Friday, November 11, 2016

Half Marathon #11 and Another Surprise PR

This past weekend, Jason and I headed back up to his parents' house to stay with them and run the Bowling Green Half Marathon on Sunday while they kept the kids. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this one. I'd run a PR half in September, but in October my half had been 9 minutes slower with my legs giving out around mile 8. I wasn't really sure what I could do, but I had a cool, crisp fall morning and a beautiful race course on which to do it, so I was hopeful.

This race was a marathon and half marathon combined, with the marathoners doing the 13.1 mile loop twice. There was a 3:30 marathon pacer named Kevin who also doubled as the 1:45 half marathon pacer. I figured I'd just start with him as I did with Mani back in September and see what happened. I once again made the decision to stick with him until I physically couldn't.

Kevin was a tad faster than the 8:00 pace required for a 1:45 finish time, but I think most pacers are a little fast, especially if they know the course well and understand the elevation. Which Kevin did. It felt a little hard at first, so I focused on staying with Kevin and on the gorgeous fall colors around me. I stuck with him and a runner named Sarah until around mile 5 when I started to pull ahead a little on the downhill sections. He came up to me around mile 6 and asked if I was from there. I said no, so he explained that there were a few more small hills, but the course was about to flatten out "as flat as a pancake."

I thanked him and slowly began to pull away again. I was feeling good, not like I was going to burn out or that the pace was overly hard. Around mile 8 I had a little conversation with myself. "Why don't you leave it all out here? Run so you don't have anything left at the end." So I went for it. I could barely see two females in front of me, and I aimed to catch them. One I named "Wears to Much" because she was wearing tights and long sleeves. The other was "Pink Shorts."

Around mile 10 I caught the first girl as we turned out of a neighborhood and onto a long, flat stretch of road that would take us back to downtown. I liked this section. There were many volunteers, great water and aid stations, and a guy playing "Eye of the Tiger" as I ran by. I gave him a smile. I love that song. I could see Pink Shorts way up ahead, and it took me until mile 12 to catch her. Jason had joined me by this point, and it was as I closed in on Pink Shorts that I noticed ANOTHER female ahead of her. I was giving all I thought I could give, and when I saw her I thought, "Not another one!"

But I went after her anyway. I was so tired, I couldn't think about the time or add up what I had left to figure out what my finish time would be. I thought maybe a few seconds off my PR, but I really had no idea. It was almost too much to focus on Jason beside me as I tried to catch Blue Shirt. He said, "You see that girl in the blue shirt?" to which I responded, "Shh, I've got it." I didn't really know if I had it, but I was running as hard as I could.

I finally caught her. I had no idea if it would stick because she didn't look like she was slowing down or struggling. Neither did Pink Shorts for that matter. They both looked strong, and I knew if I passed them, I'd have to really mean it. I knew I couldn't slow down at all. My watch beeped at mile 13, and I glanced - 7:07. That wowed me a little. A volunteer told me to sprint, the finish line was just around the corner. As I rounded that corner, I saw the clock at 1:41:53, the seconds ticking by as I raced to the finish.

I crossed in 1:42:02, totally spent and so happy with the day and the race. What a pleasant surprise! What a perfect day! Jason hugged me and congratulated me. It didn't take long for me to get chilly as I was only wearing a tank top, so we walked to the car to change clothes while we waited for awards. I was third overall female (that's why Jason wanted me to pass Blue Shirt), and won 2nd in my age group. Jason finished 2nd overall, finishing in 1:20:06 and winning 1st Masters.

There was a Starbucks right next to the finish line so we got coffees, and I munched a few salty potato chips as we waited for awards.

I love races like this one. Achieving a PR is always a wonderful feeling, but I also love that feeling of having enough to push my limits all the way to the end. That doesn't happen every race. Some races - like the previous one in Fort Payne - for whatever reason, I don't have it. My legs quit on me and it takes all I had to simply hold my pace under 9:00. But this day, this race had been perfect. It had felt perfect. It brought me such joy.

