Category Archives: Exercise

A Colorful Weekend in Dallas

At some point this past weekend, my friends, Lindsay and Amy, and I were all rhapsodizing about the joys of a kid-free girls’ weekend while we sat outside in a shaded courtyard, people-watching, enjoying the breeze, and sucking down Viennese iced chocolate milk. And I said something about the last girls’ weekend away that I could remember taking being when I was pregnant with Della.

chocolate milk

{Holy wow, now this is chocolate milk!}

I’ve thought about that claim several times since because I kept telling myself that surely I’ve done a just-girls weekend more than twice in the last five years. But I don’t actually think I have. I mean, yes, I’ve been to blogging conferences and, yes, there’s the every-now-and-then dinner out with girlfriends. But entire weekends away with practically no agenda are few and far between, which is probably at least a small part of why Friday and Saturday were so darn enjoyable.

breakfast tacos

{Breakfast tacos at 1 PM after a run…sounds good to me!}

We ate, we slept (although not that much), we ran, we got doused in colored corn starch, we ate some more, and we shopped. Oh, and we talked. And talked. And talked. That was probably my favorite part. Good, fun, meaningful conversation with two other women who are also mothers, also Jesus followers, also a bit bemused at the looming inevitability of age 32 when we still don’t feel qualified to carry the title of adult.

run

{I wonder why in the world we wouldn’t think we’re qualified for adulthood? Side note: this is one of the least attractive pictures of me on record, I think, and I kind of love it}

Friday afternoon, we set off for Dallas in my swagger wagon (read: Honda Odyssey) and about 10 minutes from our hotel, the PT Cruiser we were idling behind in traffic made a weird grinding noise and let off a puff of smoke. At least, that’s what Amy and I adamantly told Lindsay who was convinced it was our van doing the grinding and the puffing.

Turns out, we should have listened to Lindsay. After freshening up in the hotel room, we got back in the van to go to dinner, and the grinding and the puffing happened again, with no PT Cruiser in sight to blame it on. And thus, commenced an hour-long session of calls to our respective husbands and various other car-savvy relatives in an attempt to diagnose poor Ophelia Odyssey’s ailments. At one point, we were very grateful that the hotel was only a 2 minute walk from several restaurants (our closest option? Bikinis. OY!)and a 10 minute walk from the Color Vibe run site, which just so happened to be Rangers Ballpark because it looked very much like we wouldn’t be driving anywhere and would have to find a way to get the van home.

After multiple attempts to catch the elusive grind/puff on video (which always resulted in our getting distracted mere seconds before it would do it again), we finally managed to internet-diagnose a likely sounding cause for the problem. As soon as that happened, we trekked across the parking lot to Texas Land and Cattle for dinner (Bikinis was never discussed as an option, strangely enough).

By this point, it was 9 PM, and hunger was winning over any interest in being able to get back the next day. But once our bellies were full, we returned to the van quandary, which was greatly helped by the arrival of Lindsay’s mechanic uncle who confirmed the internet hunch that the van’s air-conditioning was the culprit and that the van was still drivable. Praise Jesus!

The next morning, we got ready to run the Arlington Color Vibe and performed the classic girls’ weekend exchange of remembered and forgotten items. Lindsay had toothpaste, which I needed. Amy had dry shampoo, which Lindsay needed. She also just so happened to have Echinacea tea, which I happily sipped after waking up with congestion and a throat so sore I briefly wondered if I’d contracted strep.

hot tea

Amy was definitely the most prepared of any of us, but I seem to remember her using my hair dryer (yes, the hotel had one), so at least I contributed something.

With about an hour to spare before the race, we walked to the ballpark where we discovered ear-splittingly loud music (I guess I am an adult after all, if that’s the first thing I noticed) and lots of other white clad folks wandering around the vast parking lot.

run6

There was great excitement…

run8

{Can you tell?}

Pristine posing…

run7

More selfies than either Lindsay or Amy had taken part in before that date…

breast milk bags

{How do you keep your phones safe and sound from all the color? Why, you put them in breast milk bags, of course!}

And even more posing with random {hardcore} strangers…

ashley and summer

{This is Ashley and Summer, and I admire their dedication}

Of course, our clean clothes didn’t last long.

