March 3 | Seeds

Seeds

In my Bible I used to have several mustard seeds folded into a little piece of wax paper, as a reminder of the verse where Jesus talks about how our faith can beย as tiny as a mustard seed.

It was a good reminder after awhile when I opened my Bible, but I ended up being annoyed with it and throwing it away. I was always confused by the ‘mustard seed’ thing. Maybe it was a cultural thing back then to refer to a mustard seed, but I’d surely seen smaller seeds.

I also am horrible at tending to anything plant-like. I’ve killed a cactus, I’ve killed perfectly good (and supposedly hardy) petunias and begonias. I’ve tried to grow things from seeds and then plant them. I failed at it all. It was hard for me to imagine a tiny seed actually growing into something that would produce tomatoes, or peppers, or flowers. It seemed preposterous, really.

So I gave up and blamed it on the desert. I had better things to do with my time than get up super early to water everything, and weed everything at other times. Eventually my pots with dirt sat out in the sun, rain, wind, whatever. And we left them all at the house in El Paso when we moved.

Here in Maryland we have a deck, and I’ve talked to my husband about getting a few pots to plant things. He laughs because he knows my track record. I say, ‘No, it’ll be different this time. I think things could live here, you know?’

Maybe.

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Day 4 | Empty

Empty

The word ’empty’ usually has a negative connotation. For me, it doesn’t. The picture above reminds me of a abandoned storehouse of some sort close to my hometown. It’s out in the fields, all by itself, and it serves as a landmark on the local interstate. I always thought it was pretty in a shabby chic kind of way, like it hearkened back to a different time.

When Jesus was resurrected from His earthly tomb, the fact that it was now empty was cause for celebration. It had been abandoned because He now lives. Empty = positive connotation.

Part of my spiritual journey has taken place in my numerous pairs of running shoes in varying states of wear. Today I did my long run on the treadmill because it’s just too cold to do it outside. But I felt the same sense of emptiness after my run. Running, for me, is cathartic and empties me of not just sweat, but also bad attitudes, anxiety, and fear. It leaves me empty and ready to face the rest of the day.

When I was training for a half marathon a couple years ago, the running group I was part of met on Sunday mornings for the long runs. I would get up super early, drive to meet up with them in the dark. We would run and usually as we crested the top of the first big hill, we saw the sun rise in all its Southwestern glory. After the run, I’d shower and then go to church.

During that time as well, my husband was deployed, 7,000 miles away. I needed God tremendously during that time, and going to church after I’d spent my physical and mental energy running around mountains gave me an opportunity to really receive everything each Sunday morning. I came to church empty of my own wants, desires, and attitudes. I was vulnerable.

So, that abandoned building near the interstate is overgrown now with animals and foliage, I’m sure, but it’s empty of itself. It’s served a purpose and is now a vessel ready to be used or changed into something new.

Readings for today:

Running for an experience

Training for a fall half marathon officially started at the beginning of July. Through the rest of my summer job, my parents’ visit, and our trip to Arkansas, I’d say I’ve done a good job staying on track with training.

I have to continually catch myself when I compare this round of training to that of two years ago when I was training for the Transmountain Challenge Half. Circumstances “back then” (2013 is really back then?!) were quite different: my husband was deployed so I had nothing but time, I was 20 pounds lighter (thanks post-deployment comfort food and laziness), and I had already been building a base and consistently running before I started training.

This time around, my main goal is to finish the 13.1 [flat!] miles with a respectable time. My paces recently have been slow but consistent, and I have negative splits more often than not. I’ve missed cross-training, unless you count walking a mile with my dog every other day. I’ve also missed a couple speed workouts. One of those I skipped in order to run/hike in the Hot Spring National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and it was well worth it.

Another change for this season of training is that I rarely take music. This really surprises me, because running can be a huge mental challenge and music tends to soften the blow a bit. But yesterday, I opted to go to a local park with a mile-long paved trail to do my 800’s, and all I took was my car key and my trusty four-year-old Garmin. Otherwise, I have to put my phone in the sleeve and hook up my earbuds… to be honest, I’ve just been kind of lazy about keeping track of all that gear.

The major advent for me with no music was several weeks ago on a Tuesday night. I was tired from eight hours of teaching writing, but somehow at 8:30pm I got a wild desire to go out and do my four miles I’d neglected earlier in the day. The last light of the day was sinking over the mountains, but I decided to literally make a run for it.

I ran through my neighborhood and took a familiar route, but at night and with no music it seemed completely different. Normally I run early in the morning, oftentimes before the sun’s rays graze the tops of the Hueco Mountains in the distance. This time, people were out and about, and I observed an informal soccer game in the park lit bright with stadium lights. The temperature had dropped significantly due to storms rolling in, so I breathed in the fresh air (in the Southwest summer, this means 75*) and watched the twilight fade in the west and distant lightning dance in the east.