Sometimes I feel silly and trivial asking God to bless my race. I feel like He has much bigger things to deal with like starving people in Haiti or the free world divided over politics, hate, anger, violence, loss, grief... so many bigger things. And yet I know I can come to Him with my trivial hopes along with the big ones, and He will hear them all. I asked Him for a good race, and not only was it a good race, it was filled with the beauty of this world He created. The fall colors were so brilliant - I remember one particular yard that was completely carpeted with red leaves. Bright, brilliant red leaves.

Jason and I have almost completed our goal of a half marathon every month for the year of 2016. It has been such a fun goal and I have loved every one of our adventures together, although I am ready for it to come to a close and to give my body some much needed rest and TLC.

But for now, I continue to train. One last push. A few short weeks and then we will head to my home town for what I hope will be the grand finale of our 2016 half marathon goal.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Half Marathon #10 and a 5k PR

Well, I figured I'd better write about the Little River Canyon Half Marathon we ran in October before the next one this weekend.  If you read the previous post, you may have deduced I didn't do as well as I'd hoped, and those races are simply not as fun to write about. I tried not to be disappointed by it, and I really did have a good time out there, but for whatever reason it simply wasn't my day.

The beginning of the course was extremely hilly. I ran hard, powering up each hill, trying to hold a good pace. I believed I should be able to tackle them and still keep trucking based on my previous half marathon experience. I may have taken them too hard, though, because after mile 6, when the hilly, forest turned into flat fields, I had a hard time maintaining. I was running with a guy named Tony. He was a cyclist, and this was his first race ever. He had a very smooth, quick cadence, and because he wasn't very tall, it was easy for me to match him. Once we hit the open fields, however, he sped ahead and I couldn't keep him.

We were hit by an insane headwind at this point. I found myself missing the wooded hills, because the wind was so strong, and the open fields seemed lonely for some reason. I was trying to catch Tony and a tall guy he was running near, but the gap kept growing, and the winding road kept them out of my sight much of the time.

I started letting my mind drift away from my tired legs and slowing pace, to the beauty around me. I prayed for Haiti, which had been on my mind quite a bit after hurricane Matthew. I focused on the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, and on the mile I was currently running. The course eventually took us back into the woods, and it was such a welcome break from the wind, even if there were hills involved.

Around mile 11 a guy caught me and it was nice to see someone. I ran near him the remainder of the way, seeing Jason around mile 12. My legs were tired, but the rest of me felt fine, so I chatted with him about his race until we neared the finish. He had done really well, having a very similar time to his previous half marathon, which I found baffeling because mine was 9 minutes slower!  Nine minutes!

I still won first in my age group and was the third overall female, despite my slower time. Jason, of course, won first over all. The course had been challenging and beautiful, and I'd had a wonderful time with Jason, as usual. We closed out our trip with a visit to Cracker Barrel, enjoying some eggs, bacon and coffee before heading home to hug our urchins. I was a little disappointed, but glad for the experience anyway. It was a good training run, after all.

And that brings me to a much more pleasant story to tell - that of a 5k PR last weekend! Such a pleasant, unexpected surprise!  Jason and I decided at the last minute to run the CASA No Place Like Home 5k, and my sister agreed to watch the kids. It was a chilly, beautiful morning and I had a few friends running the race as well. I was expecting a finish time around 23 minutes - just a nice little speed workout to close out my training week. I'd done a 14 miler the day before, so I was hoping my legs would simply cooperate.

I warmed up a little with my friend Alice, and then lined up to run with our friends, Katie and Megan. The race began and I just ran by feel. I didn't look at my watch, I just followed Katie and Megan, holding on to them as best I could. When my watch beeped at 1 mile, I looked down and was shocked to see 6:57 on the screen. I'd never run a sub 7 before. Never. So I was pretty excited. I didn't look at my watch again until mile 2 and it said 6:54. That was even more exciting. I told myself to HOLD ON. I still had Katie and Megan in my sights, and I was closing in on Megan, although not quickly enough to pass her before the finish. My last mile was a 7:03 as my feet flew around a curve to the finish line, eyes searching the clock to see the time. I was starting to feel a tad nauseous, but I was too excited about the PR to care. I finished in 21:43 - almost a minute faster than my previous 5k PR... 7 years ago!!!

