2015 is the year of the arrow. I've always loved the symbolic meaning behind the arrow. I wear an arrow necklace all the time, and the meaning is two-fold. First, to honor the Asher Brooklyn Ray's fight against cancer, and, second, the universal meaning.
"An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means its going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming." - Unknown
I've spent at least the last 10 days trying to come up with my resolutions for 2015. I set some kind of resolution every year, and most years they are pretty frivolous.
Drink more water. Work out. Run a marathon. Cook more at home. Less sugar. More time with family and friends.
And while all those things are important and they add to my life during the moment, I never manage to make it to the next year having done them all with success. By March, I'm not working out as regularly. By May, I've had 98475982375934 cookies. It's a disaster.
I'm trying something new this year.
So far I like 2015. I like the way it started. I like the say it sounds when I say it. I like that it will be an odd birthday number. I like the newness. I like the possibilities. I like the unknown.
I've set three resolutions.
All of which are centered on Scripture and will lead to failure if I don't seek the Big Guy daily. No frivolous things. No grand gestures. No generalizations. Just straight up honesty and trust in what God will provide for me by daily seeking 3 things.
Resolution 1: Green Hope
Green is my favorite color. It symbolizes new beginnings. Hope is something I struggle with. It's easy to get down in the dumps and feel hopeless. Each day I will strive to have green hope. Hope for a new day. The future. Good choices. The possibilities are endless with green hope.
"May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope." Romans 15:13 The Message Bible
Resolution 2: Love
We all need to feel it. In relationships. Towards ourselves. Love is important. It's can one of the many reasons we get up every single day. Love of people. Love of family. Love of life. Love of music. Love of art. Love of community. Love makes us feel things we wouldn't feel. God is love. So love is something that needs to be given and shown freely.
"Let us stop just saying we love people. Let us really love them and show it by our actions." 1 John 3:18 NIV
Resolution 3: Gratitude
Probably the hardest one to actively seek on a daily basis. Each day give thanks and show it. I know there are days when you feel like nothing goes right. Everything is terrible. You feel hurried and not like yourself, and then things seem to go wrong all day long. Take heart. There is still something to be thankful for. Some days it will be obvious what you should be thankful for, and others you may have to reach a little deeper to find it.
"Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude." Colossians 4:2 The Message Bible
Each day. Every day. For the next 365 days. I will ask myself. What is my green hope today? Where is the love? What are you most thankful for? Each day the answers will be different. Because each day I'm given a new chance to experience them.
There is no time like the present to experience life at its fullest.
Hot dang! Thank you to everyone who sent encouragements my way before, during and after the race. I was, and still am, in awe at the outpouring of love you gave me on my Comeback Race. I celebrated with lots of coffee and a huge breakfast at a 24-hour breakfast diner at two in the afternoon. Perfect.
I had to wait a couple days to write the recap because it still seems unreal to me that it's all over.
But I know you are dying to know what happened on race day. So I'll put you out of your misery.
I went to the expo. Walked around. Looked at each booth. Now that I work at a running store, expos don't have as much magic as they use to. Perks of getting to know about the "new, hot running gear" before everyone else. But I did get to go to the Fleet Feet Memphis booth, and that was fun since I got to chat with one of our reps for a while.
After a nice, yet miniature sized, supper at a downtown Memphis restaurant, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for race day.
Yes, I laid my clothes out the night before. It's tradition. Since it was going to be a balmy 55 degrees at the starting line, I opted for my favorite pair of Brooks shorts, a short sleeved tech shirt and a very lightweight jacket.
We got to the start line a little before 7:30 a.m. and made our way to corral 10. Kerri and I decided to start out with the pace group for that corral and see how that went. But more on that later. After a heartfelt rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, which I think was sung by a St. Jude kid, the race started.
And I had to wait 18 agonizing minutes until my corral reached the start line.
There is nothing more real than walking toward a race start line with 20,000 other people. That feeling is unlike anything I've ever felt. It's hard to describe. There is an air of seriousness mixed with excitement. This feeling that can only mean we are about to start something important and meaningful and slightly terrifying. And then the fact that you aren't alone just make it that much cooler. I love that about running. It's so "to-each-their-own" but then "all-for-one" at the same time.
I make it to the start line. My corral is screaming with excitement and nervous energy. Music is blaring. And the announcer is counting down the seconds til we start. The music changes. And we're off.
