Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Little Fear and a Lot of Fun

As I mentioned in the previous post, everything we learned and practiced during the first weekend of Scuba training came easy to me. I grew up near and in the water, was on my high school swim team, and underwent life guard training as well. So all the skills our instructor asked us to demonstrate in the pool were not a problem. They were fun, and even the ones that seemed impossible like filling our masks with water and clearing them while submerged were surprisingly doable. We learned how to handle every possible issue that could take place under water, and I felt prepared if any of these things were to happen while diving.

The next weekend Jason and I kissed our kids goodbye and headed to the dive shop for our rental gear before taking to the road for Florida and my first open water dives. Jason would be trying some new skills too as he worked on his Advanced Diver's certification.

Saturday morning was cool and cloudy as we arrived at Vortex Springs in Ponce de Leon, FL. I would be completing three of my four required open water dives there, and showing my instructor that I could do all the skills we learned in the pool...only this time I'd be doing them about 20 feet under water.

Demonstrating our skills in Vortex Springs
I felt ready, prepared, and excited to finally do this thing for real! We took our first plunge into the water and it was COLD. We had on wet suits and that helped...eventually. A wet suit traps water in, limiting the flow in and out, allowing your body heat to warm the cold water. That makes swimming in cold temps bearable. It was about 68 degrees in the springs, so it was just that... bearable.

Going underwater was amazing! There were fish everywhere! Right next to me, all around me. I even reached out and touched a few. As I tried to slow my breathing (the cold was shocking at first), I took in the sights around me as I slowly descended holding onto a rope tethered to the bottom. I could see other divers around me practicing their skills as well. We swam around a little and then settled on the bottom to demonstrate our skills.

Everything went really well until I was asked to remove my mask underwater, replace it, and clear it. This hadn't been a problem in the pool, but for some reason, when I let the cold water into my mask, my nose wanted to inhale. Trying to prevent this made me quickly replace my mask, slow my breathing and try again. This happened a few times and it was a little unnerving. The sensation of wanting to breathe through my nose and not being able to, made me a little panicky. I finally cleared my mask, looked at my instructor and shook my head no. He gave me the "okay" sign and we moved on.

We completed our three dives, but I knew I would have to master that skill before I'd be certified. I'd have one more chance this trip, when we did our drift dive in the Rainbow River further south. I was happy with the day's experience, but the fact that I hadn't mastered that one skill hung over my head. I tried to shake it off. I knew I wasn't scared, and I knew I could do it. But I remembered the panicky feeling, and it worried me.

We drove to Tallahassee where we spent Saturday night, and Sunday morning we finished the drive down to Dunnellon, FL. The day was beautiful and sunny, and the river was gorgeous. I was excited to try this drift dive, but I still had to remove my mask underwater...

Stepping in with the help of my amazing instructor, Sean.
We took a boat up river and then hopped out to "drift dive" back. There were all kinds of things to see on this dive - much more than Vortex Springs, and I loved it. Jason was by my side more for this dive and that made it much more fun. Finally we reached a 20 foot deep section and my instructor turned to me and signaled for me to deflate my BCD (buoyancy control device) and sink to the bottom. I knew it was time. I'd prayed about it, practiced it in the shallow water, and while the fear threatened to resurface, I knew I had to complete it. I knelt on the bottom, gave him the signal for "give me a minute" (I made that one up, but he understood), and very, very slowly let the water creep into my mask. I did it inch by inch...or maybe centimeter by centimeter, and as it filled my mask I closed my eyes and focused on breathing through my mouth. At one point I felt Jason pat my arm, giving me reassurance.

Eventually my mask was full and I removed it. I replaced it, cleared the water out of it, and wanted to shout! I almost gave the thumbs up sign, but in diving that means "ascend" so I did the ok signal with both hands. Sean, my instructor, shook my hand, and I grabbed both of his and squeezed. He got the message. I was so excited to have done it, and so grateful for his instruction and patience. He flipped open a tablet he had clipped to his BCD and showed it to me. It said," CONGRATULATIONS!  YOU ARE A CERTIFIED OPEN WATER DIVER!" Or something along those lines.

This girl just became a certified open water diver!