It was so simple: a run with only my Polar watch (no distance needed since I knew the route) and no music. I returned home tired and happy, ready to tackle another day after a good night’s sleep.

Since that run, I’ve been running to have an experience, whether with the sunrise, the sunset, a storm brewing, the scent of juniper and mesquite. I’ve accepted my new-ish curvier body, and alsoย that it can do what I ask it to do, and that I can’t compare my achievements now with those of two years ago.

Running takes us through change. If you let it, it will graciously hold your hand and forge a path through literal and figurative curved tunnels, concrete arroyos, soft dirt trails, and rugged mountains. I’ll take its hand and run.

Recent events

This post is a mash-up of all the random happenings around ourย household over the past week. It certainly feels like much longer that my husband’s been home.. we’ve settled into a routine quickly. But as our life always is, our routines change.

Weeks 3 and 4 of 50K training were not so stellar. I did less than the recommended amount of mid-week runs, and week 3 did not have a long run. I was out with a sinus/chest infection of some sort. Yesterday after debating all weekend when to do the long run, we went out for 16 and ended up with 12.7. My legs from my ankles to my hips were on fire; the pain was comparable to the end of the Illinois Marathon.

I was disappointed… from here on out the long runs get longer and after bonking at the EP Half and now this run yesterday, I just don’t think the 50K is going to happen for me. Mentally I feel pretty good, but my body screams no whenever I go longer than 10. My right knee was hurting yesterday too, which is something I haven’t felt in about a year, even with the high-mileage months I had last fall (80, 90, 100).ย I really don’t want to give up on it yet, but if I can’t pound out the 16, 18 and 20-milers soon it ain’t happening. The Jemez Mtn Trail Runs have a 13.1 option so I will shoot for that. I’m obviously trying to force my body and mind into something that isn’t jiving.

On Saturday after arriving to Ruidoso for our first full weekend together after 10 (!!!!!) months, we tried the long run on some trails. I got about a mile into it before I started to hate it. I love nature, I love hiking… but the whole thing was just pissing me off. I hate having to look at my feet so much, having to stop to walk around boulders, etc. It was also cold as heck and sleeting.. or something. So we hiked back to the car and put off the long run.

I thought I’d just love trail running.. but that seems that that’s not the case, at least not right now. I have a lot of fears about trail running that I need to either accept or get over before I can tackle a race like the 50K, and those fears weren’t helped after I got lost on a 9-mile trail race in November. I need to transition slowly into trail running for my body but also for my mind’s sake. Maybe I’ll shoot for 31 miles before I turn 31. ๐Ÿ˜‰ That gives me three years.

It’s been a busy (and expensive!) week with my husband back. We junked his car since the engine was shot (1996 Honda with 225000+ miles), both got new phones as he needed an upgrade and I completely shattered my iPhone… soon we’ll buy another car. We had a great weekend in the mountains just relaxing and talking. Something I’ve always loved about us is that there’s never a lull in conversation, or lack of impressive vocabulary words, something this aspiring linguist can appreciate.

March will be busy with Aaron’s trip to Illinois to visit family and my trip to Portland to present at the TESOL conference. I also need to get the bulk of my thesis written. The analysis is done, so the writing won’t be too terrible.. just time-consuming. But I’m saving that for another day, not during spring break. Here soon we’ll be propelled into the never-ending summer in the desert. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you.

I wanted to post this on Facebook, but it got too long… so here it is. My emotions are running high this week (and today I’m hopped up on Sudafed, because of course I would get sick this week), but you can be assured that I mean every word.

As this deployment comes to a close, I want to thank everyone immensely for all your support and prayers throughout this time. While I’ve stayed busy and managed to hold down the fort (sometimes it felt like just barely), I could not have done it without your support.

A special thanks goes out to my adopted El Paso family who have taken me in as their own for holidays and just because, laughed with me, cried with me, run with me, served youth with me, enjoyed a coffee, lunch, or sushi date, prayed with me, gone camping in Ruidoso, taken me to or picked me up from the airport, come for me when I got lost in the New Mexican desert on a trail run, inculcated me into Mexican culture (always a dream for this former Spanish teacher), and taught this hueraย some border slang. ๐Ÿ˜‰

When we moved here three years ago, it was the first time I’d moved more than 15 miles away from both our families. I knew that we’d find a church and make friends, but I never could have imagined the amazing relationships that would be grown as brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have gone (even more) crazy without my church family. And that’s why I encourage anyone who moves away to find a church right away. If anything, it’s just a great place to find great people who will surround you with optimism and encouragement.

