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Archive for the ‘Bravery’ Category

Girl Power: Race Report 

It’s a nice feeling to go to bed the night before a race, having eaten without a goal in mind aside from surviving. I had a nice, leisurely dinner with Adonis, excited about sharing a 5k with several girls from school who would be running their first. My colleague, Running for Two, and I have been training the Girl Power Running Club since August, helping them with their stamina and pacing. In the beginning, I ran with the slower ones and she with the faster; as she became more pregnant and my marathon training ended, we switched roles. At our last practice, our first finishers came in between 33 and 36 minutes, so I was expecting a relatively chill morning. As I walked to the starting line with RFT, 14 girls, and their parents, I was feeling nervous, but it wasn’t for me. I just wanted my girls to pace themselves and be happy. 

That changed. Quickly. Literally! 

My speedy girls took off and I ran with them, slightly behind. I checked my watch. I saw an 8 – and it wasn’t in the seconds place. Blast you, youthful adrenaline! I found myself hoping that the girls actually couldn’t maintain their pace because I knew that I couldn’t. Thankfully, that 8 became a 9 within a reasonable amount of time. I saw that the two girls ahead of me were using me as motivation to keep going. Each time they slowed to a walk, one would look for me. “Don’t let me catch you!” I shouted, knowing that I probably couldn’t, heh. 

After about half the race, I did end up catching up, but only because as I had thought (and hoped, for my sake!), they started too fast. I was still running with a girl, who went a bit ahead of me. I don’t know if she knew she was pacing me. She would walk sometimes and I yelled at her to keep going. By the last mile, I remembered why I don’t enjoy short races as much. I had to make the choice between swallowing and slowing down. I checked my heart rate. 145. Lies. I was hauling, but it’s good to know that I can smile like I’m enjoying every moment. 

We made the last turn for the finish line. I looked at my watch – under 30 minutes. I knew she was on track to probably get a prize for her age group. “RUN!” I screamed. Whoa. Was I going to finish under 30 minutes too? Aaaaaaaand no. But she did! I crossed the timing mat at 30:06, feeling pleased at my best 5k performance in a long time and thankful that I wasn’t left in the dust. 

I reminded Speedy to keep walking to bring her heart rate down, then we walked over to cheer in the rest of our runners. Most of the girls looked really strong as they crossed. I ran in with several of them, as did Speedy. They all were really excited to get their medals. RFT crossed with the last of the girls. We took a group picture, looking notably more fatigued than we had an hour earlier, but surely the bling made up for it! 

We stuck around for the awards ceremony. I was chatting with some parents when I heard the most insane thing. 

My name. Whaaaaaaaaat?! 

I squealed and ran up to dj’s booth. “Where do I go?!” I got another medal and met Berry! 


I thanked Speedy, who had placed 2nd in her AG (!) profusely. I knew I couldn’t have done it without her motivating me. It’s amazing how by doing your best, you can help people without your knowing it, no matter how old you are. Most of the girls said that they couldn’t wait to run again next year! Winning! 

Girl Power Is Legit. 

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God, Garmin, and Good Judgment. Race Report

Perfume. 

Lipstick. 

Earrings. 

Go to the bathroom as much as possible. 

Thank God for all He has provided me, also think of sins for which I need forgiveness so earthly payment doesn’t come due during the race. 

The last one in that checklist (perhaps the last two, tee hee) especially should indicate my level of anxiety. I try, imperfectly of course, to be thankful regularly, and I don’t think of God as my “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of partner, but if there’s any day that I need a solid from the Lord, it’s today. The fabulous 3M had just texted me an excerpt from Hebrews 12, something I had reminded myself before my 70.3 and was trying to keep in mind –

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Yes, Joan. While there is joy at the finish line set before me, the marathon is not the cross. Remember this today. Any pain I experience, while important to God, likely won’t approach crucifixion levels. 

I found the 5:45 pacer and asked him what his plan was. Murray said he was going to run for 2 minutes at about 12 min mile pace and do a brisk walk for 1 minute. He said that while he’s not an official Galloway pacer, running steadily at a 13:10 pace seemed too slow. Fair enough! I figured I wouldn’t get in trouble and go out too fast if I chilled with Murray, so I lined up with him in the corral after hugging my amazing family and saying a prayer with them. 