I was so excited and relieved! I squeezed Jason's hand and brought it to my mouth piece - and he got the message too. I was grateful to have him next to me, assuring me and believing in me. We continued our dive, exploring vents, chasing big fish, and enjoying all the underwater beauty that surrounded us. I was finally a certified open water diver, and that, along with diving itself, felt amazing. Now I could enjoy the rest of our trip (MANATEES!) with that accomplishment in my pocket.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learning to Dive

As the new year approached, I was having a hard time facing it with any enthusiasm...which was definitely out of the norm for me. I love a fresh start whether it is a new year, a new month, a Monday, or simply a morning. But 2017 looked like it was going to be a letdown after the wonderful year of racing, PRs, and trips with my one true love that was 2016. I was injured with no relief in sight, and I was trying to shift my focus upward instead of inward, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

One chilly rainy day, I was sitting next to Jason on the couch as Eloise and Matthew played around us, and I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw an ad for a trip to swim with the manatees. I'd always wanted to do that ever since I was a little girl. I used to have posters on my wall, glass figures on my dresser, and t-shirts, all devoted to my beloved manatee. And even though I lived in Florida, only a few hours away, I never made it to see them in person.

I shared this with Jason, and his response was, "Well, let's plan a trip then." I love that man. I then explained to him that we had to go soon because the manatees were usually in Florida from January through the end of March. He was still game. I then admitted I not only wanted to swim with manatees, I wanted to learn to scuba dive as well. Within an hour of this couch conversation, we were dressed, our kids were loaded in the car, and we were on our way to Southeastern Divers Inc. to register for a Scuba class and sign up for the manatee trip that would follow the four required open water dives in Florida.

I was given an open water dive manual to read before my class in February, and instructed to come to the store to watch the 5 videos that accompanied it. I completed it all, and spent Saturday, Feb 11 in the classroom and the following Sunday trying out everything we learned in a University pool. It all came easily and I loved every minute. I was breathing UNDER WATER! As I drove home, tired and excited, I couldn't wait to head to Florida the next weekend to try out everything in open water, and share this amazing experience with Jason, who has been certified to dive since high school. He took a refresher course before our trip and has since begun his certification as an advanced open water diver.

As we headed to Florida on February 17 for a long weekend of diving and exploring, we realized it was the first time in 9 years we'd gone on a trip together that was not centered around a race. And it was only the 3rd such trip of our married life, and that counts our honeymoon too. I had a pretty strong feeling this new year of 2017 was not going to be a letdown after all, but a grand new adventure for us to enjoy together. And how amazing it has been so far!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Time to Heal

Can I just start by saying, last year was amazing? The trips with Jason, so many adventures, the races, the PRs, all the running. The glorious running. I loved every single minute. So when the last race was run in December and my weary, broken body cried mercy, my heart broke a little too. And it was hard to shake the sadness and disappointment. As we decorated for Christmas, filled advent calendars, drank hot chocolate, wrapped presents, and got ready for a fun holiday season, inside I just wasn't there. I wasn't feeling it. My knee hurt all the time, no matter if I rested or ran, stretched or rolled, and I desperately missed running.

Finally Jason said something about how I hadn't seemed myself for a while, and it kind of woke me up. I realized running had become more important than it should. It had moved to a place in my life where it didn't belong. There should've been plenty of joy in my life without running, especially during the Christmas season. But I couldn't find it. I felt lost and sad, blah and frustrated.

As hard as it was to admit it, I knew running had become lord of my life, and I knew I had to knock it back down to its proper place. It felt impossible...but what is impossible with God? He's tackled much bigger, and while I couldn't see myself feeling differently, I had faith that He could help me do it.

I started with prayer. I picked up a book I'd been meaning to finish for months called, "Intercessory Prayer" and started over from the beginning. I bought a planner for 2017 from Ink and Volt that I knew would challenge me. It asked for a yearly theme, yearly goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals. As I worked on filling in the pages, I purposefully focused on my spiritual health, not the physical. No running goals, no fitness challenges, no eating resolutions. It was about renewing my relationship with my Lord, returning Him to his proper place in my life, returning to His Word and seeking deeper, more meaningful conversations with Him.

I also focused my goals on other things I love that had fallen by the wayside. Reading good books. Writing. Learning something new. Trying new recipes. Adventures with my kids. Returning to these things made me feel alive again. They reminded me there was more to me and my life than just running.

I did decide to go to the doctor and get some answers about my knee. I made an appointment with a local sports doctor, and pulled out my old 21 Day fix videos that didn't seem to hurt my knee too much. For my birthday (January 5), my mom got me a month's worth of unlimited Pure Barre classes, and I received a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and physical therapy from the doc (who diagnosed me with severe inflammation).

Since then I've been to three physical therapy sessions and four Pure Barre classes (so hard, but so good!). I run two or three times a week, usually 3-5 miles, sometimes with my running girls who I have dearly missed, sometimes alone to let my mind run free a bit too.

As far as learning new things goes, I'm taking an open water diving course, and Jason and I have a trip planned in February to do our open water test dives (he's already certified, but is taking a refresher course) and to swim with manatees - a long time dream of mine. I am beyond excited about this.

