Word of the Year 2014 : Plan

Several years ago, I began choosing a word for my year. I love reading stories of other bloggers’ lives …. their focus … their intent for the year. Here, Dawn shared that she wanted to FLOURISH in 2013!! What a lovely word! I can’t even picture the word in print without clean, lean brushstrokes. And Rebecca Sower wanted to GIVE.  She used her thread and needle to create an image to hang in my memory. This is a fabulous post by Mary who wants to Rewrite the upcoming year.

In 2011, my word was Fellowship. I wrote about it here.  I chose a words for 2012 and 2013, but
honestly
I’ve struggled with vulnerability
and have not been brave enough to write about my Words in detail.
But, I thought I would share a little bit today.

There are many reasons to set goals and many reasons to avoid them. I think personality has a great deal to do with whether setting them is healthy for you or not. If you’re more of a perfectionist and you want to get things “right,” (whatever THAT means!), you may be one who is better on focusing on a word for the year
rather than a list of “things to do.”
But, if you’re really laid back, specific goals might be helpful.

I spoke with a friend the other day that set 60 goals for this past year. I was amazed!! 60 goals sounds lofty to me!! As we talked, I noticed that the goals that she set that were measurable (like lose a specific amount of weight and save a specific amount of money) were not reached …. BUT, she was REALLY close, had made progress and could count that progress. A number of her goals were not as “measurable” …  like “be more happy.” The problem with vague goals is that there is  no way to truly measure your success and you are then left to emotions when “counting time” arrives (the end of the year).

Last year, I wrote a little bit about my word  (here  “A year of …..”   ) …. but didn’t follow up. It took me  a few months to really know that I had chosen the right word.  Last year, my word for the year was FEAR. When I shared the word with a friend, she said, “Why don’t you use the word “courage.” And I had already thought the same thought. But, courage is such a broad word. For me, it wasn’t about being brave and courageous all over my life, it was about facing some very specific fears.

I began to think about fear as the days went by and I realized that, for the most part, I’m not a fearful person. In fact, my fears are very specific. I am afraid of physical injury, especially from a fall (like the roof) or from traveling very fast and losing control (like on my bike, on skis or as skateboard). And I am afraid of what people think … more specifically, what men think … and most specifically, men whom I care deeply about.

And honestly, it was a really good year. I looked fear in the face. I listened to my words and noticed when I used the phrase, “I’m afraid.” I considered what I was afraid of and whether it was a good thing to fear.

In fact, I’ve considered focusing on fear for another year, but I think that I have exposed enough of it that I am now in the practice of looking at it, calling it what it is and facing it. It’s a very good thing and I think I will carry this with me as I move on to another focus.

Fear was a second step after my focus word for 2011. 2011 was a slow year for my word coming, as well. It was in February or March of that year that I realized how deeply I allow others to influence my actions (again, specifically: men).  It was in 2011 that I chose the word “Disengage.”  I decided to begin to truly push back when I felt the nudge to do something because someone else wanted me to do it rather than doing it because it was something that I wanted to do it. I began to become fully aware of how often my decisions are based almost fully on whether they will make a man in my life upset or pleased.

It was when I was talking to my brave, encouraging friend, Della, that I realized just how far I have come. Some time ago, I found myself telling her the story of my getting dressed. As I pulled my socks up over my calves, I thought about a particular man who wouldn’t like my sock and shoe choice. She asked, “Did you wear them anyway?” I confessed that I did. She said, “Well, good for you. I remember a time not so long ago when you would have changed your mind and changed your socks and shoes. You are making progress.” I hadn’t thought of it that way. And she was right.

So, after a year of disengaging
and a year of facing fear,
I am ready to “plan.”

I see that when I don’t PLAN for action, I don’t act.
I do the things that have to be done.
I pay bills. I cook and wash dishes. I clean and vacuum.
But, when I don’t make a decision to paint, sew or create ….

when I don’t carve out time to read my Bible (like I used to) ….
when I don’t make myself exercise because I have made the decision to do that ….
I don’t “act.”
And it makes sense.  Without a plan, there is no follow through.

While I use my calendar well and often,
My Calendar there are so many planning devices

that sit idle in my world right now.
I think it’s time to do a little better in this area.My calendar

In a way, “plan” sounds very goal oriented … but it’s more of a focus on my actions. I want to think ahead and carve out time to do the things that I say and think are important … but that I allow myself to get away with NOT doing. I want to think ahead for the week and plan for activities, rather than just letting life happen.

I plan to figure out some sort of plan for making some of my dreams
become a reality.
This past year was full of beautiful, exciting changes.
I’m praying that next year brings more of the same.
I think, by focusing on planning, I will be able to see those dreams come to fruition.

What about you? Do you have a word to share?
Share here in the comment section below OR
go here and share at One Word 365! 

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It doesn’t matter what you say

In the past year, I came across this quote.