The month of October didn't result in the half marathon time I'd hoped for, but that 5k time made up for it. I'm not really sure what to expect out of this weekend's half marathon, but I'm feeling good about it. I have a whole month's worth of good training under my belt, and the promise of some cooler temps - FINALLY. We will be heading back up to Kentucky to spend time with Jason's parents on their beautiful farm, and run in Bowling Green. I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy Fall!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Racing Two Weeks After Racing

I love this race photo. Not because it's lovely or a particularly great picture, but because of what it represents. It is that "ahhh" moment. The "I did it" moment. The PR moment when I had no idea a PR was possible. I've been living off that moment for two weeks.

Which brings me to tomorrow. Jason and I will head to Fort Payne for #10 in our half-marathon racing streak, and it is only two weeks after the big moment in that picture above. So I have questions. We could call them doubts even.

Can I do that again? Maybe it was a fluke. Can I beat that time a mere 2 weeks later? I have no idea how I did that in the first place. I probably can't beat that time. I'll just use it as a training run. Because the real goal is Dec 3 anyway. Yeah. A training run. Let's go ahead and call it that. No expectations. No pressure.

That's the self talk of late. But I see that picture, and I remember how unlikely a day it was... and I'm still that girl. I'm still that runner. So I guess we'll see. I'll probably get to that start line and give it all I have. Because that's more fun than some ole training run anyway.  It makes me vulnerable to disappointment.  It makes me vulnerable to the doubts and negative talk in my head. But I know I can handle both of those things just fine.

And I do have December. That IS the goal. But I shouldn't be giving myself that reminder until after tomorrow's race.

Okay. Y'all talked me in to it. Tomorrow I'm going for it. Again. If I miss, I miss. And we can all agree it was a good training run.

Running with Mani and the pack that started with him too.

Still in the pack with Mani and some others. Focused.

I call this one "work face."

Going for it! I have no idea what the guy behind me is doing...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Running After "Money" - #9


You should never run after "money"...unless he is your 1:45 half marathon pacer and leading you to a PR! 

Actually, his name was Mani (he pronounced it "money" so that's what I kept saying in my head) and he was the best pacer ever. Okay, so he's the only pacer I've ever run with, but he was really great and just what I needed in the Kentucky History Half Marathon in Frankfort, KY this weekend. 

I didn't start out planning to follow a pacer. I didn't even know they had them in this race. It all started with my iPod shuffle being dead when I went to clip it on. As Jason and I walked toward the start line, I felt oddly light, not weighed down by anything. I prefer to run with as little gear as possible - no water bottles, calf or arm sleeves, fuel belts, head lamps, reflective vests, phone, etc. Nada. But in longer races, I usually like my shuffle available. When we saw pacer signs, I thought I'd try it, and I looked for a 1:50 pacer. There wasn't one, but Jason spotted a 1:45 pacer, and in that instant I decided to go for it. 

I made up my mind to stay with him no matter what until I physically couldn't anymore. I wasn't counting on this being a great race, but I thought I could turn it into a good training run. First of all, the lovely fall temps hadn't arrived yet, even in Kentucky. Second, my week leading up to the race had been rough with soreness, fatigue, sleepless nights with a fussy boy, and bad eating. And third, Jason and I had gotten up at 3:00 a.m. to get to the race. I was yawning and already giving myself that post race peptalk, telling myself I'd do better, and I could race again in two weeks. But then I saw the pacer...

The race began and the pace felt ok, but our first mile was a 7:40. That was much faster than I'd ever started a half marathon, but I was still game to stick with my plan to stay with Mani. The course was beautiful. We ran around the Capitol building and through the cemetery where Daniel Boone and his wife were buried. The views were gorgeous, and worth the long climb at miles 4 and 5 to get to them. Mani coached us up those hills, telling us when they'd end and that we could make up our time on the downhill. And, oh my word, did he! I felt like I was sprinting to catch him, from mile 5 until mile 11, but every time he got ahead of me, I made myself catch him again. And again. And again. 