Thank you also to my sister Leah (and nephew Benjamin!), my friend Jackie, my Aunt Brenda, and my cousin Anita who spent time and money to visit while Aaron was gone.. I enjoyed counting down to your arrival, and the airport became one of my favorite places in El Paso. Those times are unforgettable. The best part? I got each of you all to myself. ๐Ÿ˜‰

This separation has been rough, but adversity can build character if you let it. From my perspective, it’s been the most difficult of all the separations, and I pray to God it’s the last, at least for awhile.ย I’ve learned to take things to Him in prayer right away. I’ve learned to dive into His Word and intercede for my friends and family. As amazing as friends are, no one can be everything to you all the time.ย I’ve learned to put my trust in God, the only one who can really comfort us.

I just could not imagine this journey without you all, especially those in El Paso, suffering together in the desert :p. No matter what the future holds, my life has been forever changed by your obedience to “love each other deeply” as the Lord commands.

El Paso Half & Week 2 of 50K Training

Subtitle: The last race I will run alone for awhile on the last weekend I’ll be alone for awhile.

Let me just start by saying I am beat. I just woke up from a nap where I napped really hard.. and man, I’m sore and thirsty andย still hungry.. and I didn’t even run the full.

Today’s race originally started out for me as the marathon. Then I dropped down to the half after it was clear that I was not in the mindset for training for the full. I was even thinking about not going today.. but glad I did.

Going to races alone is weird. I know plenty of people who did the race, even the half, but I still ended up just going there on my own and getting it done. I’ve been to enough races (alone and with people) that I’m kind of desensitized to the whole experience. A couple years ago I never would have gotten in line to use the portajohn 10 minutes before the start. Today I did. A couple years ago I never would have not taken pictures along the route. Today I didn’t. People, I was busy running. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway. About the half. The weather was pretty nice for this time of year.. it wasn’t too cold and it wasn’t windy for most of the run. I still prefer to start in the dark because by the time I turned the corner towards the end the sun was like, RIGHT THERE. And even in February that sun’ll getcha.

I started out slow, around 11:00 pace. I was not planning on PR’ing because I had just run 8 miles on Friday and did not recover like I should have for a race. I ate well last night, but I sure didn’t drink enough water or foam roll like I normally would. However, a competitive (masochistic?) spirit rose up in me around mile 4 because I felt great. I pushed it right along through the hills and mile 9. Every time I saw a hill, I smiled to myself. I know what those are. I know what form I need to get to the top without exhausting myself. I got it done. Then mile 9 hit and I just lost steam. Mile 12 was my slowest at 12:05. The bottoms of my feet hurt, which I attribute to tying my shoes too tight. My whole body was just sore and stiff, my upper body and hips especially. I fought some big side stitches. (I have to figure out fueling during the run!)

I knew at that point that I wasn’t going to PR (I would have had to beat 2:19:17, set at the Ft. Bliss Half in 2012, a race I also wasn’t prepared for) so I let myself just sink into slowing down and riding it out until the end. I crossed the line at 2:22:51, only three minutes slower than Transmountain in October. Still a respectable time.

A problem with me going to races alone is that I get disoriented easily. I know El Paso’s downtown well enough to not wander into Mexico, but I couldn’t remember where the parking garage was. And when I got there, I wandered around looking for my car. It’s old enough that there’s no key fob to help me find its little chirp, so I have to rely on my memory. Hard thing, that is. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am so blonde sometimes it scares me.

Overall I’m happy with my performance. I pushed too hard in the middle for a race I wasn’t prepared for. But I knew I wasn’t prepared for it. I’m happy that I got my Sunday long run in, and with 2,000 of my closest friends to boot. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, 50K training for the week looks like this:

Total miles: 29, not shabby!

Monday: 4 miles

Wednesday:ย 4 miles

Friday:ย 8 miles that felt AWESOME. Man it was a fantastic run. I got up feeling sick and tired and achy but it turned out to be the best run in awhile.

Sunday: 13 miles

I skipped the hill run.. still not ready to add the 5th run in there. This training is only two weeks along and I was doubting. Doubting myself and how in the world I’m going to be able to run 31 miles on trails in the mountains and not get lost, much less run at a decent pace. It’s a trippy feeling for sure, but I remember feeling the same way while training for the marathon in 2011.

You have to trust the training and even when you don’t want to run, do it anyway. I am here to say that you’ll never regret a run. Ever. I realized that the only thing (barring injury) stopping me from becoming an ultrarunner is myself.

Jemez Mtn 50K Training: Week 1

Welcome to my chronicles of 50K training, the craziest and longest race I will run so far. I wrote weekly updates when I ran the Illinois Marathon in 2011 (three years already?!) and it gave me something to look back at and see how I was progressing more than just looking at my Nike+ app.