I say, “came across” as if I “happened upon it.”
I don’t believe in such silliness.
God put it before me
in print and conversation … time and time again.
And I thought about the idea as it applied to my life
and watched other people interact
and saw the bare, honest truth within.

People don't remember what you said. People remember the way you made them feel.

When you tell your child you are proud of her,
but you follow your compliments with phrases like,
“I just wish you would ….. ”
or “but, you can do better …… ”
you make her feel “never good enough.”

When you say that you love someone
but you stab little stabs at the things that they do
that are not things that y.o.u might do
in order to get them to see things your way,
you make that person feel as though
they are less than, unacceptable and rejected.

When a child apologizes to you and you say,
“I forgive you, but …..”
you make him feel as though his contrite heart
is not enough …. that his sorrow over his mistake
can never repair your injury … and you don’t really want him in your life
fully, completely … as he is.

When a friend has a miscarriage and you say,
“You can have another baby,”
that aching mommy or reeling daddy feels as though you are saying
“Your child was unimportant. She is replaceable.”

When you tell a friend you will be somewhere on a certain day
but you don’t call to tell that person that you won’t make it
or you simply don’t show up,
you make your friend feel unimportant in your life.
You make them feel as though you think y.o.u.r time is important,
but theirs is not.

When you wear a spiritual cloak  and say that you are a “Christian,”
but don’t accept the people around you ….
you don’t love them for who they are, how they are, the way they are,
you make feel as though they are unworthy of God’s love, too.
If you say that you are a Christian, you are a
living, talking, breathing representative of His love and acceptance.
If they are struggling to piece together spirituality in their lives,
they may push God away totally.

I am spending my days asking,
“How will these words make someone FEEL?”
I am intentional now ….
not just about the words that I use,
but how my words may be interpreted
at the emotional core of someone’s life.

It’s a tough thing. It takes a lot of thought.
But, I think that it is so important.
Because, in the end, I know that
people won’t really care what I said to them,
they will only remember how I made them feel.
When I am gone, I want people to remember
that I made them feel included, accepted and loved.

The best laid plans

When I run, I use this fantastic app on my iPhone called RunKeeper.  It allows me to track my activities by movement  like mountain biking, cycling, running, hiking, walking or skiing. It offers audio cues on how fast I’m running on average, at the moment or during any given interval.  It figures out my calorie burning rate, and tracks where I have run. I can map out routes before I leave home on my personal webpage on RunKeeper. I can also choose routes that are already designated/built by other people using the app. And I can add training plans offered by different trainers, like the Jeff Galloway plan that I used to train for the half-marathon over the weekend.

Here is an example of a screenshot from the map of the race over the weekend.

The training plan that I used to get ready for the event utilizes three types of exercise events;
maintenance, speed building, and distance building.
There are two runs per week that are 45 minutes long. These are maintenance runs.
On those runs, you run for four minutes steady (your current average pace)
and one minute slow (walking for recovery).
You repeat this pattern over and over until you reach a full 45 minutes of exercise.
Speed building uses intervals of about a half mile of pushed speed,
followed by a three-minute slow, recovery walk.
These runs are longer than maintenance, but not as long as distance building runs.
I’m not MUCH faster on interval training, but I have seen improvement using this app.

Distance runs have a pattern to follow also:  .50 mile running (faster and steady)
followed by .25 recovery (walking or slow).
This is what that screenshot looks like.

And this, my friends, is what the page looks like when there is a glitch.

While running a 13 mile endurance run back in September,
my app glitched and bounced forward to the next interval sooner than it should.
So, it recorded that I ran a half mile in 2:10
followed with a quarter-mile in 2:13! Hahahaha!
I can run a mile (if I do not stop to rest) in around 11 minutes,
so a half mile in 2:10 is outrageous.

I worried, at the time, that either my phone or my app was beginning a slow fail.
But, I had no more problems after that mid-September morning ….
until this past Saturday …. at the half-marathon.

I was in the corral ready to run. I choose my “Run” playlist on my phone. I had my RunKeeper app set to all the settings that I prefer with audio cues on and verbal reports of interval speed and average speed. I had my route chosen so …. if I made a wrong turn, I could get back on track easily. As I walked under the Rock ‘n’ roll banner and over the chip sensor that would start my time,

I started the RunKeeper app.

And by the time I crossed the bridge shown below in the far distance, I knew there was a problem.

I knew I had run more than a half mile.
I looked down at my app and it said that I had been running for ten minutes
and I hadn’t had an interval cue to move from “steady” to “slow.”
This is my phone screenshot:
wow.

I immediately thought of the quote,
“The best laid plans of mice and men … often go awry.”

For months, I had used this app
and knew exactly what to expect.
13.1 miles “steady” with no “slow” recovery intervals was NOT what I expected.
The app had glitched … on the most important day in the training program.
I had to think fast.
I stopped the event app.
I really need the start/stop direction to know when to run and when to recover/walk.