Mile 1: Can you say crowded? 20,000 people crammed on one city street is tight. I say goodbye to my mom and Lisa, and Kerri and I tried to set our pace. Did I mention it was crowded?
Mile 2: Nothing major to report. Ran up the first big hill. And down the bricked road called Beall Street.
Mile 3: First time for nutrition. Kerri runs ahead of me. I run like crazy to catch up to her. Very big hill made worse by very large gust of wind.
Mile 4: Through the St. Jude campus we go. I try not to make direct eye contact with any crying parent. Make it out tear free.
Mile 5: Nothing major to report. Start the long drive out to toward the Memphis Zoo. Try not to think about how I'm running away from the finish line.
Mile 6: Second nutrition. Kerri runs ahead of me. This time I know I can't catch up to her. My pace is set. At some point during this mile I feel a sharp pain shoot up my inner quad. Think about the searing pain and contemplate walking and/or throwing up. Decide to keep running and to slow down if it happens again. Said quad basically goes into a state I call "numb."
Mile 7: Final turn off the death straight-a-way I'd been on for 2 miles. Look for zoo animals. See none. Fight the now crowded street since the road narrowed.
Mile 8: Start relying on the people I dedicated miles to. What would Monica say right now? Worry about the "numb" quad. Can't figure out when I will get out of the zoo. Figure out I'm now in a public park that connects to the zoo.
Mile 9: The Doubts Mile. Another round of nutrition. Evaluate my body. Feeling the fatigue. Calves are tight. Right quad is "numb." Denise would be saying something positive now if she were here. I start to doubt my training and the fact that I set such a lofty goal for a new PR. Why did I say I'd run a sub 2:30? That was stupid. And it's never going to happen. Why is my quad "numb?"
Mile 10: Finally get out of the park and on to the road back to downtown and the finish line. Feel a surge of energy from turning said corner. Can see the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in the distance. Relieved to see the hospital because I know it's close to the end. Where did all these hills come from? Don't remember these hills from last time. How many are there? Where's Kerri? Pick random orange shirt in a sea of people and pretend it's Kerri. Feel slightly better knowing she's up there.
Mile 11: WHY IS THE LE BONHEUR CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL SO FREAKING FAR AWAY? Am I going backwards? It's only a 5K. You do 5Ks all the time. If Daniel were here right now, he'd be prancing beside me with fresh legs. Stupid fresh legs. Must ask him about my "numb" quad. That can't be a good thing. Don't think about it. How are there more hills? Only one more hill left. Seems like a small one. Start up said small hill and realize it's a death trap and then the coldest wind blows at 100 miles per hour while I trudge up it. I tell myself it's character building. Then I laugh at myself because that's stupid. Finally pass the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, and realize I have 20-ish minutes to run another mile. HOPE SURGES.
Mile 12: Last batch of nutrition. Random guy tells me not to walk because I'm so close to the finish line. Give random guy the death stare. Decide to give it all I've got. Bust out a 10-minute mile pace AND maintain it. Pass tons of walkers. Wonder why they are walking when I'm still running with a "numb" quad, sore foot, tight calves, tight hamstrings and a sore left hip. Contemplate how broken my legs will be once the race is over. Decide it doesn't matter because I will make my new PR goal.
Mile 13.1: Decide to pass someone to feel like I'm winning. Choose blue tye-dye tank top girl who danced around me for 12.5 miles. Pass her. Think about how she's totally eating my soon-to-be PR dust. Enter a state of sheer euphoria. Can't feel my legs. Nothing hurts. I can see the finish line. People are yelling encouragements. Turn the corner. Hear the race announcers. Cross the finish line. Stop my Garmin. And bask in the glory of my new accomplishment. Then immediately wish I hadn't stopped moving because my legs hurt so bad. But I don't care because I ran the half marathon in 2:24:54.
The St. Jude Half Marathon is only 3 sleeps away. To say I am a nervous wreck would be an understatement.
I've been calling this half my "comeback half" since I started training back in September. I've battled nagging little injuries, ran some of my fastest longer distance times ever and managed to kick all my previous GI distress to the curb.
I've learned how to better listen to my body. And I honor what it can do on each run.
But with the race so close and all of my taper runs being not as good as normal, I've been having some doubts about my sub-2:30 finishing time.
