Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oh Happy Day

First off, I recognize the ridiculousness of the excitement behind this post. But I just can't help the excitement. Here goes:

I love a good grocery store. And nothing sends me over the edge than a bad one. Until yesterday, grocery shopping in Waco was the only thing I genuinely disliked about our town. I had tried out a couple of different stores-- they were either too crowded (all the time), poorly laid out, lacking in customer service, or didn't have what I needed. It was maddening. I never seemed to have an entirely successful trip to the store!

But yesterday, I found a Brookshire's near Waco. It's in Robinson, so it's an extra 2 minutes in the car than my other regular store was. It takes me just 8 minutes to get there. Brookshire's is the store I grew up going to. I haven't regularly shopped at Brookshire's in more than 12 years, as I haven't lived near one since I was 18. Brookshire's is a great grocery store chain, and I was reminded of that yesterday.

When I walked into the store, I was welcomed by the store manager, who said, "Welcome to Brookshire's." In the 30 minutes I was there, two employees asked me if they could help me find anything. The produce was beautiful and fresh, and the store was organized in a way that made sense. The store was clean and quiet, and it was just a very pleasant shopping experience. They didn't have one of the items I was looking for, and I asked what the process was to request that they stock that item. They took my name and said to give them about a week, and they would have it on their shelves. When I went to take my groceries to my car, I was stopped by another employee, who reminded me that at Brookshire's, the employees take the groceries out to the car. I explained that I was fully capable of doing it myself, and she responded with, "We're here to serve you, ma'am. It will be my pleasure to take them for you."

The only drawback-- they don't have a large selection of organic items, and no bulk items. They do have the basic organics-- milk, eggs, butter, and a few veggies.  So I still may have to shop at some of the other stores for some of our groceries. But for the bulk of it, I'm headed to Brookshire's!

Monday, November 15, 2010

13.1 Miles: The Recap

There are many things I could say about the trip to San Antonio this past weekend. And probably I should do separate posts for the race itself and for the trip.  But you're getting one long post instead. Sorry.

We spent most of our time over the weekend with the McCuaigs, some of our favorite people in the world.  They live in Lubbock, and we had not seen them since February. They came to Waco on Friday and spent the night, and on Saturday morning we headed to San Antonio. It was so good to be with them. Though we love our life here in Waco, a lot of our energy is spent doing the work of forming new friendships. And while it's fun and exciting, it's exhausting. If you've ever moved to a new place, started a new job or school, you know what I mean. It was nice to settle back into a wonderfully well-established friendship, and just be together. Talking and catching up. Cooking together and drinking hot cocoa, watching the kids play together, and laughing a lot.  Here we all are together at lunch in San Antonio on Saturday:


We did the race thing together. Went to Expo together, shared a hotel suite, Billy and Kelly got to hang together during the race as spectators, and after the race, we did a lot of good celebratory eating together! Such a fun weekend with friends.

Here are a couple of photos from the Expo:

Just got my race packet!

I love this picture of me and my cousins!

And of course this silly one!

As for the race itself. It was one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life. Running a half marathon is a dream I've had for a long time. And on Sunday, that dream became reality. It was more fun than I even thought it would be!

Shannon and I got up at 5 a.m. on Sunday. I took a quick shower (yes, I know it seems silly to shower before running 13.1 miles), and ate breakfast. My usual long run breakfast- a banana and peanut butter toast.  I got dressed (of course I had obsessively laid out my entire ensemble the night before) and went downstairs to meet everyone. My "coach" for the weekend was my cousin Jessica. This was her fifth half marathon, so she's past the "I'm so nervous/excited I might pee my pants!" point, and had said she would walk us to the start line, help us get to where we were supposed to be, etc.

The one thing that surprised me about the whole pre-race experience, is that I actually slept the night before. I honestly didn't expect to. I often have a hard time shutting my brain "off" at night, especially when I am nervous or excited. But I totally slept!

We picked a great spot to stay for the weekend. Our hotel was maybe a half a mile from the start, so we didn't have to deal with driving or parking, or even taking a shuttle. We just walked out the front door and followed the masses. Here are a couple of pre-race photos:

 Me with all of my "people".  Shannon, Christin, and Jessica

The family shot! The best cheerleaders ever! 