Once an event in the training plan has been used,
it cannot be repeated.
So, I couldn’t restart the marathon event in the app fresh. It was not available.
I decided to use a running day event  from the past that I had not “consumed” in training.
It was longer than 13 miles and used the “.50 steady/.25 slow” long distance interval plan.
I pushed the “Start” icon.

And …. I had peace.
I had trusted the app to direct my training, yet wasn’t sure how the day would play out.
I preferred the use of Jeff Galloway’s coaching, but my peace was not in the direction of the app.
Nor was my peace found in my rest from the night before … because the hours were quite fidgety.
I couldn’t even say that I had complete peace in my training … because,
as I said here yesterday, I felt as though I had tapered a bit too much.
As I began to run … knowing that my RunKeeper results would not be accurate ….
knowing that I hadn’t rested well …
knowing that I might run out of energy from too great a taper …
I felt a deep sense of peace in knowing that
God was before me … He was behind me …. and He was with me.
I had done what I could to get ready.
I had no control over many of the circumstances …
all I could do was do what I had been well-trained to do : run.
I could be mad … because the app had failed.
I could be fretful because … I was not well-rested.
I could be worrisome … because I had tapered too greatly.
Or I could run and have fun doing it!
I chose the later.

You know, there is only so much in life that we can control.
We can only do soooo much …
I believe we have a responsibility to do our best at any given moment.
But, even our “best” is not always heroic, monumental or grand.
Sometimes our best includes laundry, rest or a difficult to muster smile.
And sometimes we fail completely.
Things don’t go the way we expect.
People change, situations change, apps glitch.
The greatest control we have
is over our reactions.

Do what you can,
forgive yourself when you fail,
rest in God.
and focus enjoying the run.

FuN in Savannah, GA!

On July 31, I registered on-line for the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.
But, months before that, more than one person said, “You should run a marathon.”
I was quick to let each suggester know that, “I don’t even like to DRIVE 26 miles!”
In fact, I don’t even like to drive more than 4-5 miles!

After each suggestion, I began to wonder if I might be able to run a HALF-marathon.

I have run around 1-2 miles every day or other day off and on for decades. There have been times of hiatus, but I have probably run almost as often as I have taken breaks.  It was this past January that I registered for a 5K  (3.1 miles) at the tow path. I hadn’t plan to run it. I got up one Saturday morning and saw a Facebook status by a friend who was encouraging her husband who would be running that morning.  I thought I would give it a try. It had been quite a while since I had run an organized race. My goal was to run without stopping. I had not run three consecutive miles in ….. well …. the last race I remember was one I entered with a friend in Albany, Ga around 2004, I think.

That chilly winter morning, I made it down the tow path and back …. without stopping. I reached a new goal in distance and in stance.

And that was when I began to think that I might be able to finish a half marathon …
if I was diligent to train, train, train.

I have a friend who mentored and encouraged me for a while. Walt loves distance and was kind to slow down and let me join him on some of his runs. I still remember the morning that I ran somewhere between four and five miles. He headed home to get ready for work and I decided to try to make it to eight. And I did it!
I was thrilled … and quite surprised, to be honest. I didn’t expect running eight miles to be that easy.

That was the morning I knew I could do a half marathon.

I started using RunKeeper in December of last year. It is an app that tracks distance and speed with a plethora of sports including running and cycling. I added the Jeff Galloway training app on August 1st to help me prep for the half marathon. Jeff Galloway was an Olympic runner and has been a coach. His coaching/running technique is based on a style of movement where you alternate running then walking. I already exercised this way, but his app gave me structure.

When running, you will “hit a wall” where you feel like you just c.a.n.n.o.t run another step. Often, that wall is at the point of your longest distance covered in the past. So, if you’ve run as far as 12 miles in the past, but today plan to go 13, you’ll “hit a wall” around the 12 mile mark. Because of this natural reaction by our bodies, Jeff pushes you to train PAST your goal. His app has runs of 13, 15 and 17 miles before the half-marathon event.  I ran 13 on September 13th and 15 on October 6th. (I choose not to push my body to the 17 mile mark at all.)

I’ll be honest in telling you that I felt like I had “peaked” and “tapered” too soon. There should be a time of rest for the body before the race, but I worried that I had rested a bit too much between October 6th and the race date of November 3rd. I had done some running, but not as much as “normal.” I a.l.w.a.y.s struggle with lethargy in the fall/winter. I believe I can attribute this lack of motivation to continue aggressively pursuing running to my annual fall slow-down.

Glory and I headed to Savannah on Friday afternoon. We arrived with plenty of time to take the ferry across the Savannah River to the convention center for my packet pick up. There was a fantastic health expo set up with all sorts of gadgets, clothing and goodies for sale. I wish I had a pocket full of money so that I could have bought a few things. But, I’m pretty choosy about where I’ll drop my money – especially when traveling.