Pretty soon, this happened.

run5

{You know you’ve got a good friend when you’re fine with her doing this to you}

And this happened too.

shadows

{I don’t envy the poor clean-up crew for this parking lot}

And this next shot is the closet I will ever get to being a cheerleader.

run2

{I had to stand on Amy’s and Lindsay’s hands to get high enough to take this; it was exhilarating, I tell you}

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about our running form…

run1       

We all laughed so hard when we saw this picture, simply because it would be hard to try for a more awkward running picture and get something this good. Amy even forbade me from posting unless I explained that this was her response to my urging them to be wild and crazy as they ran a 5K. (I think we considered titling this one, “Hello, my name is Amy, and this is my attempt at being a free spirit”).

We were not there to run a fast race, but I think our final time was still only 27 minutes, so it wasn’t too shabby. Of course, I sprinted for the very last 50 meters and was still slowing my heart rate when we came upon a fitness booth where they were having  a contest to see how many burpees you can do in one minute.

burpees2

I was fully expecting to feel like puking at the end of that minute…

burpees

{Lindsay was determined to get “action shots”}

burpees1

And, boy, did she {since we’re on the theme of unflattering pictures of me}.

burpees3

{I kind of pity the view of the person standing directly behind me}

So, how many did I do in a minute? 28. I held the record for like two seconds until someone came in a few minutes behind me and did 30. It made me want to go back for another go at it, but by that point, my legs felt quivery and food sounded much better than bragging rights.

Honestly, while the run itself was only so-so, everything before and after it was a blast.

burpees4

In case you’re wondering, the “after” consisted of those breakfast tacos and chocolate milk from above, an epic trip to Anthropologie (where I found an $8 shirt that made the cashier jealous), and even a very brief trip to the Nike outlet where I found those polka dot shoes I wrote about and discovered that they didn’t translate well on my feet in real life.

Honestly, it might have only been 30 hours, but it was exactly what this tired mama needed. I’m pretty sure Lindsay and Amy thought the same.

So, what about y’all? Do you make a point of girls’ weekends, or are they scarce? This weekend made me want to plan another soon to look forward to, but in all honesty, it’ll probably be another two years with this busy season in life we’re all in.

When you do get a weekend away, where do you like to go and what do you like to do? This was pretty much my idea of getaway perfection: a little exercise, a lot of good food, and multiple free hours to browse through stores I love, unearthing great deals.

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That time I ran 9.32057 miles

This last Saturday, I ran my first ever “real” race (as I mentioned before, I’ve done a 5K or two but never with any preparation or particular interest).

And, y’all. I’m not gonna lie. It was hard.

I’ve been “training” (meaning running, whereas normally I don’t) semi-steadily for about three months now, and I even ran pretty much the entire race course two weeks ago. That time around, it was really, really good. I felt great the whole time. Our pace was good. I felt like I had energy and speed to spare, and I fully expected to run the real race with an even better time and even more energy (since the day that we ran the practice run, I hadn’t run in 21 straight days due to insane busyness).

selfie

{Me and my running girls, Emily—middle—and Amy—right}

I guess you can already tell from the way that I’m building this up that that’s not what happened.

Last week was challenging. Shaun was out of town. Kids were sick. We were busy (when are we not?). I didn’t sleep much.

But the morning of the race, I woke up feeling energetic and ready.

I got up plenty early enough to be at the race 45 minutes ahead of time, but that time quickly got eaten up by wet roads (I had spent the night at my mom’s house, which is 45 minutes away from the run site, and the folks going 20 below the speed limit on the 2-lane highway were, well, driving me nuts), a detour through the McDonald’s drive-thru for oatmeal when my stomach declared with great indignation that the banana I ate at 6 AM wasn’t going to hold me through the race and a futile trip to Wal-Mart in search of two very specific things—a fanny pack (yes, you read that right) and jelly beans (for mid-race energy-spikes)—neither of which I or any of the available employees could find. So, I left having kissed 14 precious minutes goodbye and wondering what the world has come to when two such quintessentially Wal-martesque items are nowhere to be found.

When I finally got there with only 18 minutes to spare until start time, I ended up running a good 1/4 mile just to get to the race because the parking was so insane.

Turns out that’s because 3,000 people were signed up to run the 15K, the 5K, or the 1K. It was bananas! (And I don’t just say that because that’s what they handed out after the race).