 Now headed to our corral. We were practically GIDDY! 

Since Jessica was using this race as a training run for her full marathon in a few weeks, and since this was mine and Christin's first race, Jessica was able to take it easy and pace us for the race. We ran with Jessica and her friend Serene. SO much fun. We talked, laughed, and ran. They were the best running partners. I don't know if I have ever had that much fun running!

It was amazing how quickly the time went by... in the beginning, anyway. I was really impressed with how well-managed/produced the race was. Water stops were well-timed. They were long, too. Meaning, there were several tables and a lot of people at each of the stops, which meant they weren't too terribly crowded, and didn't slow us down too much. There were several bands all along the course whose music was fun to listen to. The course was pretty flat, except for a few hills, including a ridiculously intense one near the very end. 

My only real complaint was the lack of consideration a lot of the walkers on the course showed. That sounds jerky, and I don't mean for it to. I think walking a half marathon is awesome and I think it's a huge accomplishment. I just wish the walkers would have stayed to the right, like they are encouraged to do. There were so many walkers in the middle of the street. People we almost ran in to. It was kind of hard to navigate. 

I got to see Billy and Eisley at Miles 3 and 8. Luckily, Billy's pretty easy to spot. Here I am at Mile 3, having a blast.


Miles 1-10 were pretty good. They seemed to fly by, and they were fun. Somewhere between Mile 10 and 11, the whole thing became a lot less fun. My legs hurt. I was tired.

At Mile 11, I hit a wall. A big one. Instead of realizing that I had JUST two miles to go, I kept thinking, "I have TWO miles to go. That's so FAR." Deep down, even in the midst of the "wall", I knew I would finish. It just seemed I couldn't keep up at the pace that we had all been running up until that point. I was really frustrated with that, too. I had a suspicion that even that was all in my mind, and maybe I could have done it, but somehow I couldn't talk myself out of feeling defeated. I slowed way down. I watched my cousins and Serene go on ahead of me (which was totally fine! I was not upset that they had gone on. That's what they needed to do, and should have done!). I settled into a slower pace.

And then I saw Jessica's yellow shirt. She came back to finish with me. And at that point, I could have probably hyperventilated, because I was crying so much. Happy tears. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see another person than I was to see Jessica. She ran (painfully slow!) alongside me, encouraged me, and told me I could do it.  And I did. Before too long, we had reached mile 12. And then mile 13.

And then we were in the chute, approaching the finish line. I was able to put a smile on my face and finish feeling proud! Serene and Christin finished 2 minutes before we did, and we found them pretty quickly in the family reunion area. Soon after that I found Billy and Eisley. Not too long after that, Shannon finished, and I met up with her. There were lots of grins after the race!

All in all, a fabulous day! My official finish time was 2:24:23. My goal was to finish under 2:30, so I am very happy with my time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tomorrow

Race day is tomorrow. So excited!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The day after tomorrow: Toddlers!

The race is the day after tomorrow!

I have thought all along, but this week I know it for sure, that training for a half marathon when you're a stay-at-home mom to a busy toddler is CRAZY. It's been challenging at times.

In the beginning, I was training in Kentucky, while I was still working and going to school, so the only time I could run was in the evenings. That meant missing Eisley's bedtime, or rushing out the door after dinner, to squeeze in a run and get back before she went to bed.  Now that we're in Texas and I'm not working, I'm not having to miss as much family time to go run, as my friend Barbara usually keeps Eisley in the mornings while I go running.  But none of this is the crazy part.

She's SO busy. If you've ever met my child, you know this is true. When she's awake , she's moving. The child is perpetual motion. Always into something, always exploring, always talking... at the end of the day, I'm exhausted. In the mornings, I'm often exhausted. And running often seems like the last thing I want to do.  Oh yes-- I very much enjoy the "me" time I get when I go out for a run-- but sometimes I lack the energy! Truthfully, I think all of these things are wonderful-- I love that she's so curious and smart and full of life.