So I'm doing better. I have no idea if my knee is better because I'm still on the anti-inflammatories, but I have been mostly pain free for a few weeks, and that has been such a relief. I've found ways to stay fit that don't hurt my knee, and I do just enough running to quench the thirst, while letting my body heal.

And God is doing His thing in my heart and mind, as I have asked Him. I by no means have it all together - I have moments of disappointment, days where I don't turn to His word, and I'm still working on strengthening my faith and prayer... but that's the human condition. I don't intend to quit seeking and knocking and striving just because it's hard some days and I mess up others. While I don't always understand His forgiveness and relentless love, I don't doubt it for a moment and that spurs me on.

Returning God to his proper place as Lord of my life has returned my joy. Opening my eyes and remembering all the blessings in my life, finding pleasure again in the simple things like watching Eloise and Matthew play outside, holding my soft bunny, hot coffee on a cold morning, laughing with Jason, squeezing everyone tight... these have restored my soul again. God's word is a light to my feet once more, as I read of His amazing Son who came to earth, and all that He said and did while here.

My time to heal as changed from something I loath, to something I love, and I think that's how it should be.

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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down a the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Stats of 2016

So my amazing husband and partner in this crazy year of half marathon running has made this amazing Christmas present for me. I've got to take a minute to brag... because I'm just blown away by the fact that he came up with this design on his own and then executed it. Amazing, beautiful, fun, and impressive. Kind of like I view him. How did I land such a man? But I digress...

As I approach 2017, I wonder what it will hold. It looks like I may start the year with a big fat injury. Yep. Major bummer. I remained silent about it through most of the year because what was the point in mentioning it? Now, however, it has reared its ugly, knobby head to say, "HEY! YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ME NOW!" And I've said okay, fine. I'm going on two weeks of no running... oh me. That's been hard, and I've felt like I'm waving goodbye to all my gains this past training season. I'm doing PiYo and weight workouts, and I'm visiting the most amazing massage therapist, Kim Susor of Meridian Acupuncture and Massage Therapy. And I'm trying to be patient.

The injury is another knee knob (see Knee Knobs and Foam Sticks from years ago). I fell hard while pregnant with Matthew in 2014, and a calcium deposit formed where I hit my left knee. It was no big deal until I started training harder and running more this year. The deposit (or knob, as I call it) sits right where all kinds of tendons and ligaments intersect, and the repetitive motion has caused quite a ruckus. About the middle of the year, it started to complain, but only for the first two minutes of a run. I used the Stick and foam roller, and kept trucking. Toward the end of the year it got to where it hurt for the first 2 miles of a run. I took a lot of time off before the final half marathon, and was able to do that one mostly pain free, but I paid for that afterward.

Since then, I've been doing the best I can while trying to recover and heal. I think the Lord is teaching me something here, but that's for another blog post.

The stats of 2016! That's what this post is supposed to be about! And how fun it is to look back and remember. What a wonderful year. It makes my heart swell as I allow my mind to run through all the experiences again. All the fun. All the early mornings. The hours in the car. Google maps. The triumphs, the flops, the laughs and special moments with Jason. Being sick as a dog in February. The brutal headwind in March. Jason running 4 extra miles off course in June. The crazy trail run through the Appalachian Mountains in July. Realizing I forgot my running shoes an hour before running through the night in August. A surprise PR in September. A first place over all win. Another PR in November. A sweet hometown run in December. The thrill or relief of seeing Jason around mile 12 of every single race.

I learned so much about myself as a runner throughout this journey. I thought my PR days were probably behind me, but that wasn't true. I discovered I prefer to race without music. I found a little competitive edge which spurs me onward even when I'm spent. I like pacers. A tough course doesn't necessarily mean a slower race. I'm stronger than I thought.

And now for the stats! I'm including the date, the race, the location, my time and any wins.