The next 15 minutes were a blur of finding my friends, picking up my race packet (something I had hoped to do before the morning of but never had time to), and pinning on my number while my friend, Amy, tied my running chip to my shoelace.

emilymeamu

{Don’t we look ready to take on anything?}

I am a competitive person, especially with myself (although I have mellowed considerably over the years). But I had deliberately chosen a very laidback approach to this race. I didn’t download any running apps to my phone. I didn’t train for speed, just endurance. And I didn’t think much about the race. Not that I had time  to do that anyway with the chaotic week leading up to it and then the hectic morning of.

But as we jostled our way to our pace group, dodging elbows and sliding sideways between bodies, I could feel the collective adrenaline rush of the crowd seeping into my veins.

Before we hardly had time to snap that selfie above, the starting signal sounded, and we were off, lumbering along like a huge blobby spider with innumerable arms and legs. I couldn’t take the herky-jerky pace of speeding up to avoid someone’s advance only to slow down to keep from rear-ending the next person for very long and almost immediately felt my legs starting to churn faster and faster, almost of their own accord. I started passing people quickly, weaving in and out among the close bodies, looking for a piece of pavement to call my own. Of course, later on, I found out that you’re supposed to stay with your pace group for X amount of time before passing and felt bad for breaking running etiquette, but I can’t deny that I was relieved to find a little breathing room.

For about 3 miles, I ran at a steady clip, aware that my pace was way too fast considering the number of miles left but too exhilarated to care.

And then, we hit the first hill.

Y’all.

Apparently, my legs had been planning a mutiny that whole first 3 miles because as soon as we started the incline, it was like they both yelled, “NOW!” and just shut down. People started passing me like I was standing still.  But the more I commanded my legs to put on the speed, the more they thumbed their noses (this is getting to be confusing, as metaphors go) at me.

The next mile was brutal. Suddenly, I was famished, which is strange because I never notice hunger when I run (I suppose it might have had something to do with my burst of speed at the beginning). And the Jolly Rancher fruit chews I’d bought in lieu of finding jelly beans were in a pocket that was almost impossible to reach while running in a crowd (which I now was again after slowing my pace so dramatically). I felt woozy and found myself praying for supernatural energy less than halfway through a race I’d finished with ease only two weeks before.

A water station was coming up, and I grabbed a paper cup and sloshed a little water into my mouth before dumping the rest on my red face. And then I spotted a man holding out something I desperately needed—a little plastic sleeve of “running chews” (which serve the same purpose as my jelly beans cum fruit chews). It was a little like playing a video game in which your character only has one sliver of life left, and you’re desperately maneuvering your controller hoping that you can grab the gleaming, life-replenishing coin over there in the corner of the screen before you either get taken out by an enemy or someone else gets there first.

I reached out my hand and snagged the energy chews just as I lurched past the man. Of course, my hands were slick with water and sweat, and those little plastic serrated edges are beyond impossible to rip open when you’re not shaky from fatigue, slimy-fingered, and—oh yeah—running. It took me the next 1/4 of a mile to finally rip the package open with my teeth and wrestle one of the chews out as, all the while, more and more of the runners I had passed at the beginning returned the favor.

And it took another 1/2 mile before I felt any effect from the chews, and when I finally did start to feel a little better, I realized something: I hadn’t seen the 5 mile marker yet. Surely, I would soon.

But I didn’t. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other hoping to see the blessed sign that would assure me I wasn’t stuck on some of sort of sadistic outdoor hamster wheel. But I never did. I was starting to be convinced that I had wandered into the mile from Hades, and I started praying again, “Lord, please let them have skipped a mile marker or let me have missed it somehow.” I was hardly done praying that before I saw a sign that said, “6 miles.”

Hallelujah!

By this point, my energy had stabilized, but I still couldn’t put on the bursts of speed that I wanted. And I knew something: to finish strong, I’d need to dig deep enough to find the strength for the 3 remaining hills, one of which is a monster. Not only that, but the end of the course was the hardest section—because of the hills but also because of the circuitous nature of the neighborhood we were running through.

I fought the urge to dread those last three miles because by now, I had started to see a pattern: just when I felt despair creep up behind me, I would cry out to God for help. And he would answer with the very thing that would get me through to the next mini-crisis.

So, as I wound my way up a shallow incline and felt my energy beginning to wane again, I prayed, “Lord, I know it’s just a race and doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but I want to finish well. Could you please send me something to help me do that?”