This week was hard. I took about two weeks off of scheduled, ordered running. I gave blood at the beginning of January, and I knew that it would take me weeks to feel good running again. I won’t give again until this race is over. I’ve kept up my fitness for the most part, and so I can still run 10+ miles without any major issues.

The training schedule, which is mostly time-based, calls for 5 runs during the week:

-45-60 min easy run

-hill run (either just time on a hilly route or hill repeats)

-1:15-1:30 easy run

-long run

-60:00 easy run the day after the long run.

Whew. That’s a lot. I’m still trying to figure out when to do all my runs. I really enjoy doing a long run on Sunday before church. I got in the habit while training for Transmountain.The streets are quieter, and I have to get up on Sunday anyway so I might as well do that and then sleep in on Saturday.ย I’m also trying to think about what it’ll be like when I get to train with my husband (yay!!!). Some of the super long runs we’ll have to do on Saturday, unless we start a 26-miler super super early on Sunday.

Okay, so this week I ran a total of 25 milesย out of a total 40 miles for February.

Monday 4 miles with Elizabeth. We kept a pretty good pace. It felt great. I went to gym and had “leg day,” which for me right now is some squats and lunges. I’m still getting used to the weight room, and I didn’t go heavy at all. I’m still using dumbbells. Not sure how heavy I’ll be able to go so that I can still run all these miles.

TuesdayRest. I take my rest days seriously.

Wednesday 4 miles in the canyon. I got my weeks mixed up, so I ended up doing hill repeats. It called for 3x600m hill repeats, which means you find a hill approximately .37 miles long, run up it at a fast pace (yeah right!) and then jog or walk down. Um, if I work my butt off to run up a hill, I sure ain’t walkin’ down it. My hill ended up being .25 mi and it was HARD. By the second and third time, I was just focused on getting up the hill without stopping and with good form, bringing back memories from running over Transmountain. These hills were sandwiched in between a 1.25 mi warm up and cool down.

Thursday – Rest. I probably could have done some yoga or something, but meh. I was still kind of sore from weights on Monday and my glutes hurt from those hills. When I say a workout kicked my butt, I mean that literally.

Friday7 miles. Technically anywhere between 1:15-1:30 is okay, but I just did an even 7. I took Missy with me for the first 4 miles because she doesn’t get out nearly enough, and then I did 3 more. They were slow. And arduous. And kinda sucky. But I got them done. How’s that for fasted cardio, eh?

Saturdayย Rest. Ehh. I fell while cleaning up the yard and knocked my head into none other than a huge trash can. That gave me a nice mark on my forehead and also messed up my neck and shoulders. All around I feel better today but dang. I sure am klutzy.

Sunday 10 miles. I. Got. It. Done!!! I tried to make up excuses to not go, as I usually do. It’s too late (I woke up at 6:15, not too late). My neck hurts from yesterday. I can do it tomorrow. I should just sleep more. It’s only Week 1! Lies, lies, lies. I got up, ate a cheesestick and a couple dried apricots and headed out the door. I immediately regretted not getting up earlier; I love meeting the sunrise. The weather was perfect: sunny (of course), not too warm (49*) and hardly any wind. I started out slow and had a lot of negative splits as I went. I hardly checked my pace.. I was just concerned with covering the miles.

If I can just take it week by week and trust the training, I’m going to be fine. Where I get all messed up in my head is when I think, “Man, my pace is slow and I’m hurting at mile 8… how am I going to run 31 miles? This isn’t even a third of what I need to do on race day…” I’ve been through this process before. That’s what training is for; I wouldn’t need a 16-week training plan if I could do it already!

The running will come; I’m not concerned about that. My current issue is nutrition. I can’t eat much before a long run, nor can I eat a full meal afterward. I just feel sick. I try to drink water on my run in little sips, and take a couple of GUs. I haven’t figured out if these cause me issues or if it’s something else. But I still have a whole box so I’m using them up. After my runs I try to get protein right away, usually in a protein coffee drink (almond milk, protein powder, coffee, creamer, ice) or in a smoothie. But then later in the morning I’m starving sitting in church. So I need to figure something out, especially when I couple that with being stressed. My appetite is the first thing to go when I’m stressed. Right now the runs aren’t so long so I don’t have much to worry about, but when they start getting past about 14-15 miles, I need to have a better plan for nutrition before and after the run.

Hydration is also another issue, especially as it starts to warm up over the next couple of months. I’ve had some heart palpitations recently, which could be related to so many factors.. but I’m willing to bet hydration is one of them.

Here’s to a new week of training beginning tomorrow (no day of rest after the long run!) and only a couple weeks until my man is back on US soil.