Monday, December 17, 2012

Twenty Six Point Two.....One Mile At A Time

"A marathoner is a marathoner regardless of time. Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental, that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow. It's all in conquering the challenge."
---Mary R. Wittenberg

Arriving at the Start Line of the Rocket City Marathon last Saturday to me was like the final award ceremony for the many miles I had put in over the last few months. I had run all of those training miles alone...except for the cows and the neighborhood dogs, and was so ridiculously pumped about running the actual race. Now, let's be clear.....I wasn't expecting to participate in the real award ceremony. That would be reserved for the Kenyans and the athletic phenomenons.
I had a personal race goal of running the marathon in less than 4 hrs and 30 minutes, but I was hoping to stay closer to a 4:15 pace. During my training runs, I had maintained that pace for months, so I completely expected to cross the finish line within my goal time. I even wore a "Pace Tattoo" on my left forearm that would help me check my pace at each mile marker. I felt phsyically and mentally strong and ready for the race.

The gun fired.....

I was off. I shuffled along mixed up in the crowd of 1600 or so runners during the first stretch of road. I spotted my family and friends right across the start line and they all gave me an enthusiastic wave and smile as I began my journey. I flashed a wide grin and waved to my group.
The first mile clicked by in what felt like only seconds. I had adrenaline coursing through my veins as I ran along in the crowd of runners. The first mile marker clicked by and I was grinning from ear to ear.
The second mile marker also seemed to appear instantly. The joy of the moment made the first 18 minutes pass by quickly. I was feeling so fresh and strong. I was still surrounded by a pack of other runners, as everyone was trying to even out their pace and find space to get into a running rhythm. I spotted my whole group of race supporters at mile two! My hubby was there with my 3 little boys, my Mom and Dad, and a couple of my great friends. I was suprised and so happy to see them so quickly! I threw my arms up to give them a wave as they cheered for me and kept trucking along.
Miles three and four passed by almost effortlessly. During these miles, my prayer band reminded me to pray for my family. I ran and prayed with such a thankful heart for my perfect little lovebugs and my hubby. I prayed during those first few miles with such gratitude. I was literally filled with joy. I was feeling beyond grateful for the ability to accomplish such a difficult physical feat and felt wrapped in a blanket of love because of my supporters who were there to cheer me on. I had a permanent smile across my face as my feelings of joy oozed out as I ran.
I trucked along through miles five and six. I could see my little guys standing with their signs they had made as I approached them. I had to make a super quick detour over to the sidewalk where they were standing to give each of them a quick smooch on the forehead.
I had stayed near the 4:15 pace group until mile six, where I had to make a quick stop at the portapotty. I did such a fantastic job "pre-hydrating", that I had to make a stop. Since someone else was making a pit stop, too....I had to wait a minute on my turn to go. During my stop, the 4:25 pace group passed by me. I wasn't too worried about that because I knew that I was still very close to my pace time and I thought I could probably catch back up to them.
I fell into a comfortable running rhythm during miles seven to ten. I saw my supporters a couple more times, and became quite amazed that Bradley and the boys seemed to be around every corner. They were very efficient as a marathon support group! Each time I saw them, I was greeted with new signs and more cheers.

I hit mile 11 and everything changed.
I was running along happily, until something went wrong in my left knee.
I had not had any knee problems during my training runs, so it seemed to come out of nowhere. It was instant and it was intense. Something felt crooked or out of place or wacky in some sort of painful way. The pain was back behind my knee cap. I stopped and bent over, touching my toes to try to stretch out my hamstring. I did some knee lifts to try to make the pain subside. Then, I tried to run again.
Oh, boy. This was not good.
I decided to walk a bit and see if maybe just "shaking it off" would work. Walking didn't hurt it at all. So, I kept walking for a bit. I walked for a quarter of a mile or so. I decided to give it another go and try to run again. Owww!

Oh, dear. Not good. Not good. Not good.
I had to walk again until mile 12.

I had been running with my cell phone, just in case my boys wanted to text me some sort of message of support and I was using the clock on the phone as a pacing tool.
I texted Bradley for help.
I sent....
"Something is wrong with my knee. The next time I see you, have some ibuprofen ready with a drink."
He was near the route of the runners, so he pulled up next to me in the truck and Tucker held his hand out the window. In the palm of his hand were 3 ibuprofen. I took them from him as I walked alongside the truck. I took the styrofoam Jack's cup from him to have something to wash the pills down with as they drove off looking at me with concern.
I was humbled to walking for the next two miles. I tried to run over and over, but my knee just would not cooperate. I prayed that the ibuprofen would start to take effect so that I could pick up my running pace again.
I walked to mile 13.
I walked to mile 14.