So, I picked up my tracking chip and race bib number,
signed away my rights to sue
if the race left me injured for life ….

and Glory and I rode back across the river.

I wanted to be in bed early so we
located our misplaced car,
grabbed a bite to eat
and then headed to bed.
I’m usually in bed between 8:30 and 9:00pm.
We didn’t make it into bed until around 10:30.
I’ll be honest and tell you that this made me a bit nervous.
I’m a stickler for getting really good rest.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t rest well at all. We stayed with a friend, Debbie,  that I met on a Meet Up  excursion to Savannah. It was a kayaking adventure back in July of last summer. In spite of Debbie’s oh-so-comfortable accommodations, neither Glory nor I slept well. I don’t know if excitement was a factor … but I felt like I took cat-naps all night rather than actually truly sleeping.

My lack of full rest, over-zealous tapering and general anxiousness about the race
made me fretful on Saturday morning (which is very out of character for me).
I really worried that I might not do well.
I worried that my “Barbie knee” (my right knee clicks/grinds when I run) would hurt (as it does some times),
I would run out of energy and have to walk the last few miles,
or I would be the very last runner on the course so the police man/race route sweeper
would make me feel a burden for not having finished sooner.

This race, like all races with large numbers of participants, begins in waves. The first wave starts at race time (8:00) with more releases of runners as each group before is on their way. There were 25 corrals in this race. Your estimated time of finish is used for corral placement. I was in the LAST corral – #25 – since I wrote down that I expected to finish around 3:15.

One last glance at my awesome cheerleader/photographer ….
and I was off.

The first mile or two was expectedly stiff. Most people struggle when warming up.


But, after mile two all the way to the end … was glorious!!

Most of the race route was run through beautiful historic neighborhoods or downtown.
We were heavily shadowed by boughs of moss-covered ancient oaks.


Every two miles, there was a band playing great music.

There were printed signs that said “Welcome Runners.”  The lamp posts had decorative banners proclaiming the same.

There were comical homemade signs all over the race route that were good for an encouraging laugh.

Some families had music playing and were standing by the road cheering. There was a young man in his yard playing bagpipes as we passed.
There were entire families that included small children with pom-poms, teens, adults and grandparents
sitting in their front yards cheering for us as we ran by. I’m telling you, it was amazing!!

Around mile ten …. I still felt great!

Mile eleven is where I felt most encouraged and began to run a little faster.

What a great feeling!!
I crossed the finish line
without injury …. always my goal.

But, so much better, I wasn’t the last one over the finish line. As I ran there were as many people behind me …
as there were in front of me.
More often than not, I am the 250th out of 252 participants, for example.
In Savannah, I was 9,425 out of 11,131 in the half marathon event! whoohoo!
I was faster than 1,706 other people!

I finished under my goal time of three hours and I wasn’t the last one to cross the line …
but so much more than that …
I had a GREAT time!
I stopped to stretch at least three or four times along the way.
I stopped at every water station … which meant I also had to stop to use the restroom once.
I told people over and over, “Thank You for VolunTeering!!”
I took two videos and a hand full of photos. As I ran, I talked to people who needed encouragement.
I accepted LOTS of high-fives that were offered.
The rule in running is that you should be able to talk (for me, sing) if you are moving at a comfortable, sustainable pace.
So, I sang with my ipod so I knew I wasn’t pushing too fast.
And as I got ready to take off on each “run” interval,
I began that portion with skipping. Yes, I did.

You know what? There are plenty of people who finished BEFORE me
and pushed to make sure they were running their “best time,”
but they would all be hard pressed to say they had more FUN than me!

I ran the race, I got the t-shirt AND the medal!!

The next goal I am c.o.n.s.i.d.e.r.i.n.g :
doing the Ironman 70.3  next September.
Wouldn’t that be an AWESOME birthday present to myself …
to be able to say that I did an Ironman the month that I turned 50?

Anybody want to join me?

– Knee to the Head

My favorite time to swim laps at our neighborhood pool is on Sunday afternoon when it  f.i.r.s.t  opens. For at least an hour, the pool is usually

still ….
calm ….
empty.

There are no lane ropes in place on a Sunday. In fact, lane ropes are only in the place on weekday morns during swim practice.  Like most neighborhood pools, the only boundaries are the sides and bottom of the pool.

So, the pool is basically a free-for-all with fannies and feet everywhere. If you’re close to the side of the pool, you’re likely to be jumped upon by a preschooler. If you’re in the middle, you’re likely to find a gaggle of girls giggling and talking or a raucous group of boys playing monkey in the middle.

With my attempt to strengthen my upper body, I usually add swimming to my list of exercise activities when summer rolls around. Our pool can be seen from my front porch. A quick jog up to the pool is a great warm up for a few laps. There is one thing I can count upon with surety : if I arrive at five ’til any hour, the pool will be empty of children and swimming laps will be fairly unobstructed. Every hour, on the hour, our guards take a ten minute rest break. It’s good for them and it’s good for the swimmers. Some summers, I have run up several times a day to swim for ten to fifteen minutes worth of laps at a time.