But this week. The one week I need my sleep to actually count, as I approach race day, my child has seemed to test my every limit. She's been extra energetic. Extra defiant. On Monday she skipped her nap. And for some reason, at night, she's had some trouble sleeping-- which means we have, too.

I have hope, though. Last night was a good night of rest for all of us (though, we had to leave our house at 9 p.m. when we were trying to go to bed because our storage unit had been broken into and we had to go file a police report).  But besides dealing with that, and going to bed an hour later than we had planned, this morning I am feeling more rested.

Join me in praying for a good night's sleep tonight, won't you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

3 Days (2 Days?): I Almost Caught a Cold

My cousin and I are having  a little dispute about how you officially "count down" for a race. So whether the race (on Sunday morning, bright & early) is 3 days away, or 2 days away (I guess, it's 2 and a half at this exact moment), it's coming soon. :)

And I almost caught a cold. On Monday I started feeling yucky. I know my body well enough to know when something is trying to take over my system. I could tell. A cold was coming. What awful timing. I was really angry about it, too (you can ask Billy. I was grouchy). I just kept thinking, "Of ALL the weeks to catch a cold, why this one? Five months of training for this race, and I am going to be SICK?" So on Monday night I sent out a text to a few friends, asking them to pray that I would stay healthy. And I went to bed at 8:00.

During my waking hours, I took a multi-vitamin sort of thing, that was recommended (and given) to me by my friend Shannon. 3 pills every 3 hours. They stink to high heaven. And they're big. But they work. I rested as much as I could (which, of course, all depends on Eisley!), took the pills, and kept myself as hydrated as possible.

Even as recently as last night, I did not feel well. At small group last night, everyone could tell I didn't feel well, even though I was in a little bit of denial.

But this morning I woke up a new woman! I feel GREAT today. I'm still taking my vitamins and still keeping myself hydrated, but I feel like the battle of Me vs. Cold was won somewhere in the night last night-- and the cold lost.

Thanks, friends, for all of the prayers, encouragement, and ideas for how to beat a cold. I'm grateful.

Bring on the race!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

4 Days: Billy & Eisley

Billy has said to me more than once, "Running is the least fun sport ever." But he hasn't said it a single time since I started running again in May.

When I had this insane desire to start running again, after 8 years of not running, I talked to Billy about it. I told him that for Mother's Day, I wanted a new pair of running shoes. And something else. I told him that training for (and succeeding in training for) a half marathon was really important to me, but I couldn't do it without his support.

So I got my new pair of running shoes. And Billy has been nothing but encouraging since I got them. And even though I know that for him, running isn't fun, he hasn't mentioned a word of it these past few months, and has just been...great!

When I go out for my Saturday morning long runs, he stays behind with Eisley, and sends me out for my run with a, "I hope you have fun today." Or, "You're doing a good job. I'm proud of you." He has helped Eisley know how to encourage me, too, and she always asks whenever I come home from a run (long or short), "Mom, did you have fun running today?" or "Good job, Mommy!" A few weeks ago when I ran a 5K, I texted Billy to say that I had finished and was headed home. I immediately got a call from Eisley and she said, "Good job, Mommy! I'm so proud of you!" (this was Billy's prompting, of course, but I loved hearing those words.)

I run with my cell phone, and on most of my long runs, Billy sends me an encouraging text during my last couple of miles. They always make me happy!

So. I am thankful for Billy's encouragement these last few months, and I am really excited about seeing Billy and Eisley somewhere on the course cheering me on, and at the finish line for a great big family hug!

Monday, November 8, 2010

5 Days: The Trip

Who doesn't love San Antonio, TX? I haven't been to San Antonio in ages, and I am excited to be going this weekend. I mean, if you're going to run a race, you might as well run it in a really fun city, right?

We decided that we would spend two nights there. And we decided that instead of going down to San Antonio on Friday and coming home Sunday (race day), we would go Saturday morning, and come back Monday. This means that Sunday & Monday, after the race is over, we get to go have FUN with our friends.  We get to eat whatever we want, wherever we want. We get to sleep in on Monday once all of the pre-race jitters have subsided (I say this, in complete denial that my toddler will wake us up early anyway). We get to enjoy a great city with great friends.