Around mile 8 I chased him into first overall female as we passed the last two girls ahead of me. I still wasn't sure I could hold it, but if Mani was going, so was I. I checked in with myself from time to time to see how I felt, and I always told myself, "You're fine! Keep going!" And I really was! Sure, I was working hard, but I wasn't hurting and I felt good. I rarely looked at my watch unless I heard the mile split, and most of the time I missed that. I was focused in a way I'd never been before. I had one simple goal, and that was to hold on to Mani. 

Around mile 8.5 we entered the last loop before we would head back to the finish line, and I saw Jason heading out, leading the way. As we got close to each other he said, "You're it." Meaning "You're first female. You are where you've been wanting to be." And he was right. I did want to be there. Since the last half marathon in Georgia when I'd watched those front runners, wanting to be where they were, and wondering if I had what it took to get there. And here I was. Once Jason called it, I knew I had to keep it. Mile 9 came and went, and I thought, "You aren't burning out. You have to hold this!" I chased Mani with wild abandon. He was a good bit ahead of me, but I was intent on closing that gap. 

Runners heading out of the loop cheered me on, and when I turned around, those behind me cheered for me too. Some told me I was first female, some said, "you've got this," some said, "way to go!" And it spurred me on. I couldn't do more than half smile, but it encouraged me to keep pushing. I knew I couldn't let up because the girls I'd passed weren't that far behind me, and I really wanted to keep my spot! 

Once out of the loop and approaching mile 11, I finally caught Mani. He said, "I was taking advantage of all that shade, but you need to pass me now. I'm on pace to run 44:30." Pass him? I'd just caught him! But he was slowing down to meet his pacing goal, and I knew I couldn't. So I passed him. It was exciting, but my legs were getting tired, and I had to concentrate on keeping the pace. I glanced at my watch a few times at this point, but it seemed too complicated to figure out what my finish time would be, so I just ran, willing my legs to cooperate. 

Shortly after mile 12 I saw Jason and was surprised to see him so far back. We didn't say a word as he joined me. I ran as if runners were breathing down my neck, hot on my heals, about to pass me at any moment. We rounded a curve and there was a guy in front of me. Jason told me to catch him. I shushed him and was going to ignore his suggestion, but thought it might be a message that someone was closing in, so I went for it. I passed him, and then I saw the clock! It had a 43 on it! I ran with every ounce that was left as the announcer said, "And here is our first female, Jane Reneau from Madison, Alabama!" I finished in 1:43:52, not only winning first overall female, but getting a personal record as well. Jason was immediately by my side and he grabbed me in a tight hug saying, "You did it!" 


I had done it, and I couldn't believe it! My previous PR was six years and 2 kids ago, and while I was certainly aiming for this result, I wasn't expecting it yet, and certainly not on this day. I thanked Mani after he ran in (at 44:33, mind you), and told him I'd gotten a PR. He congratulated me before heading back to run in the other pacers. 

Jason and I changed into dry shirts and then waited for awards. They were mugs, which we love! 

It was a great, surprising day. I still grin every time I think about it, and then get excited as I start thinking about what's next. I feel grateful for such a great run after what I considered to be a rough week that I hadn't handled very gracefully. I'm grateful to my Creator for giving me what I needed on this unpromising day, and for experiences like this that bring me such joy. He's given me so much more than I deserve, but I know it all comes from Him, and I will always give Him the credit and my gratitude for not only the great races, but the not so great races that make days like today so amazing. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Area 13.1 Half Marathon - #8

Two Saturdays ago, Jason and I headed to Roswell, GA for # 8 in our half-marathon streak, the Area 13.1 half marathon. This one would be different from all the others in that it had a start time of 7pm. I had no idea what to expect from a night time race, but I was looking forward to the experience all the same.