The horn for which I’ve trained for months finally sounded. I wiped away tears of excitement and awe that this day is really here and walked toward the timing mat. The French horn opening of the first movement of Brahms 1st piano concerto set the mood in my ears for this part of my journey – grand, expansive, RUBATO! Not. Too. Fast. I stayed close to Murray* at the very beginning, but something didn’t feel right about it. I let him go and just paid attention to my Garmin. Mile 1 passes and I look down at my watch. 12:43. And Mr. 5:45 is AHEAD of me. Nope. 

A lady sidled up to me and asked what my plan was. “2/1, stay alive, finish under 6!” I replied. “Me too!” she answered. 

I need you to understand this. I had imagined that I might make a friend or two on the way to the finish line. It had been immensely helpful to me during my 70.3 to do the run with someone, and I will never forget her. So when I say that I was open to running the race with someone else despite preferring to train alone, you must know that I really meant it. 

This was not that someone. 

Roz* from New Jersey was running this marathon on her journey to join the 50 states marathon club. This marked marathon number 15 for this running coach who would NOT. STOP. TALKING. She asked me about my training, and I judged her as I answered her stupid questions politely. I say her questions were stupid because they were questions for which I could presumably have wrong answers. If I did something wrong in my training, what the hell am I supposed to do about it now in mile 2 of the marathon? Turn around? Heffa, please. Performance day is just that. Make it work now, ask questions later. 

Still, I thought the Christian thing to do was to deal with her neediness. Some people need people to boss around to feel useful. I turned up my music and nodded and smiled as she went on about herself. I asked cogent questions. Everyone runs differently and if I can help someone run the best race she can, I can handle a bit of annoyance. 

Jim* rolled up on us around the 5k point. He was talking with Roz and it turned out he was already in the 50 states club. I was thankful for Jim because he took some of the pressure off of me. He wasn’t with us for very long, to which Roz said, “some people just need to show off and talk about themselves to new people!” I burst out laughing at the irony of her observation. “Don’t laugh too hard, Joan. 23.1 to go – save your breath!” I thought. 

At mile 5, I decided to use the toilet. JUST in case. I wasn’t feeling a pressing need to go, but my colleague at work who just completed her first marathon said that it’s better to go in the beginning rather than later. What could it hurt? Plus, I was hoping Roz would go ahead of me. Well, she did, but not for long. A mile or so later, she stopped to refill her water and said she would be behind me. “Okay!” It took a LOT of willpower to stay at my current pace and not purposely speed up to put distance between us. I suppose I have more faith in my patience than I do my legs. 

The marathon and half-marathon courses were concurrent for about the first 7 miles. Then it got REAL lonely out there, man. It looked like I was going into the wilderness. I was actually thankful for Roz’s yelling behind me because I didn’t see a single soul ahead of me. Disconcerting, y’all. It wasn’t too long before I saw some more cones, cops, and the winner headed in the opposite direction toward the finish line. Confirmation of the correct path was comforting, indeed. 

As the race continued, I felt pains that worried me. My left hamstring in mile 8. My right calf in mile 13. I prayed for them and pressed forward. I stayed focused on my 2/1 intervals and the miles just came to me, one by one. I smiled as I enjoyed the music of the clearly brilliant person who created this playlist. I shrugged and sighed as I caught up to and passed Murray, who told me he didn’t think he was going to make it in 5:45. 

Speaking of the aforementioned brilliance, I had tried to time the gospel music around mile 19 – when I projected I might be questioning my life choices most. “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” “My Tribute.” “How Great Thou Art.” Naturally, I chose really powerful arrangements that evoked great emotion. Too much emotion. I started to think about how amazing God is and tears came to my eyes. I felt tingles all over. I glanced down to look at my heart rate. 

TWO.

O.

BLOODY.

FIVE. 

OKAY GOD PLEASE HELP MY HEART RATE COME DOWN BECAUSE I HAVE NEARLY TWO HOURS OF RACE LEFT IN JESUS’ NAME AMEN

Not the most artful prayer, admittedly. I slowed my walking and that helped. I drank more water from my trusty CamelBak. Every sip tasted heavenly, so I can assume by this point I was likely dehydrated. I didn’t want to have my stomach sloshing around with water and honey stingers, but I suppose my trying not to drink too much didn’t help my tingly euphoria. 

By mile 22, my heart rate was still sky high on my run intervals. I didn’t like it. I am confident God brought me Roz for this one piece of advice – “if you get tired, switch your run time to your walk time. That way you don’t lose hope or momentum.” I went from 2/1 to 1:30/1:30. I checked the clock. I had an hour to meet my time goal. I could do that with a speedy walk if I needed to. I stayed in the shade as much as possible. 