So... here's to a fun getaway in San Antonio!


things-to-do-in-san-antonio.jpg

Sunday, November 7, 2010

6 Days: Family Reunion

My family is large. There are a lot of us, pretty much on every side of the family, but particularly on my mom's side. She has 6 siblings. Many of them are married with kids, and their kids have kids now, too.  One of the best things about my family is how intentional the family has always been about getting together, and knowing one another.

My childhood is filled with memories of family-- spending Christmas together, or the 4th of July, and ordinary Saturday afternoons. I remember making nature soup with my cousins, and climbing the tree in our grandmother's yard for hours-on-end. We had cousin sleepovers, played hide-and-go-seek in the dark in our grandmother's yard, built forts in her backyard, and went exploring in the alley that was behind her house. I was 16 when our grandmother died (none of the cousins had the chance to know our gradfather, as he passed away before any of us were born), and I wondered if I would still see my family again like we always did at our grandmother's house.

Yes. I still see my family on a regular basis. Even at age 30. We still spend Christmas together, celebrate birthdays together, visit the ones that live in other states, and we even have a family facebook group. We stay connected. Sure, it gets harder to do, as our family keeps expanding. But we somehow make it work. While certainly everyone in the family works hard to stay connected to one another, I think a large part of our connectedness over the years has been because of our aunt D. When our grandmother passed away, I'd say she became the established "matriarch" figure of the family. She organizes cousin dinners, plans (and largely funds) our Christmas gatherings every year, helps to maintain our family contact information and makes sure we're all in the loop, attends high school, college, and graduate school graduations, birthday parties for her great nieces & nephews, sends everyone in the family a card on their birthday (that often includes a little "fun money"), and makes sure we all know what's going on in one another's lives. Simply put: She's an amazing woman. She loves her family dearly-- and she is well-loved by us.

All that to say: there are 4 of us from my generation of cousins running this half-marathon next Sunday. There's me, Jessica, Christin, and Barrett. And I am excited about that.  Excited because I can honestly say that these folks are more than just cousins-- they are my friends. They are my friends, because our family, through the years, has made an effort to know one another and take an active interest in one another's lives.

* [I could write an equally heartfelt and honest tribute like this, for all of my families, not just the Collinses. I could write one about the Efurds/Hendersons, the Floyds, and my newest families, the Lawsons and Hickmans. And probably someday I will.]

So. I am grateful also to have journeyed with these folks the past few months-- being jealous of Barrett and the insanely long distances he is able to run, and the ridiculous speed with which he has run them (while being genuinely excited for him at the same time!), being truly concerned and worried for one another over injuries, and encouraging one another when we're discouraged, and celebrating when one of us has run a longer distance than we ever have before!

I look forward to celebrating with you at the finish line, you guys! (Of course, Barrett will have had time to finish, eat, take a shower, and change clothes, before the rest of us make it there. We'll only be a little bit jealous.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

7 Days: Looking forward to seeing a Friend

Perhaps the most exciting part of this race-training journey has been the fun of sharing it with a friend of mine.  I've been training with a friend since the beginning.  Except we haven't been training together-- she lives in Lubbock, and I live in Waco. She is a friend I knew in college, but really became close with during our seminary days. Shannon, Kelly, and their son August moved away from Wilmore in February of this year. That was the last time we saw them... and it's been far too long!

So. We decided to train together for this race, and have been holding each other accountable and encouraging each other along the way. We've kept a (private) blog together, to share about our trials, triumphs, frustrations, and victories. For each of us, this is our first half-marathon. And in less than ONE WEEK, we get to see each other! The McCuaigs are coming to Waco on Friday, and we are beyond excited!! We will all head to San Antonio on Saturday morning.

The McCuaigs are what I would call "heart" friends. Our friendship is a special one, and I know it will be a lasting one. So here's to old friends reuniting, and the excitement of sharing in this triumph together!

