no running or cycling last week. I finally felt better by Sunday and set my alarm for an early run. I’ve slapped the snooze button, then the OFF button,  for three days straight, and still haven’t made it out the door. Gary and I have plans to get up tomorrow for an early ride, no excuses. We’ve both got to get moving again.

I don’t mind admitting to you that last week brought with it the first doubt I’ve felt in a long, long time. Am I too old to try to add mileage and be faster? Have I had my day in the sun? I haven’t even broken a 9:30 mile yet.  Am I ever going to at this point? It seems like every time my heart and head point me towards a goal, my body says, “Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Okay, if you have been following my blog for any length of time, or if you know me, you know that “can’t” isn’t in my wheelhouse. I used a great quote in a recent post, “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it’s an element of it.”

Without doubt, how would we know what faith looks or feels like? If I depend on my strength to get through this tough time, I’m doomed to failure. But, I know the Man. I know the One who can. The One who gives me strength to accomplish all He has set out for me to do. So, I’m leaning on Him. I’m remembering His promises. I’m claiming them for my own. Today and everyday.
BelieveSheCould

Let’s Do This.

23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Mark 11:23

I would love whatever encouraging voices you can lift.  We’re all in this together, and I need your encouragement now, more than ever.