January 16 - Elkmont Half Marathon, Elkmont, AL - 1:56:39 (3rd AG)
February 28 - Seaside Half Marathon, Seaside, FL - 2:05:05
March 19 - Bowling Green Half Marathon, Bowling Green, KY - 1:55:34
April 2 - Oak Barrel Half Marathon, Lynchburg, TN - 1:55:11
May 21 - Viola Valley Half Marathon, Viola, TN - 1:48:47 (3rd AG)
June 4 - Hillbilly Half Marathon, Franklin, TN - 1:54:35
July 2 - White Lightning Half Marathon, Pikeville, KY - 2:00:54 (trails) (1st AG)
August 13 - Area 13.1 Half Marathon, Roswell, GA - 1:54:00
September 24 - Kentucky History Half Marathon, Frankfort, KY - 1:43:52 (PR and 1st OA win!)
October 3 - Little River Canyon Half Marathon, Fort Payne, AL - 1:52:07 (3rd OA female)
November 6 - BG26.2 Half Marathon, Bowling Green, KY - 1:42:02 (PR, 3rd OA female, 2nd AG)
December 3 - Panama City Beach Half Marathon, PCB, FL - 1:45:15 (3rd AG)

I cannot thank my family enough for all the babysitting. This would not have been possible without our moms and my sister watching our kiddos while we traveled and raced. What a blessing they have been to us. I cannot thank my husband enough for being willing (I think it was his idea in the first place) to go on this journey with me. I have loved every moment with him, every race date just the two of us, even if they started at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. And most importantly, I thank my God for this amazing, blessed year and all the joy and fun it has brought. From the gorgeous places He created for our pleasure, to the bodies that stayed strong throughout, the safety as we traveled miles upon miles, watching over our families and kiddos while we were away, the blessings He poured out over our marriage as we shared this experience... ALL good things come from Him and this year has been FULL of GOOD THINGS.

So that's a wrap. And while I have no idea what 2017 will bring, and while my heart aches a little over this silly injury, I remain full of gratefulness for what God has given me in 2016, and I have faith and hope that 2017 will be what He wants it to be. That is my prayer as I look forward to the New Year.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Last Half

Last weekend Jason and I completed the last half of our 2016 year of half marathons. While the race itself was not overly great for either of us, I think what overshadowed it was the wonderful weekend we had in Panama City, and the fact that we had finally reached our goal of one half marathon a month for the year of 2016. That felt pretty amazing.

The weekend began with a 7 hour drive south. Upon arriving, we went to pick up our packets. My parents arrived right before we did (my mom couldn't pass up a chance to run a marathon in her old stomping grounds either - it was #86 for her), and my sister, Jessi and two of her girls were there too. That was a fun surprise. Jessi was running the 5k - her first in 3 years! 

After that, we headed to my dear friend Emily's house. This amazing friend and mother of 5 had agreed to keep Eloise and Matthew while Jason and I ran the half. Not only that, but she fed us our traditional pre-race meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with potato chips. After playing with her 5 precious children on Friday night, our two didn't give us a backward glance when we dropped them off at 6:00 Saturday morning.

Jason and I arrived at Pier Park in time to see the marathoners off, and I got to run a few steps with my mom and wish her luck. Then it was our turn. I was excited and hopeful and a little emotional. Part of me knew my body was done, and part of me was ready to lay it all out there anyway. It was our final half marathon. The end of an amazing year-long adventure with my one true love. It was a race in my home town. I even saw an old high school friend at the start of the race. I let all the significance, hope, love, joy, gratefulness, and strength fill me as I stood at the start line.

I had planned to start with the 1:40 pacer and just hang in as long as I could, but he started WAY too fast. Not the usual 10 seconds under goal pace, but over 30 seconds under pace. When I looked at my watch and realized I was running my 5k pace, I slowed immediately. I tucked in behind a tall, shirtless fellow I named "Snot Rocket" because he kept blowing them and there was a headwind. But because he was blocking me from that headwind, I more kindly referred to him as "Shirtless" in my mind. He was running a steady 7:45 and that was where I wanted to be.

But it felt hard. Harder than it should, and by mile 7 I was beginning to lag behind. I argued with myself. "Go! You aren't hurting, so go!" But my body wouldn't listen. I felt a deep fatigue from my shoulders down. I recognized it, and I fought it as best I could. I reminded myself that this was it! I could rest after this... but not yet. Not yet.

Jason was waiting for me at mile 12, and I was so glad to see him. My legs felt numb, but seeing him gave me a little boost, and I pushed on to the finish with him by my side. As I began to hear the loud music of the finish line, I told him I had loved this year with him, and I congratulated him on the completion of our goal. Then I ran on to do the same.

My sketchy mid-race calculations told me I'd finish in 1:48, and that was disappointing... but when I rounded the final corner, I saw the clock at 1:44, and I ran for it. I caught a guy in an orange tank top who had passed me earlier and he raced me in. That was fun. I finished in 1:45:15, and I was satisfied with that - especially given how I'd felt those last miles. It felt like a victory even though it wasn't a PR or a major win.

Jason finished third overall in 1:21, winning 1st Masters, and I placed 3rd in my age group. Jessi had also won 3rd in her age group in the 5k, and she was so excited! Jason and I drove back to Emily's to get Eloise and Matthew, chat with Emily and her fam a bit more, and then headed back to the race to see my mom finish her marathon and let Eloise play in the ocean. (Yes, in December...does that make us snow birds?)