I saw some volunteers by the stadium where the race had begun. “This way to glory?” I asked. “Yes ma’am!” 

Then the most beautiful thing happened. 

As I caught sight of the finish line, the recap of the Brahms concerto with which I had begun the race was starting. I don’t know that I can properly describe how fitting this was – to hear that moment in the music at just that time, but it brought the biggest smile to my face. To be back where I started but in a completely different way – just like the music! was nothing short of perfection. I turned on to the track and saw my awesome Mommy. “Hi Mom!” “Hey Jo!” as she whipped out her camera. “You’re almost there!” The clock read 5:55:26 as I crossed the timing mat. I. Win. 

I serve a God that allows for so much more than finishing the race. I finished the marathon with BOTH arms in the air, a bright smile, and Brahms in my ears. He is a cherry on top kind of God. My prayer is that I can keep this moment close to me forever as I continue running with Him and toward Him. 


*- I don’t change names to protect anyone who annoys me. 

Marathon Test: Pre-race report 

6 days ago, I made a playlist for my last long run of my marathon training. My idea was to choose one type of music per mile. Typically, I choose what I want to run to strategically anyhow, but for long distances I put it on shuffle so whatever comes, comes! I thought it fitting to name the playlist “Marathon Test.” 

My test playlist was going fabulously well! 7 miles…no. 7.68 miles in. Bob Marley is playing. I was loving the run and the next thing I knew, boom. I was yelling on my way to the ground. My foot had caught a raised part in the sidewalk and I fell. HARD. 


Naturally, my first concern was my musician’s hands. Aside from the nasty abrasion, they were fine. However, when I tried to get up, I realized I couldn’t put pressure on my right hand because my shoulder was killing me. “Faaaaantastic. My race is in a week and I just may have put it in jeopardy.”

I spent the week icing it and spending quality time with the chiropractor. Fast forward to today and I am in Jacksonville, where I can now put on a shirt without grimacing! God is good, indeed. He is also hilarious because my period came this week, just as it had for my 70.3 two years ago. Between imagining what it would be like to cross the finish line, normal hormonal swings, the end of the quarter at work, and my concern for my shoulder, I have been an emotional hot mess. It is really important to me that I finish, not just because I want to finish everything I start but because I want to get this out of the way before preparing my body for a Little Joanie! I don’t know if I can handle marathon training taking over my life again any time soon, regardless of how I finish. 

I haven’t been feeling particularly confident, as my training was far from perfect. I wasn’t even in the mood to get my nails done and eyebrows waxed, a vital pre goal race tradition. While I am not a superstitious person, it felt like a bad idea to forego my prettification. My nail tech, Alexa, asked me what brought me to the shop. “I’m running my first marathon!” She paused and then replied, “Awesome. You’ve got strong legs,” as she massaged them for me. Another lady at the shop, several minutes later, said the same thing. “Your legs look strong.” 

As I pondered their words, I continued work on my playlist. I was about to change the title from Marathon Test to something else, but it dawned on me that my race tomorrow is, in fact, the ultimate test. Did I put in sufficient time training? Will I have the will to continue as the race progresses? Is my body strong or are these women looking for a tip? 

May I awaken tomorrow to discover the truth, knowing I will be accompanied by the perfect color for my sure to be tired feet.

The Show Must Go On.


Can’t what, you ask? Stay in the bed, as I wanted to do. There was a Veterans’ Day Assembly at work and naturally, the music teacher was on call. On the program today: a 1st grade class singing America and This Land is Your Land, and a Kindergarten class matching with flags to The Stars and Stripes Forever. 

I first went into the first grade classroom to do a quick run through with them. I smiled as they stood up and faced the American flag, excited to represent their school in front of the entire student body and the guest veterans. I kept it together as they sang America, but as soon as they started bouncing cheerily for This Land is Your Land, tears came to my eyes. The simple lyrics of the first verse: 

This land is your land

This land is my land 

From California

To the New York island

From the redwood forest 

To the gulf stream waters 

This land was made for you and me 

You. And. Me. 

I love that I teach an ethnically diverse group of students, each of whom sings enthusiastically and believes in that America. Each time they come to my classroom, they stand and face the flag giddily, prepared to start, sing, and end together prior to the beginning of that day’s lesson. Whenever I teach them their patriotic song in the beginning of the year, I ask, “Why do you like singing these songs in particular?” 