I watched as the pace groups kept running past me. As I saw the slowest pace group, the 4:45 group run past, tears came to my eyes.
I knew that I wouldn't be able to finish my race within my goal time frame, and I began to worry that I wouldn't even make the course time limit of 6 hours. If I had to continue to walk, I would never make it. I would be crushed if I didn't make the 6 hour cut off, or worse if I had to just drop out.

I stretched some more.
I decided that I would try again to run. It had been long enough that maybe the ibuprofen would be helping.
I gave it a go. Ow. It hurt, but less so. A slow jog might be possible.
I kind of shuffled along at a slower pace. Hoping my knee would kind of get in the game and cooperate. I was running again.....slowly....but it was better than walking.
I was clenching my teeth together as I ran, but I was determined to hobble along and finish this race. I made it to Mile 15.
I was thrilled that I was jogging again when I spotted my gang of supporters. I wanted to be able to erase some of the concern that I had seen on the boys faces earlier. They were as excited about coming to cheer at this race as I was to run in it. I didn't want to ruin the day with a bum knee.
I wanted to finish this race!
I was determined. I continued to pray and run. Pray and run. Pray and run. I prayed at each mile marker for whatever was on my prayer band, and then I would pray some more for the strength to finish.
I continued over the next few miles jogging as much as I could, until it hurt too bad, and then I would walk for a while. I made it to mile 16 and mile 17. Slowly clicking the miles off.
I checked the time on my phone to see how far off pace I was. I checked my pace tattoo.....which was originally applied to my arm to keep me on became a constant reminder of how far off my goal pace I was.
I made it to the water stop at mile 18. I felt a little embarrassed at how slow I was. I know, I know...the feelings were irrational and unwarranted. I was running a marathon for heaven sake! It's not that I wasn't proud of that. But, I was just disappointed in the way the run had turned out. I didnt expect to be just surviving the race. I wanted to relish in it. I found myself surrounded by runners in their 60's and 70's. Women who were vomitting. People who were just slow. I have always held the utmost respect for runners of ALL speeds. It has never mattered to me if someone ran fast or slow, as long as they were running. But somehow, it made a difference when I was the one running slow.
My little guys must have known that I needed some encouragement, because at about this time...they held up these signs....
"We believe in you."
I kept moving.
Run, walk. Run, walk. Run, walk.
Mile 19 done.
Mile 20 passed through some sort of a park. As I ran through it, the boys gave me a banana to eat. I crammed three bites into my mouth and kept running....chewing as I jogged off. It was seriously the best banana I had ever eaten.
But stopping, even for that short, short time caused my knee to start to hurt so badly again.
I gritted my teeth and hobbled off. I only had 6 miles to go. 6 miles is nothing.
I kept telling myself....6 miles...that's only 2 5K's. It's nothing.
I just wanted to keep moving.
Walk, run. Walk, run. Walk, run.
Mile 21.
At around mile 22, the runners were suppose to run through a pedestrian tunnel. When the boys saw this tunnel the day before the race as we were coming into town, they thought it was the neatest thing ever! As I appraoched the tunnel on race day, I saw three little boys standing at the entrance of it, waiting to run through it with me.
As we ran, they asked..."How is your knee? How are you feeling?" and said, "We are proud of you, Mom. You're doing good!"
I was still jogging. Still moving toward that finish line.
Only 3 miles to go.
My whole crew....Mom and Dad, the boys, Bradley, my friends...they were all there at mile 23. They shouted..."See you at the finish line!"
The finish line.
I was going to make it. I was going to finish.
At this point, all of my gratitude started to come back again. Although my knee was still being uncooperative and my legs and feet were beginning to ache all over, I knew I would be able to finish the last 3 miles.
Mile 24.
Mile 25.
Everyone around me was struggling.
Several were vomitting.
Almost everyone was walking more than they were jogging.
The runners all started encouraging each other.
"We're almost there."
"We got this!"
"Keep moving forward!"
The spectators that were scattered sparsely over the last mile were especially compassionate and encouraging. Screaming....
"Go! You're almost there!!"
"You did it!"
"You're there!"
"Right around the corner!"
Mile 26.
I could see the finish line.
It was just down the hill.
I heard my friends calling to me from the sidewalk...
"There she is! You did it. You are there!"

I could hear the announcer call my name over the cheers....
"Runner #1584 - Jennifer Heptinstall from Blountsville"

I did it.
I made it!
I crossed the finish line.
I jogged into the arms of the race officials as they wrapped me into a blanket and placed my medal around my neck.

I finished a full hour over my goal pace time, but I did it.
I ran a marathon.
I clutched onto my medal and loved the way it felt heavy hanging around my neck.
I ran straight over to my family who were waiting to congratulate me.