I have to admit that there was a time when pArT of the draw to run up  to the pool was a chance to sneak in a visit with my sweet Glory. She was a guard at our pool for a year or two. Oh, how I miss those days.

While training for the Mistletoe Triathlon back in 2009, I found myself in conversation with one of Glory’s rowing crew coaches, Julius. While we were talking about swimming, I invited him to our pool, if he found he needed a place to train for the first leg of the course. He could come as my guest and I was happy to extend that offer. Just so he was aware of our pool’s schedule, I told him about the times of day that had the least number of swimmers and how we have a ten minute break at the top of every hour. His reply struck me ….


“Oh, I’d rather swim when the pool is full,
because it’s more like swimming in the actual event.
You find yourself having to navigate through bodies
with arms and legs everywhere.
It’s a much more realistic practice.”

Of course it is.
That only makes sense.
Practice in a setting that is most like
the actual event.

You don’t practice swimming out of the water.
You work on your stroke and kick IN the water.
Wouldn’t it make sense to also train with people crowded around
like a school of herring
if that is the setting that you will be placed
at a time that you really want to do your best?

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

 

I thought of the spiritual/physical parallels to this idea. I thought about how this physical choice …. reflects my spiritual choices, as well. It reflects my choices in relationships with people and with my God.

I thought of my selfish, lazy heart. I want to do things the easy way. I want to travel the path that offers the least resistance. I don’t want to be kicked in face or elbowed in the head. I don’t want to be trampled on land or at sea. I want to practice where I am safe and out of harm’s way. I want the water to be calm and the threat of injury to be low.

And all this self-seeking of protection
trains me well
for smooth waters
with little chaos.

But, what happens when life is full of chaos … the kind that is unavoidable?
What do I do when I’m bumped and shoved in water
where I could take in a lung lobe full of water?
What do I do when others have prepared well in a proper setting …
by personal choice
or because they were simply THROWN into the water?
How will I fair
when I have chosen the route of  little resistance …
because it was easier
and less life threatening?

A triathlon is a competition. Some athletes want to come in first overall (Julius was 6th in his age group and 38th overall out of 350 competitors. Amazing!)  Some want to make the top ten. Some want to be the top of their age group. Some want to improve on their time. Some just want to finish without injury. But, most have some spirit of competition coursing through their veins.

Life is not a competition, but like athletics,
the more difficult the course,
the more you are strengthened
and the more you grow.

I still remember
that I was standing talking to Coach Julius when he spoke his reply to me.
I still remember the wisdom from this young man in his early 30’s
… a strong, wise competitor
and an excellent coach to my crew member daughter.
I stood there in surprised revelation.
I stood there and wondered
how many areas in my life
I walk through gingerly
so that I won’t be injured …
not realizing that all of this self-preservation
leaves me weak and unprepared
for an event down the road?

I thank God for this epiphany.
Oh, that I would be bold and make my choices
according to their strengthening power in the long run
rather than according to what is most safe at the moment.

The gift of running in the darkness

Way back when Glory was part of the rowing club here in Augusta, she and I ran a road race in downtown Augusta. While we were there, I had someone stop me that remembered me
from junior college almost thirty years ago.
He remembered my name AND recognized my face.
I was a little blown away.
I recognized him, but couldn’t come up with his name. It was neat to see him, he reminded of his name and we caught up a bit.  That was around four years ago.

Last summer, we were both out running again.  We passed each other at a corner of my very own block and then did a simultaneous about-face. I asked if he lived close-by. “No … I’m about six miles from home,” was his response. Wow. I don’t even like to DRIVE six miles … much less RUN that far. I’m a 1-2 mile kind of girl … well … I WAS.

More recently, we ran into each other in a store and spent a little while talking. Running came up, naturally. I believe I was the one to ask if he would ever like some company while running. Little did I know what a sacrifice it was for him to allow me to tag along. None-the-less, he let me join him the next week.

I kiddingly tell people now
that it might be nice
if  Walt had been in some kind of  trouble with the law …
THEN he would be able to use our running together
as time towards COMMUNITY SERVICE. 
I’m here to tell you, when he runs with me … his time is pure charity work.

I had NO IDEA that the man runs a seven and a half-minute mile …
for LONG DISTANCES ….
….. L.O.N.G ……. like six …. seven …. eight and more miles ……
without a problem.

Oh my. He’s so humble. He didn’t even tell me. *shakes head and blushes*

Walt runs early in the morning several days a week before he leaves for work. Once a week, he allows me to completely stifle his run tag along. We meet around 4:45 am at the park where I stretch my stiff ligaments and he does push-ups for personal entertainment. By 5:00, we’re moving. We usually cover around four or five miles. He tells me I’m getting slower … but he still graciously allows me to join him.  Maybe I’m slowing because I’m upping my mileage weekly. Maybe it’s because the temps and humidity have gone up as the summer settled in. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older! I don’t know. But, he hangs in and let’s me tag along … once a week … week after week.