We arrived at our hotel in Roswell at 5pm, 2 hours before the race, and I realized to my horror I had forgotten to pack my running shoes. Yep. Kind of a game changer for the whole running thing. So we checked in and changed into our race clothes quickly, as I pulled up the closest running shoe store I could find. Road Runner Sports for the win, only 4 miles from our hotel. We drove there, found a pair of Asics Gel Cumulus (the only shoe I wear), and high tailed it out of there to the race...where the traffic was crazy and parking spots were scarce.

It was 6pm. Jason drove around hunting a parking spot, and I got in line to get our packets and numbers. It was all hurried and crazy, but by 6:30 we had a parking spot and our race numbers, and we were ready to run. We looked at each other and laughed as I said, "what's another half marathon without a little drama?" We warmed up a little and went to the start line where I got my 3 kisses before we finally started our race at 7pm. Whew!

We started off down a shady, hard-packed trail that winded around in the woods surrounding Riverside Park. We stayed on this trail for about 2 miles before looping back and heading the other direction on the road for the rest of the race. I liked this little trail section. I kept my pace even and relaxed. It was HOT (about 88 degrees) and I wasn't expecting it to cool down much. I remained conservative through the first half of the race. The heat made me a little nervous about pushing it. There wasn't a hint of a breeze and the air was thick and heavy. I was really thirsty, but only sipped at each water stop, pouring the rest over my shoulders. I had Gatorade at some spots, water at others. I never took an offered Gu because the thought of eating anything was unpleasant.

I saw Jason heading back around mile 7. I was running up a hill and he was zipping down. Our hands grazed each other in an attempted high five, but I forgot to shout out my usual, "Go Babe!" He was in second place with a pretty sizeable gap in front of him and behind him. Finally I began to see more people returning, so I kept a female count. I wanted to know where I stood. I wasn't hoping to win - I usually don't in these bigger races - but it gave me something to do and took my mind off the heat.

As I counted, I studied each woman as we passed each other. I wondered what she did in her training, what she ate, if she lifted weights or did some sort of strength training. I wondered if I had what it took to be up there where she was. I wondered if I put in the work, if I too could be a front runner. I kept counting and around #25 I reached the turn around, which meant I was number 26 or 27 (there was a water stop and I could have missed some there).

When I turned I decided I wasn't going to suffer any more in the heat if I picked up my pace. I knew it certainly wasn't going to get any hotter. The sun was hidden behind the trees all around us, casting a blue-ish light on the road as it sunk lower.

So I went for it. I decided to catch every female I could see. I decided there was no way to ever know if I could be up there unless I went for it. I knew it wasn't going to happen in this race, but this race sort of lit a fire in me, one that is still burning as I continue my training. I had about 4-5 miles left, and I meant to make them count. I passed a lot of people, both male and female. I alternated between water and Gatorade at each stop, but I didn't linger. Those running toward me who had not yet turned around looked beaten down by the heat, and two looked like they needed medical care (a policeman was seeing to them).

Three separate times I saw a very small child running with his/her parents (I'm assuming), and it made me sick. I looked them up in the results that night, and their ages were 9, 7, and 5, and all of them were out there over 2 hours. When I saw the last one approaching, she was so tiny and looked no older than my Eloise, and I wanted to say to her mother, "SERIOUSLY?!" But one look at her mom's face showed me she was having a tough time of it, and while I cannot for the LIFE of me figure out why parents think it is okay for such tiny, growing bodies to run that far (not to mention the heat or the late hour), I tried to let it go. I ached for those little ones, though. It made me sad and angry. I shook my head and ran on, lifting up a prayer that they would be okay.

For a while I thought I'd finish before it got dark, but the dark came on quickly, almost suddenly. I clicked on my head lamp, and it was extremely helpful in the darkest areas. The race had bright work lights along the course, and those were great, but it was still really dark, especially when we returned to the greenway path. I passed several other females at this point and had to work hard to hold my pace. It was late, and I was tired, soaked and really hot.