Everyone was so encouraging and supportive. They ALL knew I was disappointed with my finish time, but no one else seemed to care about the time it took to finish.
Shortly after I crossed the line, one of my friends asked....
"Well, will you do another one?"
I shouted...
"No. Never! I am not doing that again."
But, the gang laughed and said, "We will ask you again next week. I bet you will change your mind."
Over the past week, as the knee has stopped hurting, and the blisters have gone away, and the muscles have regained their strength, and the joints are less achy....I have started to consider trying it again. Although I completed my goal of finishing a marathon, I didn't even come close to my goal finishing time.
Doing another one is now certainly a possibility.
To boast of a performance which I cannot beat is merely stupid vanity. And if I can beat it, that means there is nothing special about it. What has passed is already finished with.
What I find more interesting is what is still to come.
----Emil Zatopek

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rocket City Marathon - The Start Line

   I ran the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville last Saturday. I completed the full marathon.  I ran 26.2 miles.  I am included in an elite group of people that comprises less than 1% of the population. I did it.  I am a marathon runner.  All of these statements are almost unbelievable to me, yet they are true.   Although I put in the many, many miles of training it took to do it and I was the one actually running the still seems unreal that it's over. 
   I have thought about writing this blog entry since Saturday, yet I somehow struggle with how to put the experience into words.  The whole day was such an emotional roller coaster ride that I can't even begin to explain what the experience was like for me. Yet, I want to have it documented, so I am going to give it a whirl. 
  I suppose the best place to start the story of the marathon is the start line.....although, the story actually started months before then.  I won't back track into all the details of the training, the foot injury, the time constraints, and the diagnosis of the flu just a week before race day.  Nope, I won't go back that far. I will just start with the starting line.

  At 7:56am on Saturday, December 8th, I stood among 1,650 strangers listening to welcome speeches and various "good luck" messages over the loud speaker.  We were all crammed together in the starting corral with nervous energy awaiting the gun shot and permission to begin the race.  The adjoining sidewalks were crammed with families and friends of the marathon runners.....all of them craning their necks to see their loved one start their journey of 26.2 miles on foot. I had my own crew of family and friends just past the starting line waiting to see me cross that line.
I had dreamed of completing a marathon since 1997, when my Daddy did it. I cheered for him with pride as he crossed the finish line 15 years ago. Now, it was my turn. He was there, along with my Mom, to cheer me on.

As my family walked with me to the start line, my Daddy gave me his support and words of wisdom.  He said to me,
"Don't start out too fast. Stay on your own pace.  No matter how long it takes you to finish, I will be proud of you."

With a bit of raw emotions coming out in my voice, I replied,

"I hope that I am making you proud by stepping up to the start line."

He and Mom gave me a hug and kiss and I made my way over to my other awesome supporters.  My three little guys came to the race equipped with tons of motivational signs for me and were so proud to be there. 

All of my little guys and hubby have been so ridiculously supportive through my entire training period.  Never once complaining about the time it took me to train and always asking me when I returned home from a run about how my run went.  I was so elated that they all came with me to cheer me on.
I gave each one of my boys a kiss on the forehead and they all wished me good luck.  Bradley gave me a kiss and told me how proud he was of me.  I left them behind and made my way to my pace group in the starting corral.  I situated myself between the 4:10 pacers and the 4:15 pacers.

     Many of the runners had stood at the start line of a marathon before and were veteran runners, but were still showing signs of nervousness for what was about to take place.  Others, like me, were about to attempt their first full marathon.  I felt like everyone around me could tell how nervous I was.  I retied both of my shoes, even though they didn't need it.  I adjusted every article of clothing I was wearing. I checked my "Pace Tattoo" that I had applied to my left forearm to keep me on my race pace of 4 hours and 15 minutes.

 I glanced at my "Prayer Band" that I wore to remind me what to pray for at each mile marker.  My mouth felt like cotton, and my heart was beating out of my chest.  I was so excited that this day had finally arrived, yet I was so nervous that something might go wrong and I wouldn't be able to finish it.  I had put in the grueling hours of training and I was ready to start the 26 mile journey. 
The clock ticked.
The runners fidgeted.
Spectators clicked cameras.
Hearts pounded.
The gun fired.

I approached the start line with a grin on my face....