Friday, November 5, 2010

8 Days: The Fear

8 Days! EIGHT Days! You can't hear me, but my voice sounds a little panicky at this point. I guess that means that today is as good a day as any to talk about my fears. Where do I start?

Sometimes I'm afraid I won't finish. Sometimes I'm afraid I'll get hurt. Sometimes I'm afraid I'll somehow blow all of my energy within the first 2 miles and have to crawl along the rest of the course. I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep the night before the race (this is a very real fear, that could actually be true) and will be so tired on race day, that I'll just be miserable the whole time and won't have it in me to do as well as I know I can do. Other times, I'm afraid I haven't prepared well enough, and on other days I'm afraid I'm too confident in my ability to finish, that I'm setting myself up for disappointment.  The other day, on a 10 mile run, about the time I was doubting I could finish, I got a perfectly-timed text message from Billy, encouraging me to keep going. It was all I needed to keep at it-- so other times, I worry that I won't see Billy and Eisley anywhere along the course, and I'll be disappointed. And, I often try to convince myself that I'm faster than I really am... I'm not fast. So I worry that, even if I do the best I can do, I will somehow be disappointed in that.

I think all of my race-day fears can be summed up this way: I worry that the mental "game" of running, will somehow get the best of me.  I never understood until recently, how much of the sport of running is MENTAL.

So... here's to positive thinking and putting away those fears!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

9 Days: Expectations

9 days to go. NINE days!!!  Today I want to share with you my expectations for the race.

To be honest? I don't have many. I think because I have NO idea what to expect, I'm just sort of approaching the race with a "Hey, I'll just have fun and see what happens!" kind of attitude. Is that bad? I can't imagine standing at a starting line with 20,000 people lined up. I don't know what going through the water stops will be like. I don't know what the crowds on the course will be like, or what kind of pace I'll realistically be able to keep, since this is a distance I've not mastered before.  Now, it's not like I'm going in completely blind, of course. I've figured out how to hydrate on my long training runs, I know about what I expect my pace to be, and I've run smaller races before-- but you can only prepare so much for a race of this size. Everything changes when you're talking about running with 20,000 people, in a town you've never run in before, on a course you've only read about.

So... my goal for this race? To finish! That may seem to be too simple a goal for a race I've been preparing for for months now. But for me, it's a good starting point. It will be my launching pad for improvement in all future races.

Since I don't really know what to expect, I may even find that I hate races. I doubt that will be the case, though. One other thing I do expect is that I will have fun. Even cheering on friends and family members at past races, I've learned this: something about the race atmosphere is just FUN. It gets me all hyped up! Now that I'm actually participating in a race, I fully expect it to be even more of a thrill!

So. This is my starting place. My expectation is to finish (I do have a goal time in mind, but I do not even know how realistic it is. It may be too ambitious a goal, or it may be too attainable for all I know) and to have fun in the process.  I am going to run as hard as I can next Saturday, and do my best, and see where that gets me.

(I already have my sights set on another half marathon in March in Dallas. By then, I hope to have a little clearer idea of what to expect, based on my experiences in San Antonio next weekend.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let the Countdown Begin: Dreams

10 Days. 10 days from now is Race Day! I am super excited! I am going to blog through my 10 day Countdown, on a few different topics that have been milling around in my head the past few days.

I am feeling a whole range of emotions right now-- mostly excitement at this point. Sure, there are moments when I think, "Oh crap! I have to run 13.1 miles in less than 2 weeks!", but right now I'm still in the excitement phase.

Today's topic of discussion: Dreams.

Everyone tells me that in the days and weeks leading up to race day, it's pretty common to have crazy dreams about the race-- getting lost on the course, the course shutting down before you finish, not being able to find your family after the race, breaking a leg, etc.

I haven't had these dreams yet, but I expect them to come any day now. The trick will be, of course, to not let them spook me too much.  I pretty regularly have very vivid dreams. The bad ones really have a way of shaking me sometimes.

So... maybe I'll get lucky and won't have any crazy Race Day dreams in the next 10 days! But when I do,  I'm hoping I can laugh about them, rather than panic.