I was surprised to see Jason waiting for me about a half mile from the finish (although I didn't know the distance at the time - I'd given up looking at my watch in the dark). I thought it was way too hot for him to run extra, but there he was, my hero. I think I greeted him, but when he responded I told him we'd talk at the finish. It was all I could do not to slow down, but I could hear the music and crowds at the finish line, and I desperately wanted to be there. It was pitch dark on the path. I couldn't see my feet or Jason, and in my head I started singing "we were running with the night... playing in the shadows... just you and I, girl it was so riiiiiight." (I love Lional). It was definitely strange running in such darkness and I was praying I didn't trip.

Almost finished and thrilled!

Jason dropped off as I saw lights in the distance and he yelled, "GO JANE!" At that moment it only vaguely crossed my mind that he didn't usually cheer me on like that, but a split second later I discovered why. A girl shot passed me out of nowhere. She was flying, and if I'd had a bit more distance until the finish, I think I could have matched her pace, but there was no time. We were crossing the finish and it was done. In that moment I was so thrilled to be finished, I patted her on the arm and said, "Great run!" or something like that, and she smiled and said the same. But after I caught my breath and drank some water, it stung a little. I was RIGHT THERE! And then...what stung even more... she was in my age group! OUCH! 

My gun time says I finished in 1:54:00, but my chip time says 1:53:54. The girl who passed me has a gun time of 1:53:57, and a chip time of 1:53:55. So you can do with that what you will. It doesn't really matter because we were 4th and 5th in our age group, so neither of us won. None of that took away my enjoyment of this race experience, however. It was unique, new and fun. It was really well done and supported a great charity. Jason and I got a massage after the race because few were in line, and I joked that it was our couples massage. I'd never gotten a massage at a race before and it was lovely. Jason and I had a wonderful time together, as always. He finished second overall (first Masters) in 1:24:29.

The alien likes me.

So #8 in our series is complete. I'm hoping to start improving on my time, now that the summer races are over. Our next one isn't until the end of September, so I think I have time to put in some good training and time for some cooler weather to move in. I'm excited and hopeful about the possibilities. I'm hanging on to that fire, that desire to get faster, to stop being a middle-of-the-packer, to push my limits. I'm ready to work. So here we go.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Raising Butterflies

A few summers ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of a beautiful (to me) caterpillar that I was allowing to eat my parsley because I liked him. A butterfly enthusiast friend saw it and told me it was a swallowtail butterfly caterpillar and to look for others. I did and my parsley was covered. I quickly bought a butterfly house and kept them safely there until they formed their chrysalises and turned into beautiful swallowtail butterflies. It was an amazing process to witness and so special to share with my kids (or kid at the time).

The next year I planted parsley, milkweed, and lots of flowers butterflies like (lantana, butterfly bush and cone flowers are among the top favorites), and that time my milkweed was overtaken by monarch caterpillars. I was so excited, and once again it was an amazing process to watch. I bought an even bigger butterfly house for the next year, but we'd placed a shed on top of my milkweed, and I didn't get any monarchs, and for some reason no swallowtails either. My sister, however hit the mother load with her massive milkweed garden with over 40 caterpillars, and she shared some with me. 

Monarch caterpillars on my milkweed

Releasing the monarchs

One of my favorites of my girl releasing monarchs with my sister

That brings us to this year. My milkweed wasn't very plentiful, but I had two dill plants and a gigantic barrel of parsley, and the swallowtails came! I currently have 15 chrysalises holding beautiful butterflies that will soon emerge - one did this morning. My daughter is 4 now, and she pours over our butterfly book, can identify butterfly nectar flowers when she sees them, and checks on our current crop of swallowtails on a daily basis. I love sharing this piece of God's amazing creation with her, and I love being a part of it myself. 

A tiny swallowtail egg is hatching behind my first finger.

You have to look carefully, but you can see tiny caterpillars beginning to eat...

And here you can see much larger caterpillars have now demolished my dill plant.

How many chrysalises can you see?

The first Black Eastern Swallowtail to emerge. Hello, Beautiful!

My girl, who has been just as captivated as me during this whole process.