And crossed the start line with a huge smile and a wave.
I was doing it.  I was crossing the starting line of a marathon.
 This was the start of fulfilling a dream. 
"You should run your first marathon for the right reasons, because you'll never be the same person again."
                                        ---Bill Wenmack, Running Coach

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I was scheduled for an 18 mile training run this morning.  My mileage has increased over the last couple of months to prepare me for the marathon in December.  I knew 18 miles would push me to my current limit, but I didnt expect it to be excruciating.  It was terrible.  Horrific.  Painful.  Not enjoyable in ANY way.  It was one of those runs.  We runners have them sometimes.  Luckily, the bad runs are few and far between.
This morning, I was set up for failure from the beginning.  I had a whole list of strikes against me having a good run.  The circumstances were all aligned for a bummer run. 
1.  I ate a crappy dinner last night (2 slices of supreme pizza)
2.  I did not drink water yesterday.
3.  I stayed up late.
4. I did not sleep well....hardly at all.
5. I did pilates for strength training yesterday and my thighs were very sore.
6.  I completed only one of the three training runs during the week that I was scheduled to do.
All of these things added up to the worst run I have ever had.  It hurt from the first step.  My legs were sore and achy.  I had absolutely no pizazz or energy.  I felt like I was dragging my legs.  They felt like they were made of lead.  I was humbled to walking portions of the run and had trouble convincing my body to start running again.  At about mile 12 of 18, I was literally talking out loud to myself.  This is embarrasing to admit, but I honestly did it.  I told myself that I could do it...that I could make it. I told myself to keep going. (Myself wasn't listening very well, but I kept talking anyway.)
I knew that at about mile 13, I would be passing by my house where a gatorade and the other half of my protein bar awaited me.  I was in desperate need of refueling.  I thought that if I could just make it back to the food and drink, that the fuel would perk me up enough to finish stronger.  Once I got the end of my driveway in my sights, where the protein bar awaited me.... I focused straight ahead.  I kept my eyes locked on the spot that held the food.  I was even able to pick up the pace just from the anticipation of it.
Now, here comes the most dreadful part of the running story.
I dragged myself to the end of the driveway, only to discover the empty package from the protein bar lying on the ground.  It seems that one of the dadgum neighborhood dogs found my fuel before I got to it.  I was bummed beyond words. 
I thought that maybe the wind had just blown the bar onto the ground, so I combed the earth for the blown away bar.  It wasn't there.  But, if it had been lying on the dirty ground, I wouldn't have hestitated to eat it.  I would've gobbled that yummy little bite up.  Except, it wasnt there.  It was certainly in the belly of a nearby dog.
So..... I had to finish the last 5 miles, grieving the loss of my food.
Wincing at the pain in my thighs.
Groaning at the blisters forming on my toes.
Dragging my lead legs along with me.
Completely depleted of all energy.
I have never....ever.....been so happy for a run to be over.
Next week on Sunday morning, as I tackle 19 miles, I guarantee that I will be better prepared for success.
I will eat a better dinner, drink more water on Saturday, get my training runs done during the week, get more sleep, and MOST importantly.....I will hide my food from the dogs.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Marathon Training...What Am I THINKING??!! ....Literally.

(Please ignore the gazillion grammatical errors that I am certain are in this post.  I typed it quickly as I thought of the words.  Lots of room for errors here.)

I am in the midst of training for my first marathon.  The December 8th date is quickly approaching.  I have been following a training schedule that I found online so that I could be prepared for the LONG 26.2 mile race.  Completing a marathon has forever been a personal goal of mine, but haven't been able to figure out how to squeeze in the time for training until my boys (now ages 13, 9, and 8) got a little older and less demanding.  My current training schedule is to complete my long runs on Sunday mornings before anyone starts stirring.  The rest of my shorter runs are crammed between school and football practices, during practices, and sometimes after dark.  I fit them in whenever I can manage. 
Today is is my long running day.  It is now afternoon, and the sweat from my run has long ago dried, but the run was just this morning, so I remember almost every step of it. I remember what I was thingking and feeling. Before I became the distance runner myself, I always wondered what the runners must be thinking and feeling as they pounded out mile after mile after mile. I wondered how in the world they talked themself into running so far. So, I decided that I would record it.  Record MY thoughts during my run today.  My thoughts today while running were exactly typical of ANY other long run I have ever done.  I have noticed that I kind of "zone out" and think the same things over and over.
  My day started at 6 am this morning.  I awoke sluggish, but ready to complete a 13 mile training run before time to get ready for church.  I put some biscuits in the oven and started the timer so that when the boys began to stir, the could help themselves to breakfast. I grabbed a protein bar for myself, drank some water, laced up my shoes, grabbed my cell phone and ipod and headed out the door.

Now.....pretend you can actually READ my thoughts during my run.

Brrrr.  It's freezing out here.  And it's drizzling. Crap.  2 hours of this is gonna be miserable.  Maybe I should just NOT run.  No.  I gotta run.  If I don't I will be behind schedule.  Dang.  I hate the cold weather.  I better get going.  I am starting later than I should've.