I've been doing this thing that I call goal manifesting. I tell people exactly what I want to do, some people I know and others are strangers. The idea is to make it happen by verbal affirmation. Saying it out loud makes it more real.
Two years ago when I finished my first half marathon at St. Jude, my time was 2:45:37.
Three months later I ran the Little Rock Half Marathon in 2:39:46 and got a six minute PR.
Then I took a little over a year off from running because I was injured from not cross training properly, and it took forever (or what felt like it) to figure out what was wrong.
My training this go-around has been much better. I am faster than I've ever been, and I owe that to being the fast group mentor for No Boundaries at work.
But like I said before, the taper has been messing with my mind. So to stop these mental shenanigans, I've decided to dedicate each mile of my Comeback Race to someone or a group of someones who have impacted my running life as of late.
The St. Jude Half Marathon Miles Dedication
Mile 1: Asher Brooklyn Ray
My 6-year-old cousin who is fighting bone cancer for the second time. She was my original inspiration to run my first half two years ago, and she continues to be my inspiration in running and in life today.
Mile 2: My NoBo Group - Mike, Steve, Jon, Daniel and Elaine - You have made me do things I didn't even know I could do. Every Tuesday night and Saturday morning for the past 12 weeks you have let me push you to your max, and by doing that I had to push myself. Thank you for the motivation you gave me.
Mile 3: Arkansas Children's Hospital Hemoc/Oncology Unit - All the bald babies, families, doctors and nurses who keep each other going when times are happy and sad. Those babies fight each day, and they deserve to be celebrated and remembered.
Mile 4: St. Jude bald babies - This is the mile marker that runs through the St. Jude campus. They, too, deserve to be celebrated and remembered.
Mile 5: Candace Walker
My cousin who bravely fought cancer at St. Jude. She is in remission, and she will be running the St. Jude 5K on Friday as part of Danny's Dream Team. She's the spunky little red head in the middle. Yay for us running together!
Mile 6: Sarah Marks
I met Sarah at No Boundaries back in the summer. She had been running for a while, and she joined our 5k training program to get faster. She wanted me to be her mentor, and I immediately was drawn to her spirit. It was like we were meant to be friends. She recently moved to Northwest Arkansas, and a lot of life changes happened for her and her family very quickly. New job. New town. New house. New running community. I saw her last weekend, and she told me about her struggle with the move, about how much she missed running with us and how she got into a running rut for a while. So Mile 6 is for you, Sarah. It's my favorite distance, and I want to run it with you.
Mile 7: Abby Hanway
She was a friend of Asher's, and she lost her battle to cancer earlier this year. I chose mile 7 to dedicate to Abby because seven miles is always a blissful distance for me. And 7 is a Godly number, and I know she is in heaven, healed and watching over all of us. She was brave and fearless, and she deserves my lucky mile 7.
Mile 8: Monica Zaremba
She is my favorite athlete. I've known her for a little over a year, and I've been working with her for about six month. She is super fast. And that's awesome. But what's even more awesome is how humble she is about it. She qualified for the Boston Marathon this year, and I'm so proud to call her my friend. She has be a constant ear throughout my training, and she always encourages me, even when I know she can finish a half marathon before I am halfway through it. Monica once told me her least favorite mile was mile 8. It's like a mental road block for her. So I will run mile 8 for her. To celebrate her overcoming the mental 8th mile and her upcoming trip to Boston.
Mile 9: Denise Waltrip
Where do I begin? She was my first recruit to our No Boundaries 5K training program when I started working at Fleet Feet a year ago. She is fast. She is motivated. She is a positive force in my life. And she has been injured for the last three months. She ran my 5 mile long run with me, and only made it to mile 9 in her half marathon training before she figured out what was wrong with her. This mile is for her. Because one day soon we will run 9 miles together, and then I will run with her when she makes her way into double digits.
Mile 10: Kerri Nutt
I ran my 10 mile training run with her, and I had a PR for that distance. It was under 2 hours, which has never happened before. I will always cherish sharing that moment with her, and it turned out she had a 6 mile PR that same day. She is running St. Jude, too. But I feel like by mile 10 she will be way ahead of me since she is naturally quick and has been training like a machine. Thanks for being awesome and letting me tag along behind you.