Many of my friends who have followed along on Facebook or Instagram have asked me how they can get butterflies to come to their yards, and it's so easy! I decided a blog post was needed to explain just how easy it can be so that more of you can enjoy this amazing process too, while also helping out the butterflies! If they are protected in a butterfly house, free to eat as caterpillars without fear of predators eating them, and if their chrysalises can rest in peace, more healthy butterflies will grace us with their beautiful presence! 

First you have to figure out what butterflies are common in your area. For us in the south, there are several types of swallowtails, the monarch, and a few others, although my experience is mainly with the Eastern Black Swallowtail and the Monarch. You can order painted lady caterpillars online, and we've certainly done that, but there is just something so satisfying about having your yard blessed with the whole process!

Once you know what butterflies you want to summon, you've got to figure out their nectar plant (what butterflies like to eat) and their host plant (what they will lay eggs on - what the caterpillars will eat). And you've got to plant both. This can be in pots or containers for many plants like dill and parsley, although I think milkweed and butterfly bush do better in the ground. Milkweed will spread itself and grow like wildfire. It will also come back every spring, so make sure you have room! And milkweed is both a nectar plant for many butterflies as well as the host plant for the monarch...who badly needs your help!

The reason you need to plant host plants is caterpillars are much pickier than the very hungry caterpillar in our favorite children's book. They will ONLY eat certain plants, and butterflies will ONLY lay eggs on those plants. That is why you MUST have the host plants if you want caterpillars.

For the Eastern Black Swallowtail, you want dill, fennel, Queen Anne's lace, and parsley (I've had the most luck with dill and parsley). For the monarch you want milkweed (and there are several types - any will do).

My resource for this information and so much more is this butterfly book which I ordered from Amazon:

Both Eloise and I love pouring over this book, learning what host plants we need for butterflies to lay eggs on our plants, and what plants will get those butterflies to our yard for lunch.

We ordered our butterfly "castle" from this website: The Butterfly Website. The castles are not very expensive at all and will allow you to place an entire plant inside it, view the butterflies more clearly, and clean it more easily.

So, in conclusion!  Get this book or one like it. Get a butterfly house/castle. Plant nectar plants and host plants. And wait.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Trail Run - # 7

Friday, July 1, Jason and I began our little journey to Pikeville, KY to run # 7 in our 2016 Half Marathon Streak -  the White Lightning Half Marathon.

We drove all day Friday. Traffic was really bad and our GPS kept diverting us to quicker routes. I thought we'd never get there, but once we reached Virginia, the sites from my passenger window got really beautiful and made me a little more patient with the drive.  We reached the Appalachian mountains and they were breathtaking. Jason and I also began to get a little silly after so long in the car, cracking ourselves up, and that was fun. I enjoyed seeing him so funny and relaxed, and he said the same of me.

We finally reached our hotel and checked in around 9:00p.m. (8:00p.m. central time) just in time to watch the city's fireworks display out of our hotel window. They had decided to have them early since it was supposed to rain on July 4. It was beautiful and fun to get to see them. We soon fell asleep after that, exhausted.

Saturday morning arrived quickly. I was nervous and excited. I'd seen pictures of the course and it looked beautiful, so I figured if it turned out to be a long, slow slog, at least I'd have a lot to admire. Jason and I had looked at last year's results on our long drive up, and the female winner the previous year had finished in 2:10. Jason said he thought I could do that, and he said I should run to win. So despite my apprehensions about running on these mountain trails, I decided I'd run as hard as I could and I'd give winning a shot. This race was tiny, so it was possible...

The race began on a gravel path, and I kept an eye on the females around me. The 5k started at the same time, so I really had no idea who I was up against until those runners turned around at the half way point. I could see a girl in a light blue tank and I was passed by a tall, muscular woman I named "Tippy Toes" because of the way she ran. She looked like the real deal and she passed me with ease. I kept my eyes on her for a while until we reached mile 4...the never ending descent. I'm not sure how long this thing was, but it was so steep I had to stop running and sort of squat-shimmy down it. I was afraid the rocks under my feet would move and I would fall, so I took it super slow and was passed by 5 people. It went on forever (FOOOOREEEEVVEEER) and my quads were screaming by the time it finally flattened out. Screaming. Begging for the end. When I finally reached the bottom, I could already feel the extreme muscle fatigue and a hint of the soreness that would come.