To Mile One:
Good heavens it is cold!  I should've gotten my hat to keep this rain off my face.  I hope it stops raining.  I hope it doesnt rain during the real marathon.  Cold rain stinks.  Sheesh. I wonder where the dog is?  He always runs with me.  I hope he isn't dead.  Oh my goodness, if Davy is dead, then the boys are goona be devastated.  I wonder why he didn't come running?  Maybe he is sleeping.  Maybe he will join me later.  I hope Davy is ok.  First mile always seems so hard!  Why can't I breathe?  Hmmm...should I just keep running on my regular path to the tree and back over and over?  I get so sick of running that same mile and back over and over.  If I go farther to the cemetery down the road, then I won't get so bored.  But there are hills that way.  And it is farther from the boys.  But I like the run there...maybe I should go to the cemetery today.  But what if the dogs are out of their pens on the way.  I hate dogs.  I hate hills. I like the cemetery.  I think I will do it.

To Mile Two:
I am so glad I headed toward the cemetery.  I love this downhill part.  This is gonna make the run seem better because the scenery is different.  This was a good choice.  I hope I don't have to stop to go to the bathroom today. Is that a dog?  Oh my gosh, I hope these people didnt let their dogs out to pee early this morning.  If the dogs come to attack me, then I can climb up on that fence.  Or that tree.  I can call for help.  I will call Daddy.  Please....please....please let the dogs NOT be out.  No dogs. No dogs. No dogs.  Daddy will hurry if a dog attacks me.

To Mile Three:
Thank goodness there were no dogs in that section.  This road is so beautiful.  I love how the trees kind of hang over on both sides.  These downhills are so nice.  running around this cemetery is really neat.  I wonder if PawPaw Curt sees me running?  His headstone is really pretty.  Mama did a good job picking it out.  Hey, PawPaw!  I miss you.  Man, this hill running out of the cemetery is harsh. 

To Mile Four:
Good grief!  Why did I come this way!  These hills are ridiculous!  Them don't seem big at all when I am in my car.  That is so weird.  Oh, dear heavens!  I am gonna die!  I don't know if I can make it.  I might have to walk some.  No.....keep running. Power through the uphills so that I can relish in the downhills. Power through. Power through. Argh.  I need to walk.  No...don't do it. No....No...just jog slowly.  (Hearing Dory's voice off of Nemo)......Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...LaLa..lala....just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. Just keep swimming...lala.  Why does that stupid song help me?  I am not even swimming.  It's insane when that song pops into my brain. Who could find support from a memory deficient cartoon fish besides me?  I'm a weirdo.  I hope there are no dogs when I pass by these houses again.  They weren't out before, maybe they will still be put up.  Thank goodness I made it back past all those darn hills!  Why did I even go that way?! What was I thinking?  I knew there were hills.  Hills are hard.  I wont come this way again today. I am happy to be almost back in front of my house.

To Mile Five:
I gotta use the bathroom.  Dang.  Why do I always have to use the bathroom on my run?  This is so annoying.  What if I have to use the bathroom during the marathon and there isnt a portapotty?  I guess I would start walking.  That would stink.  Then I wouldn't make my goal.  Oh, geez.  I hope I make it back home.  I really gotta go.  I am gonna go really fast inside and leave my ipod running.  Its gonna add wasted time to my run, but I gotta go. Hurry. Hurry. I am NOT going that far to the cemetery again.

To Mile Six:
Hey Davy Dog!  You musta been sleeping earlier.  Glad you aren't dead.  You sure do get excited to go for a run.  You are a weird little dog. Let's go, Davy!  I am in a good rhythm.  I feel like I could run forever.  My breathing isn't hard.  My legs feel good.  I'm glad it stopped raining.  When did it even stop?  I didn't notice.  It's getting hot.  It was so cold just a little bit ago.  I'm glad it warmed up.  I wonder if it will be warm on marathon day?  Probably not.  December might be really cold.  Man, I hate the cold weather.  This weather is perfect.  Man, I feel so great. I love running.  I am so glad I am a runner. I am halfway finished.  Maybe I should run back to the cemetery again.

To Mile Seven:
I think I will run back to the cemetery.  It's really pretty there.  I hate just running back and forth to that dang tree.  The same two miles over and over.  But, if I run to the cemetery, I will have to do the hills.  They weren't THAT bad, though.  Plus, I will get to see the pretty trees.  The run is much nicer that way.  Yes.  I will go back to the cememtery.

To Mile Eight:
I hope the dogs aren't out this time.  Why do people even have big dogs?  What is the point?  I hate dogs.  I have my cell phone.  If I see one coming I will dial Daddy while I am running to climb that tree.  I wonder if the dog could reach my legs up on that tree?  Maybe another tree would be better.. Oh, there is a tree I could climb in!  Please  be no dogs. No dogs. No dogs.  Hey....where is MY dog?  Davy must've stopped back at the church.  I didnt even notice he wasnt with me.  I don't see any dogs out.  Thank goodness.  This road is really nice.  It's prettiest in the Fall.  When the leaves start changing.  My Sunday morning runs will be even better when the leaves start changing.  I love fall leaves.  This downhill is awesome.  I wonder if Mom knows I run around the cememtery sometimes and 'visit' with PawPaw?  That headstone is ridiculously pretty. When I die, I hope I have a pretty headstone. Hey, PawPaw!   