I love America.

It is fun living here. 

America has lots of stuff to do. 

I am humbled to have a job where I help children express their positive feelings about our country. I ask them to think about the people who have served America in the military prior to singing, the ones whom have helped make America a lovable, fun place with lots of stuff to do. I demand that they sing their best because so many have given their best so our children may sing freely. I strive each day to give them my best so they have as many opportunities as possible; to think, to grow, to challenge themselves. 

I brought my Kindergarteners into my room to rehearse the flag march, and let me tell you something – you have not seen excitement until you’ve handed 20 5-6 year olds each two miniature American flags to wave.  I reminded them to hold the flags still and respectfully, just as we should respect our country. As I heard the introduction of our national march, I started to tear up again. I stepped outside myself to ensure that my students were moving correctly, marching steadily, facing their conductor. “If you are not paying attention, you don’t get to celebrate veterans with us today -” was indeed an effective warning for them. They were eager to do their best, for me, for their school, for their families and country. 

As we filed outside for the assembly, I saw the veterans to be honored on the stage. After making sure my performers were seated and knew what to do, I stood to attention, as the color guard was about to enter. 

I lost it. 

Tears were streaming down my face. 

I wiped them away, not wanting to cause anyone concern, but all I could think was, 

“There are people who don’t want me here.”

There are people who see the many colors of my American classroom as a bad thing. There are people who see others as enemies solely because they appear different, worship another deity, or were not born in the United States. I know this is hardly news, but these people are elated that America’s president-elect has helped them express their views more comfortably. 

I understand that there are many people who voted for Mr. Trump that have no interest in discriminating against that which is different. I understand that there are people that I love – and that love me – who did so. I am saddened that this was the man who excited the conservative base in our country, because there were 16 other candidates with the same agenda who didn’t have an interest in overtly provoking the racist dragons that have existed in America from its beginning. I don’t expect them to feel how I do, but if you are truly my friend, I do expect you to consider my feelings. Consider that you probably have never had to question whether people viewed you as American enough. Consider that people likely don’t approach you with pre-judgment. Consider that I am wondering if my uterus should remain vacant until 2020 because I am not sure if this is the America I want my child(ren) introduced to. 

I truly believe the biggest lie told during the presidential campaign was that America is not already great. I could not stay in bed and reflect today because I had a show to do. I have rehearsal every day until Christ comes back (maybe between December 20 and January 20; I am kinda curious to see how my marathon goes – relax! I kid), and my mission in America’s practice room is to make her better by engaging with people who think differently than I do in a respectful manner. Helping others achieve their dreams. Serving my community. 

We’ve got a show to do. 

Bad Mother On The (Long) Run

“Giving birth would be AWESOME.” 

How did I get there, you ask? It only took me 8 miles. 

You see, I woke up feeling quite nervous about today’s long run, the first of my 16 weeks of marathon training. Generally speaking, I tend to get worked up about my workouts, because I want them to go well, but especially about my long runs. Am I ready for today’s journey? Indeed, each time I feel I am embarking to an unknown destination, despite the fact that I have run this particular distance -and longer – several times in the past. And you know what? Let’s be real. Every long run is different because I am different. How was my sleep? Nutrition? Stress level? Fitness? Hah, we’re about to find out if whoever I am this week is sufficient. 

Hurricane Hermine not only extended my weekend but also provided some lovely weather for today’s journey. If I could write a weather system a thank you note, I would. I was surprised that I had to actually slow down to run the pace in my plan. “Maybe I don’t suck!” Said I, after mile 1. “Too early to tell,” I retorted. “We are tight,” my legs squealed. “Shut up, we’ll be done eventually,” I said with a grimace. “You need to lose weight,” squeaked my running skort. “Tomorrow,” I said, crossing my fingers. 

I am pleased to report that on this day, I was able to outrun my negative thoughts and complete my long run, feeling strong. As I approached my car, I looked at my reflection in the window. I was drenched in sweat. I giggled and took the obligatory selfie. It dawned on me that I never view myself as more beautiful than when I finish a long run. My accomplishment makes me both glisten and glow. No makeup, no jewelry – just one foot in front of the other until it’s done. Naturally, the longer the run, the more beautiful I’ll be, I figure. So how could I NOT think to myself –

“I bet I would look GORGEOUS after giving birth!” 