But I ran hard. And I caught all five runners who passed me. Two women and three men. We ran through endless creek beds and this part was really fun. And wet and muddy. Sometimes the trail didn't simply cross the creek, it was the creek. I finally gave up jumping around to avoid the deepest parts and just started plowing through them. I laughed out loud a few times because my splashes were so loud and clumsy. A guy in front of me continued bounding from one side to another, lightly tapping the water, and then he got to hear the herd of elephants (me) stomp right through the center. SPLASH SPLASH SPLASH! If anyone had been watching, I'm sure it was comical.

Despite the continual dips in the creek (it felt very Last of the Mohicans), the trails were in great shape and I was able to run much faster than I'd imagined. Not only did I catch those who had passed me on the never ending descent, I caught light blue tank and Tippy Toes. Tippy Toes had music playing from her phone, so every time I heard her music behind me, I knew I had to keep pushing. I started the get excited about what my finishing time would be as the miles flew by. I was pretty sure I'd get under 2 hours easily. And if I could get my quads to keep going, I'd stay ahead of all those gals I'd worked so hard to pass.

And then I saw it... the never ending climb. Surely I had to know this was coming. You can't go down without having to go back up. There was no running on this thing. It was so steep, I actually used my hands to steady myself a few times, my chin inches from the ground. On the never ending climb, I caught two more guys and spotted another female all in black up ahead.

By this point I was seriously worried about my legs. They weren't hurting, exactly, but there was a strange weak feeling, as if at any moment they were just going to quit working.

Finally... FINALLY I reached the top and a water stop. The volunteer gave me the most delicious Gatorade I'd ever tasted. I guzzled and ran on. We were at the top again and it was flat! There was a short out and back before we passed that water stop once more, and I was able to see how far in front of me the girl in black was. This part was fun because I saw several runners in front of me and behind. We all smiled and encouraged one another, thrilled to be finished with that climb, excited to be so close to the end.

I ran as hard as I could...a little surprised at my pace (8:30), closing the gap between myself and the girl in black. We were back on the gravel path and there was only one more steep climb before we reached the finish line. I finally caught her, and when I reached the last hill, I could see Jason at the top and hear him cheer for me. I was running as hard as my tired legs would let me, and the site of that finish line was beautiful. Everyone cheered as if I was some sort of celebrity - that's how they cheered for every runner. They immediately had results, and I learned I was the 4th female and 1st in my age group, finishing in 2:00:25. I got to pick out a cool moonshine jug as my award, and Jason and I tried some actual moonshine.

A local news anchor overheard Jason and I talking to the race director, and he asked if he could interview us, so we did that too. (It's always good to be on TV after drinking moonshine.)

I was completely spent, but it was one of the most fun, most beautiful, most challenging and most rewarding half marathons of our little series so far. Jason and I were both a little surprised at our performances out there.  He finished in 1:27, and was 2nd overall. It was one of those experiences that shows me I'm a little tougher than I thought I'd be. It reminded me not to label the kind of runner I am too soon. Not to decide I'm not good at something, or how it will be until it's actually done. I was proud of myself for pushing so hard, for trying to win. This race experience reminded me of a quote I read from Pat Summitt:

"Winning is fun...Sure.
But winning is not the point.
WANTING to win is the point.
Never giving up is the point.
Never letting up is the point.
Never being satisfied with what you've done is the point."

I love that. The wanting, the pushing, the risk involved in giving so much so early in the race...that is what made this particular race such a great experience for me. Am I paying for it? Man, my quads are killing me! I am so sore I can hardly walk normally, and I certainly can't run. I joked with Jason this morning that I was broken... but that I'd do it again. It was totally worth it.