To Mile Nine:
These hills are horrible!  Horrible!  Why in the world do I choose to run up these hills??  .....Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming....just keep swimming...LaLalala.  I am so weird.  I am seriously weird.  I am not even swimming! 

To Mile Ten:
So glad to be back closer to home.   We have a really pretty church.  I hope I can get finished and cleaned up in time to not be late to church. I kind of like the familiarity of this route.  Maybe I should've just kept running this same mile over and over.  At least it is flatter.  But, no....I am happy that I ran to the cemetery.  It passed the miles more quickly. I like it there. I am so glad to be back to my starting point to get some Gatorade and a GU packet.  Yuck!  This GU tastes terrible.  Like flavored molasses.  *gag* ....Oh, now THAT was attractive.  *gag* I hope I don't do that on race day in front of people. That would be embarrasing.  I have three miles to go.  I can handle that.  I can't believe I am running a half marathon today and I am not even getting a stupid shirt.  Who cares?  It's just a shirt.  But I really wish I could have one.  I also wish that I was crossing a real finish line in 3 miles....not just running up my driveway.  I wish people would be cheering for me when I finish this half marathon distance.  That's dumb, though.  I am gonna be running farther than this every week until December.  I won't have a finish line and a tshirt every week.  I still wish I had a tshirt. Oh, my gosh!  I can't even believe that I signed up to run 26 miles!  My feet are hurting.  How does this dog keep running so far?  His legs are sooo short!  My little teensy dog is traing for a marathon with me.  I wonder if that is normal for a dog? It seems pretty weird.  How does this dog run so far?

To Mile Eleven:
I am hungry.  That protein bar was good.  I wish I had some more of it.  When I finish running, I think I will put some Nutella on one of those biscuits.  I hope the boys didnt eat all of the biscuits.  A Nutella biscuit sounds so good.  I hope the boys aren't worried about me.  I hope they don't ever get irritated that I go for runs.  They don't act like they mind.  I am hungry.  My toes hurt.  I am gonna have a blister.  I can feel my toes rubbing.  Why do my toes always rub?  I'm glad nothing else hurts.  Two miles to go.  I am hungry.

To Mile Twelve:
Just two miles to go. That is nothing.  Back and forth to the tree.  ......Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...just keep swimming...Lalalala.  I wish I had a cooler mantra.  I should search for a new mantra.  Mine is weird.  Ow.  My toes hurt. Ow. Ow. Ow.  I could eat an egg and cheese biscuit when I get back.  Oh, I know!  I can make my peanut butter and banana smoothie icecream stuff.  Oh, that sounds soooo good!  I wish I had some right now.  I want to take a warm bath, too.  My toes hurt.  I hope they aren't bleeding.  I need some new socks.  Maybe mine are worn out.  I need new shoes, too.  Man, I wore out these shoes quick!  Or maybe, not?  When did I get these shoes?  It's  been a while since I got them.  I need new ones.  My toes hurt.  Its already past 9:00.  I didnt start early enough.  I hope the boys aren't worried.  Ow.  My toes hurt.  I am hungry.  I wish I had a finish line.  I want a tshirt. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

To Mile Thirteen:
This is my last mile.  I am running a half marathon today.  Before church!  It seems weird.  I shouldve started earlier.  I am running a great pace, though.  I should be able to make my running goal if I keep running at this pace.  I wonder if I can beat Daddy's marathon time?  That would be cool.  I wonder if he would be upset if I beat him? Nah.  He would be proud.  My toes are hurting.  Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.  I wish I didnt have toenails.  If they would go ahead and all fall off, then they wouldn't hurt when I ran.  I am hungry.  I'm thirsty, too.  I am almost finished.  Almost there.  How in the world is this dog still running? Almost there. 

