Race Plans & Race Maybes

While I have spent the last year running regularly, my willingness to put in effort has been pretty low. I’ve been content to run purely for fun instead of PRs. There’s nothing wrong with that. Now, however, the motivation is back. I thought maybe I’d never want to push myself again, but apparently that desire was simply dormant. After hours of watching runners be generally awesome this weekend, I knew that I wanted to get back into the racing game big time. I already had some races lined up, a few more solidified in my mind, and others I’m still debating.

Races I’m running fo’ sho':

pub run

St. Patrick’s Day Pub Run – 10k

I said that I wanted to run more mid-distance races, and this one is the first that I’ll be able to hit this year. I’ve been scouring the internet for more local 10ks but no dice. If I find any, you better believe I’ll be signing up. In the meantime, I know this Fort Bliss race will be a blast.

Bataan Memorial Death March – full marathon

I figured this was a one-time kind of race for me, but a gaggle of Wear Blue friends convinced me to go for round two! We’ll be walking the race as part of the team division. Even though I have no doubt that it will be tough, I don’t think that the race will be as much of a challenge this time around. I’ll have friends by my side and we will take it slow. I just hope my legs don’t hate me afterwards!

Run for the Fallen – 5k

Another Fort Bliss race. This one is non-competitive and untimed, but I might still aim for a fast finish. I don’t have delusions of a PR; I just wouldn’t mind a strong showing.

fallen

Races I’m probably going to run:

Skyline Half Marathon – half marathon

My BFF is planning to run this inaugural Dallas half. I figure that there is no better way to catch up than to spend hours running side-by-side in the humidity of the Metroplex. I’m still working out the details, but I really, really want to do it.

TransMountain Challenge – half marathon

This race goes up TransMountain Road aka up a mountain! (Thankfully, the second half goes down the mountain.) When I first heard about it, my reaction was “helllllll no!” Just call me crazy, but the idea has grown more and more appealing. I’ll definitely need to squeeze in hill training in order to not spend the entire uphill portion walking.

transmountain

Races I’m considering:

I really want to run a fall and spring marathon. I might drive myself over the edge with this idea! I definitely don’t want to burn out, but I think a fall marathon would be perfect as a goal race. (Train through the hot summer and race in the cool fall. Yes, please!) And I have my eyes on a few spring fulls that just look fun. Here are my top contenders currently –

The top options right now are Twin Cities (because it fall during my schools two-week fall break) and Austin (because it just looks awesome). Every single full marathon that I’ve considered has serious highs and a few less-than-highs. The biggest issue with those fall races is just the date. Since I do get two weeks off during the fall, the timing just makes sense to run then. Can someone talk to the people of Detroit about moving their race date? There’s certainly no rush to decide, so I’m blissfully enjoying this period of imagining every single race option. Feel free to throw out any fulls you think I should add to my maybe list! Once the race gods have spoken and I’ve registered, I’ll report back!

Watching People Run

This past weekend involved 8+ hours of running during which I ran zero miles. Instead of participating, I was a volunteer!

I started running back in 2010. (My New Year’s Resolution was to run a 5k and I just kept right on running). In all these years, I’ve never volunteered at a race ever. Not good for my running karma! This weekend just so happened to have two big overlapping events: my school’s track meet and the El Paso Marathon. I spent my Saturday with middle schoolers giving it their all and my Sunday with endurance beasts pushing through difficult miles.

Saturday:

It was sunny and cool, perfect for a track meet! I was assigned the illustrious job of being timer number 5.

track meet

All of the timers (there were 8 of us) were set up right on the finish line. As runners crossed, we were supposed to hit the buzzer for our designated place. Translation: timer number 1 hits their button when the first runner crosses. Timer number 2 hits their button when the second runner crosses. You get the idea. I was thankful that as runner number 5, even if I screwed up, I wouldn’t spoil the entire meet. Still, I took my job seriously. I know how much runners value their finish time being exact regardless of their place.

For the most part, it was easy. We didn’t have many instances of people duking it out for 5th place. The track meet involves all kinds of races, though, and some of the sprint events were closecloseclose! When the distance is only 100 meters, everyone finishes in one big clump. I was staring at the finish line counting out the finishers in super fast succession. “12345!” At one point, I wasn’t sure who my runner was and I let her wander off instead of walking her over the check-in table, as I was explicitly instructed to do. I don’t know why I just assumed no one would notice! They did. Oops! I had fun since the volunteering mostly involved sitting around and talking, two things I’m a pro at. However, I was relieved when it was over. I can’t handle pressure!