Because of his encouragement and my success in the Warrior Dash, I’m going to TRY to run a half marathon.  I’m a little bit dumbfounded by this decision. It’s so uncharacteristic of me. Like I said before, I don’t even like to DRIVE six miles … much less run it … much less run thirteen! But, I’m training for it and well on my way to my goal. I have gone as far as ten miles in one morning! *scratches head* I just can’t get over the fact that I’m thinking, writing or doing these things! My goal is to comfortably run fourteen miles by mid-October so I’ll be ready for Savannah for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon on November 3rd. If I take it slow, keep stretching well and keep my feet inside really good shoes, I pray I’ll be able to run without injury and finish.

Let me add here that my “running” is really more like a fast walk. And … even as I move … I actually slow down to a “normal” walk speed to rest. I might run a 11:30 mile WHEN I’m running. I’m not fast at all.
BUT,
Walt doesn’t poke fun at me, try to get me to go faster or give me a hard time.
Rather, Walt reminds me that most people can’t run a whole mile.
Shoot! Many people can’t even run around the block!  So, at least I’m off the couch and moving, right?
In all of our runs, I have never felt belittled or looked down upon by him. He is always encouraging.
It’s pretty amazing.

I don’t know how much longer we’ll run together. He’s running longer and longer distances as he’s training for a full marathon. I’m going to be doing well to make half of that. But, I’m moving with a goal in mind … knowing there is a good possibility of reaching my goal
because I have a coach, mentor and cheerleader. His positive influence has encouraged me to do more than I ever thought was possible.

For this, I am thankful.

And so, I add to my One Thousand Gifts list:

459. Running without injury
460. Running while I watch the sun rise
461. Running with the temps are still in the 80’s
462. Running through sprinklers
463. Running with a  friend who runs MUCH faster than me,
but allows me to run with him anyway
464.  Running with someone who puts himself between me and traffic
465.  Running with someone who encourages me all along the way
466. Street lights and flashlights
467. Smooth sidewalks
468. A dependable bunny sighting most mornings
469. Excellent running shoes
470. Healthy knees and body
471. Quick and quiet afternoon naps, when needed
472. Rich conversation while exercising
473. Park benches for stretching
474. My Ipod with GPS to track my distance and speed
475. Running tunes that keep me going
476. My RunKeeper app
477. Protein bars for energy
478. A favorite pink water bottle filled with H20 for hydration

Warrior Dash Training

Storm, it did. Joy and I spent the night in a tent with rain pummeling, lightning flashing and limbs blowing to and fro just on the other side of our tent mesh. Our energies were spent on trying to stay warm, dry and as oblivious as possible to the impending danger of a limb falling on our heads.

We camped back in July in Mountain City, Georgia before I participated in The Warrior Dash. Joy came along as a cheerleader, SAG wagon and cameraman. She’s such a great companion.

The Warrior Dash is a 3 mile race with an obstacle course built-in. The obstacles include a muddy crawl under barbed wire, crossing a lake, climbing a wooden wall, several different rope ladder climbs, a slide down a fireman’s pole (where some people on Saturday snapped their ankles – *ouch*), floating dock water challenges and a fire jump finale’.

The weekend days that weekend were gorgeous … but I have to admit that the nights were quite chilly for July.

And when we arrived at the event site, the parking lot was a :: BOG :: All I could think about was how the previous day had prepped the course with thousands of steps of dripping, sloshy participants …

and then the night saturated the pounded dirt into a slippery maze
that would wind through woods, across gulleys and over stumps, roots and rocks.

The bus ride from the parking lot to event venue drew my attention to the fact that the course might be just a bit more hilly than my Augusta training ground.

As we made the trek from the drop off to the event check in on site, we passed this street sign. My thoughts? “I wonder if I’ll call it Comfort Street when I pass this sign later?”

I trained for this event for at least five months by running longer than has been my custom and with gym work that focused on core and upper body muscles.Like most women, my upper body is naturally fairly weak. My greatest fear about this race was knowing that I had to scale a 15′ tall wall using a rope to pull myself up and over.As it turned out, there were step ledges  that helped me climb up.

The surprise came when I succeeded in the climb only to find the wall was swaying from the movement of all the other racers climbing, balancing and flipping to the other side. I wasn’t expecting to experience fear once I mounted the wall’s top. Tipping over and feeling a new security to be upright on the other side of the wall was quite exhilarating !!
There were so many people who used the fire jump for showmanship. With capes flying, mid-air heel clicks and extra-high victory jumps, many worked it for the camera man.