We closed out our weekend Sunday morning at my old church, Jenks Avenue Church of Christ. Simply driving into the parking lot filled me with joy and nostalgia. It was upon attending this church in middle school that my faith really took root, grew, and became real and meaningful to me. The people I saw Sunday morning were my mentors in the faith, in the Word - real examples of the One we follow - Jesus Christ. Their love and example back then still remains strong in my heart today, and seeing them all this past Sunday was wonderful. I hugged so many necks and saw so many dear faces... it was definitely a wonderful conclusion to a fantastic weekend.

The weekend was a blessing to me, and that had little to do with the actual half marathon we ran, although that was special too. I can speak for both of us when I say Jason and I were relieved to be finished. It has been an amazingly fun year, but racing a half-marathon every month takes a toll. Even though my body is tired and sore, my heart is full, and I am grateful for the adventure it has been. I am grateful for every race experience, grateful for this beautiful country in which to run, grateful for those who helped us make it happen by keeping our kids, grateful for my partner in life who ran it all with me...

I have no idea what 2017 will hold for us, but I will enter it filled with gratitude for what 2016 has been, and that is what matters most.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Running Home

The last time I ran a half marathon in my home town of Panama City, FL, I was 15 years old. It was my first half marathon, and while I was probably strong enough to have done well, I had not done the training required to do well. I'd run one 10 miler in my life and that was after a boy I had a crush on called me on the phone. And that wasn't close enough to the half marathon to count as any sort of training.

This was NOT the finish of the half-marathon, but it is around the same time.
My mom was a relatively new distance runner herself, and she told me what I needed to do to train, but then she left me to it. I was a very independent, I'll-do-it-on-my-own kind of runner. It was my time, and I was very possessive of it. I used to run after cross country practice if I didn't like the workout we'd been given. I used to run right when I got home from school so my mom wouldn't ask to go with me. I think it was the only way I ever rebelled as a teenager. (Well... that and listening to Guns N Roses on the sly.)

So I took my training (or lack there of) in my own hands and showed up for that half marathon with no idea what I was in for. And it was bad. Really bad. I was dead dog last. And by that I mean the cop car had moved on, and the aid stations had closed. There was no water or Gatorade or people... just me running alone along the bay, wanting to sit down on the side of the road and cry.

I did cry when I saw my mom and her friend, Maggie, running towards me. Maggie had a water bottle in her hand, and she filled it at some random building so I could have a drink. I have no idea what mile that was or what my finish time was. I do remember the finish clock was still up, and a few kids from my high school were there because they heard someone from Mosley was running.  It was kind of a big deal. This was before running was a big thing.

All I cared about was getting to sit down, but my legs ached so badly, not even sitting helped. I think Maggie or my sister - someone took me home and I got into a hot bath, finally finding some relief. Later, my mom brought me my medal - I had won first place in my age group. Ha! 

A lot of running has taken place since then. A lot of mistakes, races, training, learning, growing, and changing has taken place since that first half marathon. I'm now 36, and I've run faster and farther than my 15 year old self ever imagined. It has been a fantastic journey.

So this year, Jason and I decided to run a half marathon every month. That has been another fantastic journey and experience all on its own. I have absolutely loved traveling to and running these races every month with him. Being parents of two young children, all of these moments together have been treasured, looked forward to, savored and enjoyed to the fullest.

Our 2016 journey comes to a close as we approach December and our last half-marathon, which happens to be in Panama City. I will once again run a half marathon in my home town.

I have looked forward to this race ever since we planned it early this year. I don't go home very often since my parents retired and moved closer to me and my sister, but it holds a special place in my heart, and I have some very dear friends and sweet memories there. My hope for this final half marathon was to make it my strongest, fastest one of the year... but as it draws closer I'm beginning to wonder if the best hasn't already been for me this racing season. The truth of the matter is I'm pretty worn out. My last half marathon was wonderful, and it was a PR... and it took a lot out of me. Since that race I've had a hard time rallying, and I'm easily tired.

Even so, I'm still looking forward to it. Despite how I feel right now, I have 10 days before the race, and I can spend that time resting and recovering. I still plan to show up at the start line ready to give all I have. I'm not sure what I have left, but I'll put it all out there.

One thing I do know, I probably won't be last. I can think back to that 15 year old girl running her first half marathon and smile. That 15 year old has come a long, long way on her running journey, and no matter the result of the next half-marathon, I believe there is still much more she can do.

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.