Sunday:

race volunteer

The group that I regularly run with, Wear Blue: Run to Remember, was working at a water station with a similar running group, Team RWB. In the pre-dawn hours, I pulled up to a random neighborhood intersection to find my friends. We taped up flags, set up a memorial wall, decorated tables, lined up cups, and poured water. While it was cold for those of us standing around, I think the breezy, cool temps were perfect for distance running. The sprinkling of rain sucked, but otherwise, I kept thinking about how nice the weather was!

Our location was very interesting because it was miles 6 and 8 of the half marathon (an out and back course) and mile 21 of the full (a point-to-point course). Both races are a little bit on the smaller side, which meant that we were only crazy busy for maybe an hour. The halfers had pretty much cleared out well before the lead full runner came barreling through. With a field of 400ish, they were pretty well spread out. We could practically cheer on each runner individually, and I know that at mile 21 encouragement is mucho necessario!

volunteer shenanigans

I was struck by how polite the runners were! I know that I always try to make a point of thanking volunteers, but I didn’t realize that pretty much everyone else does it, too. People were even asking where the trashcan was. I thought, “Pssh! Throw that ish on the ground and keep running!” I saw so many smiles and genuinely happy people. Can you blame them, though? They were kicking ass!

Some of the memorable moments:

  • Giving water to the gentleman who won the half (even he was polite!)
  • Holding the sign Stephen made for Flying Horse. (It says, “If this was easy, it’d be called your mom.”)
  • Seeing some really, really bloody nipples.
  • Cheering extra loud for the second place marathon finisher, a hardcore lady with killer abs.
  • All the people who asked us if we had any beer. Haha! Sorry, just water and Scratch.
  • Watching a guy go up and down the hill as he ran beside each of his friends who came through.

It was such a fun day. I loved all the time chatting with my friends, shouting encouraging words at strangers, and drinking in the joy of running. This weekend reignited my running motivation and the wheels are a turning as I think about my own running calendar. More on that to come!

Friday Five

Long time, no talk. Lucky for you, that means that I have a lot to say. :) I’ll spare you every crazy thought that has recently popped up in my brain, and just go with the curated version. (Sounds fancy, right?)

1. Flight of the Navigator

flight of the navigator

Have you seen this movie? It’s 80’s-tastic  but also kind of sweet. It’s about a boy who trips, faints, and wakes up 8 year in the future having not aged. He then goes on a crazy spaceship ride with the voice of Pee-Wee Herman. That makes it sound super creepy. I guess it kind of is, but the movie also has some heart, great big hair courtesy of Sarah Jessica Parker, and dogs that do tricks. I randomly remembered the movie and it made me really depressed. His parents thought he was dead for 8 years! And all that is totally glossed over in the movie! At least, according to my memory it is. Time for a re-watch!

2. School things

This week we had benchmark testing. That means all kids in testing rooms for 4 hours twice this week. Do you know how hard it is for middle schoolers to sit still and be quiet for that long? Thankfully, my kids not only kept it cool, they also seemed to do really well. (Knock on wood!) Leading up to it, one student remarked, “School is not about learning anymore, just testing. “Preach! On the flip side, after testing I put together a lesson that was a little bit lighter to go easy on the kids. It was still purposeful and objective-driven, etc., but it involved some physical movement and frequent small group purposeful talk. One student said, “I wish all teachers taught like this.” Melted my little teacher heart!

3. Reading

red-scarf-girl

I just finished a book called Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang. She tells the story of her life growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China. It’s one of those topics that I know way to little about. It was fascinating (and disturbing) to read a true account of this slice of history. About halfway through, I remembered that Stuff You Missed in History Class had a podcast on the very same subject not too long ago. I re-listened to it in between chapters to get a deeper understanding. The whole thing was absolutely insane. (And by the by, I do plan on doing a full recap. My aim is to share my books every 1,000 pages, but it’s taking me a while to read 1,000 pages! Is it spring break yet?)

4. Nouns

I use the words pots and pans interchangeably. I know they are different, but to my mouth, they are the same. I say either word regardless of what I actually mean. Apparently, that confuses some people.