Mile 11: Daniel Black
My favorite full-time co-worker who has put up with my aches and pains for the past year. If I ever "break" anything, he is the person I go to with my questions. He is full of knowledge when it comes to biomechanics, and he's a natural coach. Almost a year ago, he had stomach surgery that deterred his running game. He is currently shopping for a half marathon to celebrate overcoming four years of doctors, tests and a major surgery. I can't wait to celebrate his Comeback Race. I definitely wanted to dedicate a higher mile to him because he always reminds me that my legs aren't broken. Thanks for listening to me whine for the last year about my knee, hip and foot. Your pep talks are always on point. Mile 11 is for you.
Mile 12: My Mom
The lady who got me started on this running journey. My original running buddy. She is my constant cheerleader and the best person I know. She will also be running St. Jude, and it will be our second half to finish together. It's just makes the moment more special when you can share it with your most favorite person on earth.
Mile 13.1: Myself - This is my comeback run. The one that says I can still do this. I have overcome the injuries. I have trained for this. I am ready. I owe it to myself to give it all I've got. So that's what I'm going to do. I will leave it all on the road. The last year of not running like I use to. The figuring out how to not judge myself for not being the runner I use to be. The figuring out what shoes I like since the manufacturer jacked up my most favorite shoe. The months of PT. The speedwork. The long runs. All of it. It comes down to this. This moment. When I cross the start line, I will be on. I will be a machine. It doesn't matter if it hurts. I will finish. I will finish with a sub-2:30 time.
You can follow my race day journey if you want to. Just click here and put in my bib number 5076 to get my splits. They won't be official, but they should be pretty dang close.
Waking up to snow on a mid November morning is super weird. I was lame and missed out on Monday's good weather, and now we have nothing but cold in our future. Bummer.
I've never liked the cold. So it makes running outside even more difficult. I don't have a membership to a gym and I hate the treadmill, but when you're in training for a race you gotta make sacrifices. And I'll be honest, I haven't done much running this week.
After my weekend away and 11 mile long run, I didn't realize the cold was coming in so quickly. So I lollygagged around on Monday instead of logging some valuable miles.
Annie didn't seem to mind our Monday full of couch snuggling and Netflix watching. But then again she is a dog so she's pretty low maintenance. And she never complains about me re-watching my favorite shows on Netflix. Ahem....How I Met Your Mother, Scandal, Gilmore Girls, House, Criminal Minds, Vampire Diaries....Don't judge me.
Since it was bitter cold yesterday, we started setting up our Christmas window display at work. Very merry for mid-November. I'm waiting for someone to say "It's not even Thanksgiving yet," so I can give them the eye and say we are trying to win a contest for Christmas Window bragging rights.
When I got home to take Annie out, she had to sniff every single fallen leaf in her path. In the 30 degree weather. For 30 minutes. Brrrrrrr. Silly puppy.
So I made some Nutella Hot Chocolate.
It was pretty chocolaty. In the future, I think I will cut back on the cocoa powder just use Nutella. Because let's face it, Nutella rules.
I have 12 miles on the books for Sunday, and I should get close to 3 miles in on tomorrow's run with my NoBo group. I'm using both as dress rehearsals for race day. Little secret about me: I have to teach myself how to dress for the cold weather every winter. Not kidding. The first few runs I always overdress and freeze. And then I under-dress and start running with the fear of freezing, but it usually works out for the better. You'd think I'd know better after all these years.
Why do they call them Brownie pans anyway? That makes them so one-sided. Like hey, I'm a Brownie Pan. I only hold gooey, delicious brownies. Full of chocolate and slightly undone centers. Warm squares of chocolatey goodness.
I've had this so called Brownie pan for a while now, and I've pretty much only made brownies in it since I got it.
But recently I had this brilliant idea to bake some BBQ chicken in it. And that turned out delicious.
And you know what else?
It was the most perfect portion size for just little ole me.
So I did something crazy. I made lasagna in my "brownie pan."
Oh, the horror it must have felt when it was full of cheesy, saucy noodley goodness instead of danity chocolate squares.
And again. Perfect portion sizes. I didn't have to eat lasagna for 65 days.
This is huge, people. And please don't tell me one of you, who is smarter than me, figured this out long ago. Shame on you for not sharing with your fellow single people or two person homes.
Total casserole game changer.
So long to my "brownie pan." And hello to my new I'm-gonna-use-this-for-everything pan. I think my next creation will be poppy seed chicken.