Me? I figured this WOULDN’T be a good time to trip and fall … right here at the end of the event …  so I continued my caution and focus.
“Don’t trip and fall into the fire,” was my mantra.

In the end, this race that I fretted over …
was quite easy.
My worries of a slip and fall in mud ….
concerns about lack of strength to climb over the wall …
or lack of energy to finish the race at all ….
were unfounded.
So much so that by the end of the second mile of the race,
I wondered ….
“Is this it?”

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

But, what a blessing!!! And doesn’t much of life work this way?  When we eat nutritiously to feed our bodies properly, train hard focusing on our weaknesses, work out long to build endurance and rest intentionally so that our bodies can strengthen, we become more healthy and strong.

This is a truth in the spiritual realm, as well … but sometimes we don’t recognize God gifting us with the challenges that cause us to grow. We can look for opportunities for growth and we can pray for stronger character, but oftentimes we don’t match the strain of the challenges with the positives that come from them.    How many times have you heard the phrase, “Be careful what you ask for. I asked God for patience and He gave me children?” Children certainly develop our patience, don’t they?

There are even those growing times that,
while in the midst of our deep struggles …
we cry out to God to take away the pain …
the very pain that brings the stronger character
that we so desire.

I challenge you to embrace the challenges in life
as character building, love increasing, empathy bolstering,
trust instilling, faith boosting g.i.f.t.s from God.
To be more like Him,
to grow and strengthen us
life must be more than easy, simple sailing on a smooth sea.
Sometimes … we’re in training
and sometimes we’re in “the big event” …
and if we have kept our focus while in training,
the warrior dash might be much easier than we expected
because we endured excellent preparation
with proper focus –
on Him
and on growth.

Praise be to God.

Clipping In

I have had a road bike since 2009. I used the money I earned working The Masters Tournament three years ago to purchase it. I have wanted to ride the Bike Ride Across Georgia for years. Just a day or so after I bought the bike, I rode one day of BRAG.

I have not ridden it a great deal since that day of BRAG. There are several reasons including guilt for leaving home for an hour or two at a time to do something that feels “selfish” like exercise. We live in a congested area of a larger city that does not accommodate the bicyclists with a kind embrace so there is always the fear of being hit by a car. And I have not had the proper pedals and shoes for riding.

Back in March, Stone graciously gifted me with a pair of pedals. Had he not given me this gift, I don’t know when I would have been able to move up to clip-in shoes. The pedals are worth over $250.00. This was a HUGE gift to me … in monetary value and in personal worth. A previous girlfriend bought a bicycle, but never really rode much. He bought the pedals for her, but she never even used them. So one morning this spring while on a visit to his home in Norcross, Stone flipped my bicycle upside down and gently placed it on his bike stand. He took the time to change out my pedals and bless me in a grand way.

I stood there teary-eyed in his garage as I watched him … morning sunlight filtering through trees and illuminating him as I watched from behind.  It has been a rare occasion that a man show interest in helping me like that. Nobody has ever looked at my bike unless they were paid money to do so. Not only did he offer to help … but he followed through. He offered expertise and time in an area that meant a great deal to me personally. He took the time to check my gears and brakes and see that everything was working properly. I remember that Stone got nervous when he heard my voice quiver. Emotion makes him uncomfortable. I choked back the tremble, wiped the tear and gathered my composure. But, I was none-the-less overwhelmed with gratitude.

So, I had pedals, but I still had to buy shoes. Within a few weeks, I bit the bullet and purchased clip-in bike shoes. I found a good deal and was able to land a pair for around a hundred dollars. Because they are only worn to ride, they should last me for years. They fit well and are quite comfortable.

Clip-in bike shoes serve an amazing purpose. If you think of the face of a clock, when pedaling a bike, you use a downstroke force from around 1:00 to around 5:00. In regular shoes, the muscle on top of your thigh does the most work in this motion. When you add shoes that clip into your pedals, your foot is now one with the bike and the muscle on the back of your thigh is able to help by pulling UP your foot from 7:00 to 11:00. So, you have increased your power by around 40% by changing your shoe system.

Another thing that stands out about the clip and shoe system is that bike shoes have a rigid sole. All of your energy is focused on the instep of your foot where your foot meets the pedal. Because the sole of the shoe is rigid, there is no flexibility to allow you to waste energy as the pedals make the revolution around and around. As I ride, I can feel a tremendous difference in efficiency between the two systems.

Riding now … feels different … it operates more efficiently … it uses my energy more effectively
and I think of God and His presence my life. I think of the spiritual/physical parallels in my life …
the parallels between the physical world in which we live and the spiritual world that our spirit moves.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

When I am clipped in … when I am attached to Him –
through prayer … reading His word … listening to His movement in and through my life –
more muscle groups are used as I pedal through life,
my energy is used more productively,
and I get where I am going with more power.
When I am well-fitted into the proper equipment,
I can recognize the difference in my routine …
in fact, I am quite comfortable while I am growing stronger.
I am strengthened as I more efficiently spin.
An interesting aspect is that, at times, proper equipment for a particular job
involves a rigid “soul” …. a stiffness that might not be an asset in another situation
but at certain times … with certain activities …  is very beneficial.
Yes, sometimes, flexibility can be an energy drain … a negative thing.