5. Peeves

better-than-you

My numero uno all time pet peeve is self-righteousness. That morally superior, holier-than-thou, better-than-thou, smug, a-hole-ish-ness that people spout off. OOOOO! It sticks in my craw! I’m realizing that I gravitate toward this obnoxious attitude. For instance, I know a blogger is smug, I don’t like this blogger, and I’m not friends with this blogger, but I choose to read the blog anyway. (That goes double for self-righteous Facebook posts! I love to hate it.) It’s like enjoying a bad smell or seeking out a car crash to gawk at. And, if I’m totally honest, I am self-righteous on a semi-regular basis. Why is it that we hate traits that we embody? I’m working on it, but I’m a work in progress. #AmyBeingReal

For today’s final thought, I’ll leave you with this: Hallelujah! It’s Friday! Enjoy the day, enjoy the weekend, friends!

Austin, I Still Love You

After Stephen’s graduation, we grabbed the dog, loaded up the car, and hit the road. Next stop: Austin, Texas!

lonestar capitol

I’ve been to Austin on and off over the years, and I absolutely love it. It’s a mix of so many of my favorite things: Tex-Mex food, country music, nature, running, technology, and more. Seriously, I have yet to find a reason not to love the city.

We spent a few hours traipsing around the Capitol building.

Austin Capitol

Situated on 22 acres of gardens, sculptures, and memorials, it’s easy to see how a day can get sucked away just wandering around. After enjoying the sunshine for over an hour, Stephen suggested that we explore the inside. I was apprehensive. (We’ve tried a few times to get into buildings not meant for sightseeing, namely the Chrysler Building and an Embassy in Berlin. Whoops!) Turns out, there’s a ton to see inside!

The center of the inside is a beautiful rotunda with portraits of former governors.

The view of the dome from below.

The view of the dome from the floor below.

There were also QR codes. Scanning them with your phone would take you to things like a radio commercial from Pappy O’Daniel, a list of female office holders in the Texas government, and pictures of the rotunda from different angles. We also admired paintings depicting famous Texas battles and heroes. My favorite part was the old school water fountains. (I have a thing for cool water fountains, so you better believe that I drank up!)

We spent a good hour walking around inside, and that was all on the main level! The building goes up, up, up, and down, down, down. Since our visit wasn’t all play, we had to wrap things up at the Capitol to make it to an appointment. The reason for our visit: Stephen got a new car.

maximum steel

Although, perhaps behemoth would be a more accurate description. He’s been wanting a truck for forever. There wasn’t anything wrong with the car we bought when we moved here, but our window for buying a car was tiny and the decision felt rushed. Neither of us really loved it. Stephen took a long time (months!) searching for his dream vehicle with all the requirements in the right price range. When he found it in ATX, he did all the work of contacting the dealership, negotiating, signing paperwork, and arranging everything. I was literally just along for the ride. We only spent 2 hours at the car dealership. It was the easiest car buying experience ever!

Sunday came too soon, as we piled into the new ride and hit the road for home. Even though it was short and sweet, we loved our time in Austin! (We are already discussing a trip back with plans to stay at a B&B in Fredericksburg.)

Grad-gee-ation!

Friday was a big day – Stephen, at long last, graduated WLC!

I know they are a pain, but I love when he wears his dress blues!

I know they are a pain, but I love when he wears his dress blues!

I say at long last because he was originally slated to attend WLC way back 2013. (Remember this post? Yeah, that was WLC round one.) WLC is short for the Warrior Leadership Course. That’s the fancy way of saying that it is school for NCOs or soldiers who have reached the rank of sergeant. It’s composed of three components: training, leadership, and war fighting.

The first time around, Stephen was halfway through the course when Ben‘s health sharply declined. The Army flew us to Texas to say goodbye to Ben and be with family in the days following his death. When we returned to Germany, where we were living at the time, we found out that Stephen would not be able to finish the course (you have to complete the weeks consecutively) nor would he be able to start over again. There just wasn’t enough time between then and our spring PCS. I know Stephen was disappointed, but his promotion went through anyway, and we both figured he’d be put into WLC class when we arrived at Bliss.

Of course, things don’t go the way you expect when it comes to the military! With the train up to deployment, his chance to attend the school got pushed back and pushed back. He was finally assigned to attend toward the end of the year, when fate intervened. One week out from the course, the government briefly shut down, and things at the school ground to a halt. The cycle of students couldn’t start as planned. Instead of having all those students rollover into the next cycle, they were put on the bottom of the list. (The good news was that this freed us up to take a trip. Gotta look on the bright side!)