Put one in the ‘pro’ column for (biological) motherhood, y’all. 

Only 1:39 of labor.

I Gots To Be On Fleek: Wedding Day Report, Part I 

Like you don’t already know how the happiest day of my life had to begin. 

  
N.B. How like Sex and the City. I get married and reveal my love’s actual name. 

Mommy had to come with me. On other days, she may have fought me, but I milked that “I’m the bride, you should do what I want” business for all it was worth. All I wanted was a little run! 

Let it be known to all that I am a traditional girl – Adonis and I could not see each until our wedding, but I knew we would be safe at that early hour. Mom and I strolled down the hallway past their room with confidence toward the beach. When we returned, I had Mom scan the hallway before we walked back to the room. I called Lil One from our room to see where Adonis was, after having made clear that I got to eat breakfast first. What? I just ran. Gimme a break. 

I enjoyed my last meal before my fabulous nuclear family grew. Will I still fit into my dress? God only knew. But there was unlimited bacon. Lightning could strike and I might not even get married. Eat up. 

  
After another phone call, I went up to the room to finish (read: start) writing cards for my parents, my soon-to-be stepdaughters, and husband minus 3 hours. I choked back tears as I wrote thank you cards to my amazing parents. What could I possibly say that could do justice to their efforts to serve God whilst raising me? I did the best I could considering my impending deadline – makeup appointment at 9 am! 

Mommy and I met Rasheena at the spa, who asked me what kind of look I was going for. “I’m not trying to look like a clown. Natural, please!” I was thankful that it only took 30 minutes to go from completely natural…

  
…to wedding day natural.

  
Some flowers in my hair…

   
 
I was pleased. This is happening!! 

After Mom and I carefully snuck back into our room, I got into what logically comes next, of course. My heart rate monitor. I had The Big One help me into my corset – responsible almost stepchild was ready with plenty of time to spare, thankfully. Didn’t want Mom to fuss at the fact that I wanted to measure my heart rate as I change my life! Am I so gauche as to wear my Garmin with a wedding dress? 

I found a way, and here it is –

  
This island girl is many things. Gauche ain’t one. Zoom in on my right hand, y’all. Crystal Garmin in full effect. I was going to measure the steps it took to change my life. Believe it. 

At 10:45, Mom, The Big One, and I went downstairs to our meeting place. Adonis was supposed to be already waiting for me at the altar. I stepped off of the elevator and looked toward the lobby and THERE. HE. WAS. I sprinted in the opposite direction around a corner, much to the chagrin of my mother, who was holding my train. It had turned out that they were looking for my Dad, who was hanging out with the pastor at the gazebo, hah! 

The wedding coordinator united us with Lil One and the 5 of us walked to where I was to emerge. Tired of waiting, I amused myself by playing ‘Here Comes the Bride’ on the keyboard of GarageBand, immediately followed by the theme from Jeopardy. The point came where I was “alone,” but I never really felt alone as I noticed guests of the hotel staring, or those who would pass me would wish me luck or compliment me. The bride took it in stride. 

The Garmin is turned on. Showtime. 

  

Hurts So Good

I aggravated an injury today. And I’m thrilled to death about it. 

You see, today marks my 2nd bloggerversary, which means it is my 3rd raceaversary! You know how important writing and racing are to me? My phone doesn’t even autocorrect fake words like raceaversary anymore. I find it incredible that I am still going. If you are a reader of my blog, you might find it incredible that I find it incredible, because I write with (what I feel is) great passion. I just didn’t think that I would stick with it based on my previous history. 

You know what the best part of my raceaversary is? The fact that not everything has been wonderful. I jacked up my ankle on my little 2 mile run today. I can’t say that I would have run if not for my raceaversary. I was, and am, quite tired. I feel huge from my honeymoon. I returned to work today. There is much to be done in our new home. I know that in order to be strong for my new life, I have to bear some things that I don’t want to, like hot runs or angry ankles. 

While I didn’t particularly enjoy the run today, I love that I did it. It means that I am a runner under any circumstance. I am able to get through (even seemingly) unpleasant things and see the good in them. If I hadn’t run today – if I hadn’t ever started running – who knows if I would have ever discovered that? 

Lord willing, I have many more steps to take. I am not sure how any of them will go. I know He is with me and because of that, I can move forward with great hope.

Happy Raceaversary to MEEEEE! 

  

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