Which is when I spotted a ponytail I thought I recognized. As I got closer, I could see that it belonged to Cami, a girl that takes my BODYCOMBAT class. As it turned out, she had no one to run with and was only too happy to hang with me until the end.

And you know what? As soon as I started running with a partner, my leg strength returned. Even as I watched others I’d been chasing for 5 miles slow down to a walk on the soul-crushingly long hill, I felt renewed and invigorated—at least as much as I could hope to after a 7 1/2 mile slog so far.

me and cami

{So grateful Cami helped me finish strong!}

Cami and I ran together for another mile or so before she needed a break and told me to go on. And as I ran up another hill that a very energetic man kept loudly assuring me was “THE VERY LAST ONE” (I knew differently because I’d already done the course), I felt the weighted down feeling creep back into my legs. Until I heard someone calling, “Gooooooooo, Abbbbiiiiie!” and looked up to see my friend, Adrianne, wearing her newborn baby in a wrap and pumping her fist and cheering as I ran past. With only 1/3 of a mile and one last short hill left, I felt a surge of adrenaline.

Running through the finish line was a jumble of waving arms and shouted directions and general discombobulation—so much so that it never occurred to me to look for the finish-time clocks.

So, when Amy and Emily came through a few minutes later and asked when I’d finished, I honestly had no clue.

But I did look up my results later, and this is what I discovered:

I ran 9.3 miles in 1:25:36. That averaged out to 9:13 min./mile.

I placed 28th out of 120 women (I had originally thought there were more but found the exact number after digging around a little on the internet).

Impressive? Hardly.

As good as I’d hoped for? Um, no. (I would have been happy with anything below 9 min/mile).

But good enough for a girl who had decided not to care about standings or finishing times and just wanted to run a 15K and enjoy the process? Absolutely.

Race-running is such a common metaphor for life that it feels almost cliché to attempt to extrapolate any of my experiences from this race into something deeper or more existential.

And yet…

I was reminded several times throughout the race that God is in the details of our lives. He cares even about the actual races that we run. He hears our cries of desperation when we feel like we can’t place one more literal foot in front of the next. He provides unexpected little refreshments at the most crucial moments of our race courses—the exact times when we need something, anything  to help us push through. How much more does he care about the daily circumstances of our life’s race? The ones that shape us into the kind of people that we yearn to be? (Answer: so much more).

Of course, the fact that he cares isn’t the same as giving us permission to give up. Whether it’s something as trivial as pressing on during epic grocery trips with inopportune potty breaks or something as grave as a life-threatening illness or painful as a divorce, until the Lord takes us home, we have to keep running or jogging or walking or limping along sure in His promises that he will never leave us or forsake us.

As I talked to my friends after the race, they told me they had struggled more than usual just like I did. We had all had moments of crisis when we just felt like quitting. And none of us were particularly pleased with our times. We were pretty sure we knew the culprit too: after regularly running in “crisp” 30 degree weather with very little humidity, we had raced in 65 degree weather with humidity so high it felt like you were breathing in Jell-o on the hills that blocked the blessed breeze that blew during parts of the race. That moisture weighed down our lungs and dragged at our legs, making our breathing ragged and our pace sluggish.

race finish

The race conditions weren’t exactly ideal.

But—and I’m not trying to be cheesy or trite here, I promise—how much more aren’t we promised ideal circumstances in this life? How many times have you spilled something on yourself right before a big job interview or had a kid start puking right before a big event? How often does a sick person do everything possible to improve her health, only to be faced with a grim diagnosis when she goes back to the doctor?

Life’s not fair. It can’t be. There’s too much sin and depravity and general humanity rubbing up against itself for that. We strive and jump through the hoops and make all the right decisions, only to come up short during the big test. So not fair.

But then there are the times that we slack and complain or make a careless mistake. And lo and behold, we don’t get fired, and our kid forgives us for forgetting to pick him up after piano practice. That’s not fair either.

If I’m honest, I should be relieved more often that I don’t get what I have coming to me than outraged that something didn’t go as I’d hoped. 

So, the ultimate takeaway from this race for me was relief that I hadn’t quit and that my time, though not noteworthy, was respectable. But even more so, I was grateful for a God who hears my prayers and gives me the little bursts of strength I need to do (relatively) hard things.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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