Just like that, deployment was too close and Stephen couldn’t attend. 9 months spent in Afghanistan meant that he had been in grade for longer and longer without attending. After coming home, WLC was a priority. He started right at the beginning of this year, and I didn’t even mention it for fear of tempting fate! The course meant long days and lots of work, even though most of the information was not new or difficult. Though he might not admit it, I think Stephen had a lot of fun. Stephen finally graduated almost exactly two years after becoming a sergeant! I felt proud and relieved watching him walk across the stage. WLC is complete!

Two Years

Today marks two years since Ben died.

headstone

I always pause when I think of how to describe Ben. He was kind. He was a good friend and funny and had a great laugh. I can’t condense all his qualities into a single sentence or paragraph or even pages and pages. He was my brother-in-law and two years ago, he died.

Ben was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease mainly effecting the lungs. In 2011, he was the recipient of a double lung transplant. We watched as instantly his life changed for the better. It was awe-inspiring. (I’m still amazed at the power of modern medicine!) But after what was probably one of the best years of his life, his health started to decline. I heard him whisper it in September, “chronic rejection.” Ben and his body held on as long as they could. In February, he slipped away.

I’ve said a lot about Ben over the years. I’ve talked about transplants and rejection and Great Strides. I wonder if after him being gone for two years there is more to say.

new lungs

Yes.

Yes, there is more to say. I think there will always be more to say. I don’t have any new magical perspective. I haven’t reached some peaceful emotional place. Like everyone else, I still miss him. It still feels unreal at times. It will forever feel unfair.

I’m sad. Sad that Ben was cheated out of more time. Sad that those of us that who loved him have to go on without him.

What is new is my respect for him. I mean, I always respected Ben because he was simply such a good person. But as I think back on all he experienced, I’m struck by how incredibly brave he was. He bravely faced his disease. He bravely and patiently waited for new lungs. He bravely went into the transplant surgery. He was brave every step of the way, right through to the end.

There’s so much that I don’t know about what he was thinking and feeling. So much of it he kept to himself. Maybe not to burden everyone around him. Maybe to make it easier for us to be brave. Nothing I’ve faced has been one iota as scary has what he experienced. Realizing that, I appreciate his bravery that much more.

There is no big takeaway or aha or sweet quote to tie up this post in a neat bow. I just want to say how much Ben was loved, how much he is missed, and how I’m only now realizing just how incredible he was.

Friday Five on a Sunday

I’ve been wanting to write a Friday Five post for forever, but Fridays tend to sneak up on me before I can get my ish together. That means you get 5 random things from my brain on this fine Sunday instead.

1. Mexican food.

Last night, I finally ate at the El Paso Mexican restaurant staple L & J Café. It was good. Two words: guacamole tacos! Plus, the sopapillas got two cinnamony thumbs up from me. This place shot straight up to my second favorite restaurant in EP. (Julio’s still reigns supreme for their superior red salsa.) It’s probably a good thing that L & J isn’t closer to where I live, or I could easily end up there every weekend. The best part of the night, however, was the company. I’m preemptively crying over the thought of all of them moving away later this year.

2. Tussle.

addicted

So my blog and I got in a bit of a fight. I just kept asking myself, “Why do I blog? Is it because I’m needing and see views as some form of validation? Am I a navel-gazing narcissist? Should I just throw in the towel? Would anyone even notice? Am I half-assing it anyway?” I threw my hands up, quit it all, and made the blog private. That lasted 48 hours. I’m still not sure of the answers, but here I am blogging away.

3. Spelling matters.

While watching a PBS documentary about kids and the internet, the host was interviewing a girl named Ceili. Not sure how to pronounce that? It’s the same as Kaylee. Or Kayleigh or Kaylie or many other spellings. No way is Ceili = to Kaylee though. No way. Good job, parents, on giving your a child a name that will be forever mispronounced and misspelled. I hope you’re proud of yourselves!

4. Cute misspellings.

bobwire

I was grading student essays on Friday when I came across one that involved “bobwires.” I call it that, too. Adorable.

5. White precipitation.

Last weekend it was sunny and gorgeous. It’s sunny and gorgeous outside right now. Somehow, in between, we got snow and ice. It was bad enough that some of the local school districts closed up shop early on Thursday. We didn’t do that, but we did have a two-hour delay on Friday. The downside is that teachers are still supposed to report at the usual time when school is delayed. Sigh. No sleeping in for me. It’s okay, though. I used that time to grade essays. It’s better than having homework over the weekend.

Enjoy the last week of January, y’all!