So, I pedal and I give thanks … for a gifting from a friend, a strengthening in my life, properly fitted equipment and another spiritual/physical parallel shown to me by Heavenly Father who talks to me throughout my days … as I move and spin through life.

Perspective and Encouragement

Joy swims with the Summer Swim League here in Augusta. There are many swimmers in the league who swim on one of the year-round teams, as well, but Joy has never been a year-rounder. When placed up against a child who swims year round, she is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to time in the water, technique and strength since the summer league begins around mid-May and wraps things up by mid-July. Eight weeks isn’t enough time to see grand improvements in stroke or strength … but swimming is still excellent exercise so my kids have always been a part of the summer league.

Because she isn’t a year round swimmer, Joy doesn’t come in first place in her races because she swims against girls who do. I don’t believe she has ever placed first overall.

Our summer swim league team generally competes against one team at a time. We participate in about five or six meets per swim season. Joy’s best strokes are back and breast. This summer, she came in fifth in these strokes out of 20-25 girls, depending on the meet. At the end of the season, at our Division Championship she did well enough to make the cut and earn the privilege of moving on to the All-Star meet.

The All-Star meet is composed of the top three fastest swimmers in each age group, in each stroke, from each team. So, Joy was one of the three fastest swimmers from our team in the 11-12 girls in backstroke and breaststroke. At the All-Star meet, she came in 13th overall in breast and 19th in back out of a total of nineteen swimmers in each race.

Do you see that? She was last in backstroke.

In the backstroke heat, she swam against Maggie who is the coach’s daughter. Maggie swims year-round most years. She is one of four siblings who swims under their mom’s excellent coaching instruction. Maggie works really hard and is an excellent swimmer. Maggie came in 13th above Joy’s 19th in backstroke.  Though the difference in time was only 2.29 seconds, Maggie was, yes, faster than Joy. I tried to explain to Joy that she shouldn’t compare herself to anyone … especially a year-round swimmer.

She is SO hard on herself. That night and through the next day, she was so sad. She was terribly disappointed in herself.  You would have thought that she was the slowest of a.l.l  the swimmers in the entire state. No amount of encouragement from me seemed to help.

So, I began to do some research.

I wanted to
put her placement
into perspective.

As I did research, I found that our swim league is made up of 21 individual teams. There are 18 counties represented in the CSRA league with 4 team divisions that are placed in each division by team size. Our team, the Makos, is in Division I because we have a large team.

The one statistic I could not find on the site was the total number of swimmers in the league.

So, I sent a quick apologetic email to the league secretary asking if he knew a number off the top of his head. If not, I asked him to please not worry about doing research. I really didn’t want to be a bother … I just wanted to encourage a disheartened pre-teen swimmer.

Within minutes, he sent me back a reply.
I called Joy over to the computer so she could see the screen.

“Do you see that number?” I asked, as I pointed to the string of digits in his reply.
“Hmmmmm” she grumbled.
I choked up as I spoke.
“You came in 19th
out of 2,100 total swimmers.
Do you see that? Two.thousand.one.hundred swimmers?” 

I continued with a pep talk about perspective and doing our personal best …
and about how important it is that we have all the facts.
I told her how proud I was of her and that she had worked hard
and did an amazing job this season.
I mentioned that, IF we choose to look at how we compare overall,
we should, at the very least, have the proper perspective.

In reality, I don’t want to encourage anyone to look a.r.o.u.n.d at others
to compare themselves
or find self-acceptance.
Truly, we should trust in God …
what He has to say about us …
what He asks of us …
how He wants to direct us …
how He evaluates us …
to find our perspective on ourselves.

But, in this case, a little looking-around perspective was a good thing.
This was a competitive event.
In this case, my girl was choosing to focus on a very.small.few
rather than the overall group.
So, in this case, I was happy to broaden that perspective and show her
that she was being illogically hard on her own performance.

I think we all do this.
Or maybe I should just speak for myself: I KNOW that I do this.
And it is so helpful when someone comes alongside
and says, “You’re doing a good job. Don’t be discouraged.
Let me put things in perspective for you.”

I am always thankful for words of encouragement. We all need it … daily.

So, I want to encourage you today.
I want to encourage you to be sure that you’re looking at the big picture
when you do find the need to compare yourself to others.
And, if and when you fall short,
even then, don’t be discouraged …
for God looks at your heart.
He forgives you when you sin. He loves you in spite of your messes. He does not expect you to measure up to the standard of others, He only asks that you obey Him and do your best. And, even.then, He has compassion and mercy when you fail … because we all do.