To Mile Thirteen Point Five:
I'm almost finished.  I can see the driveway.  I see my Gatorade bottle.  Almost there.  ....Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming....Just keep swimming...Lalalala.  When I get home, I can eat some Nutella on a tortilla shell.  I might eat my peanut butter banana smoothie.  I can eat anything.  How many calories does this muc running burn?  I think it's like 1500 or something.  I can't wait to eat something.  Taking a warm bath is gonna feel nice.  I hope the boys are ok.  They wouldve texted if anything went wrong.  My toes hurt. Ow. Ow. Ow. ......just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, just keep swimming Lalalala.  Oh, my gosh!  I am there! It's right there!  Almost!  Almost!  This is the farthest I have ever ran before.  I did good.  I am proud.  I can't believe I have to double this distance eventually.  How will I ever do it?  I did it today.  I am finished.  Yes!  Good job.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Benefits of Running

  My afternoon didn't go as planned and I was super grouchy.  I was irritated that the evening I had planned didn't come to be and I felt the daggers coming out of my eyes.  I was just daring somebody to say something to me because I was ready to pounce. My responses to others were short and my blood was boiling inside. It was just one of those afternoons. 
  I texted Bradley, my hubs, and let him know how frustrated I was with a lengthy text explaining my woes.  Then, I texted him.....
I need to go run.
  If you are not a runner, then you may not understand this need.  The need for me to run at that moment came from the depths of my soul.  I physically yearned to go for a run.  I was aching for it.  I knew that a run would instantly improve my spirits and set me back on the path of happiness.  Thankfully, my husband understood.  He agreed to take over at football practice so that I could come back home and run.
I cannot describe to you how theraputic a run is for me.  Of course, I have days where running feels like a chore.  I have lots of those.  But, then there are days when I can't get my shoes tied quickly enough.  I am so eager to get out there and hit the road.  Today was one of those eager days.  And the run today was fantastic! 
I am sitting here typing this all drenched in sweat.  Feeling happy.  Feeling rejuvenated.  Feeling all better.  The stars are now back in line as they should be because of my run. 
The benefits of running are I created this little photo to show my love for the sport......

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Turn for 26.2

Many, MANY years ago.....I stood along the side of the road in Hunstville, Alabama. It was 17 degrees and our family huddled together on the sidewalk craning our necks to see.  We were staring down the road looking at the runners....Trying to catch a glimpse of him coming.

"There he is!  He is coming!
Go Daddy!  You can do it!
Run, Daddy, Run!"

My heart swelled with pride as my Daddy ran past us, giving us a smile and a wave.

He was running a marathon.....A feat I viewed as completely superhuman.
Impossible for a "normal" person.
I figured he and the other marathoners must have been born with some sort of genetic abnormality that allowed them to accomplish such an insane achievement.

Run for 26.2 miles? 
Over 4 hours of running without a break?
How can a human body physically hold up to that?

All these years of wonder and amazement at the grand accomplishment of my Daddy and the other marathoners I watched that day.....and I am now ready to add my name to the list of people who have achieved the goal.

My miles of running has been building over the years after Daddy ran his marathon.  I started with 5K's, then moved to a couple of 10K's, to a 10 miler, to ...most recently a couple of half-marathons. 

I have learned over the years of pounding out the miles...that neither Daddy...nor any other marathoner....was born with a genetic abnormality.....they just got out there and RAN.

....and ran.
.....and ran.
....and ran.

And so did I.

And during all those miles of body began to YEARN to run a full marathon. 

So.....last night....I registered for one. 
I registered for a full...26.2 mile marathon....coming up this December.
The very same marathon in Huntsville that I stood on the sidewalk and watched my Daddy run all those years ago.

Except is MY turn to be on the street running. My family...and my Daddy....will be standing on the sidewalk watching for me to run past.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hiking The Walls of Jericho

I was able to rack up some really awesome Mommy Miles hiking yesterday with my favorite guys in the whole world!  We heard about a place to hike about an hour and a half north of our home a while back called "The Walls of Jericho".  After some research, we knew that we needed to be able to set aside a full day to do the hike because of the drive to it and the length of the hike.  Yesterday was the day.

We packed up plenty of snacks, lunches and Powerade for our hike and hit the road.  Each of the boys got a new "Camelback" backpack this Spring so they could carry their own hydration and lunch on our hikes.  This was their first time to try them out and they worked beautifully!

We searched and searched for good directions to The Walls of Jericho trailhead and never really found them online.  The only directions we found were to go 25 miles past Scottsboro on Alabama Highway 79.  Luckily, these directions worked out just fine for us.  We drove straight to it without any problem.  A better description, though, is that the trailhead is just a mile or two North of the town of Hytop, Alabama on Highway 79.  As a matter of fact, the town of Hytop boasts that it is "The Gateway to The Walls of Jericho".

We entered the trail in perfect hiking weather.  June 1st in Alabama is typically hot and balmy, but as luck would have it, it rained the night before our hike and cooled the air to a comfortbale 75 degrees.  The weather was perfect throughout the hike.  If it had been warmer, staying hydrated for our hike would have been a bigger issue. 

We hiked at a comfortable pace for the boys.  We generally like to stop often when we see something that fascinates the boys....and pretty much everything is fascinating to kids.  We stopped to walk on logs, to look at bugs, to look into sinkholes, and just to rest. 

We stopped and meandered off the trail several times, but our favorite stops along the trail were at the footbridges and the cemetery.

The cememtery was grown up and had only this one grave marker that had an inscription.  The other markers were just plain rock markers.  The little cemetery so far from current civilization, really made us curious about the Clark family that obviously once called this area their home.

During the hike down to The Walls of Jericho, we crossed over two of these log footbridges.  The bridges are simply made from a fallen log with a hand crafted railing.  The bridge is certainly sturdy enough, but with our entire family on it walking together, it gave enough of a shake that it added to the excitement.  The first footbridge crossed over Hurricane Creek, which was flowing with water on the day we crossed.  We stopped just across the creek, where a bench had been placed for a refueling snack.  The boys also spent some time looking for fish and critters off the bridge.

The second footbridge crossed over a dry creekbed.  I have read that during a thunderstorm or after a heavy rain, that this creek bed can become filled with a swift moving stream.  Until recently, the footbridges were not there, which made access to the Walls of Jericho dangerous during rainy season.

Besides being safer, I think the bridges add charm to the hike, without making it feel too "man made". 

  It took us just over 2 hours to get into the gorge area.  The hike down into the gorge was almost completely downhill and filled with switchbacks.  Throughout the downhill portions of the hike, we built up a sort of dread for the hike back out.  Although hiking downhill is always pleasurable, it causes some alarm when thinking about the inevitable hike back up. 

As we hiked the last bit of the trail into the gorge, we were able to hear the water falling and we knew we were close to the canyon.  The last bit of hiking was the most treacherous of the entire trip in, as it included rugged terrain and some fairly sheer drop offs.  We were driven to get to the end of the hike and were instantly rewarded with this sight.....

As we entered the Walls of Jericho area, this naturally formed pool was the first sight we saw.  We were immediately taken aback at how crystal clear the water was.  We were instantly saddened by the fact that we didn't bring our swim suits.  The water falling off the rocks and into the pool simply begged to be swam in.  We now have plans to hike back to The Walls of Jericho, if for no other reason than to swim in this water.

For a bit, we thought that this natural pool was the main attraction of The Walls of Jericho.  But after a few minutes of exploring, we hiked farther up the rocks and found this area.....

This natural amphitheatre area was a blast to explore and made the perfect setting for our picnic lunch.  We managed to keep the boys sitting still long enough to refuel with lunches and drinks before they were off again exploring the area.  We spent about 2 hours down in the Walls area.  The boys clambored over the rocks, caught tadpoles that were abundant in the shallow pools on the rocks, waded in the water, and explored the caves and alcoves.

At one point while we were down in the gorge, a young couple came clamoring over the rocks and walked up to us.  They asked....

"Excuse us, but is there any other way to get back out of here besides the way we came in?"

We explained that the only way to get back out was to hike the 3-4 miles back out......uphill.

They replied...."That's what we were afraid of.  We are dreading the hike out and was hoping there was a short cut to get out."

Our belief is that the most beautiful natural sights require some effort to see, so the strenuous hike back up didn't seem quite as horrific to us as it did to the young couple.

We kept a watch on our time inside the gorge, knowing that we needed to allot 3 hours to hike out.  We knew that it was time to begin our ascent back to the top. 

We gathered up all of our discarded gear.....

...and started our hike back up.

Although we feared that the hike back out would be too strenuous for our family, we quite enjoyed it!

The hike out was definitely uphill, but we took it slow and worked in several rest stops.

Even taking breaks, it took us only about 2 1/2 hours to hike back out of the gorge.  The hike out wasn't nearly as bad as we feared it would be.  Thankfully, the switchbacks are designed to give you some flat hiking interspersed with the uphills.  It made hiking out quite bearable.

If I were to give our day of hiking a ranking, I would give it a 9 out of 10.  The weather was perfect.  We had plenty of drinks and snacks, the scenery was lovely, the trail was well marked, and the conditions were perfect.  The only thing that would've pushed the hike up to a 10 would've been if we had carried our swimsuits. It also would have been nice if water had been running in the dry creek bed and out of the holes in the canyon walls.  But, those things are quite minor. They just make us want to go back to see it again after a rain.

I wore a Nike+ sensor throughout the hike to see how many miles it recorded.  Although the sign at the trailhead proclaims that the hike is 6 miles round trip, my sensor recorded it as 8.25 miles.  I have read other people reporting that the trail is actually farther than posted as well. So if you choose to are in for a treat....just keep in mind that the hike is fairly strenuous and is likely farther than 6 miles. Take plenty of fluids and allot plenty of time to stop and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. 

I would highly recommend this hike to able bodied people who are at least fairly fit and who are looking for a great... free way to spend time together as a family.

We are already searching for our next hiking destination.