Saturday, September 23, 2017

Running Thoughts

Today I take you on a trail through my brain of my running thoughts... literally.

 I wrote back in July that I would be setting out to train for a fall race, although I was uncertain during that time which race it would be. I had to get through putting our own event on before I could determine what the schedule would allow. Well, this week, I signed up for the Columbus Nationwide Children's Half Marathon, October 15, and I am super excited!

 Which leads me to my trail of thoughts for today.

 I have been running now for 9 years. Of those 9 years, I was accumulating 2-3 half marathons a year. However, last year, I was only able to complete 1. So as I enter into this event, just 3 weeks away, it has been a year for me since having completed a half marathon. For me, that is significant. A year is a long time to "pause" something I so enjoy. I have filled it with plenty of other activities, and I have never quit running, but I am really looking forward to completing this event.

 I am a goal setter. I always have been. I can't help it. and when one goal finishes, I am generally launching into the next one. I try hard to balance this, but it is just who I am. Goals help me grow, help me evaluate and help me dig deeper into the inner strengths I have that only pushing myself brings out to the fullest. And running races does that for me. I have said it multiple times, but while the accomplishment of finishing a race is always an amazing feeling, it's truly the journey of the training that is what teaches me, what reshapes me. And this time is no different. I am sure as I approach the race, I will share more, but while this summer/fall has been full of busy events, this training journey plays a role. Only now it's finally coming into play.

 When the form is signed and I "check out" of registration, the training gets all the more real. I don't run to win, I run to have fun. I don't win to compete against the others, I compete against myself. I have abandoned the term "slow" because who defines that anyway? And I have learned to embrace every step for what the journey is. And every step sheds a little more of the past and draws me into the future forward.

 So, this morning as I was out on my 9 mile run, my thoughts were all over then place. I spent time praying for my Colombian friends. I thought about how much I learned over this last year in the marathon world. I tossed some ideas for some upcoming 5K events I am involved with. and I process all that I'm learning. But my friend Danielle gave me a bondi band (seriously, these things are awesome! simple headband but with inspirational or funny sayings on them. And you know me, I can't pass up these inspirational sayings. Plus they hold the hair out of the face and cover the ears even on cooler mornings!) Anyway. the point is, I discovered my mantra for my upcoming race. That tends to happen randomly, too.

 But she got me one that says "run with your heart when your legs get tired."

 I know that this upcoming half will not be a PR for me. But I am definitely running with my heart. And especially I will be doing that when my legs get tired. So, therein lies my mantra for the  next few weeks. After all, running is just as much heart as it is muscles and legs. If it were not, many of us would not be doing it.

 I'm coming out of a season of being in the world of planning the marathon. Now it's my turn to run one again. I have listened to inspiring stories the last week, have met people who have become friends and have seen some wonderful accomplishments for other runners. The heart was there. And now it's my turn again.

 In 3 weeks.

 And I can't wait to see what the rest of the 3 weeks will bring in this journey.

 Run with your heart...
    I do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The 21st Air Force Marathon

Last Saturday the 21st Air Force Marathon took place. To be a part of it each year gives me a lot of pride. To put it into words for me is sometimes a challenge. Colombia plays a huge role in my life. But each year, so does the Air Force Marathon. It reshapes me, teaches me, challenges me, pushes me, grows me and strengthens me in ways I never expect and often times don't understand until I watch it all unfold.
 I cannot always divulge the details or even express all that stirs my soul through the year of planning, but I want to share a little bit here today. Because as much as running is a part of me, as much as I am a mom and a wife and a friend and a daughter, the Air Force Marathon is a part of me, too.
It does not define me, nor does it offer my identity. Nor will it be my life forever. But it is a part of me, a part of my growth and a part of my story. And so I must share.
 Last Saturday we watched it unfold in a few hours what we planned for months (literally.) The blood (that might be a little dramatic), the sweat (there's truth to that one), and the tears (I admit this is not a metaphor, but for me, they happen.) all played out in 12 hours' time. Or 3 days if you count the expo, which is just as much a part of the experience for me as race day is.

 For me, at the expo, my role is to help the runners, to solve the problems they need fixed. Most people, when I tell them that, say sarcastically 'lucky you.' But honestly, I do count it a privilege to be in that role. For me, I love to help others. It's not about recognition. It's about truly making a difference. That probably seems dramatic and even silly; after all, we are talking about a race... how dramatic can it be?! But honestly, there was this one guy I helped out and he walked away saying "Thanks for being so nice!" And I thought to myself, we live in a strange world that people say thanks for being nice. I'm simply being me.
 I'm not wanting to promote myself here. I'm simply wanting to share some little glimpses into the stories of the weekend for me.
 I love getting to meet the runners with whom I have talked all year long.
 I enjoy seeing the first timers' faces full of excitement and awe and nervousness. I remember being there myself once. It's overwhelming and exciting all at once.
 I am in my element and it is in these moments I find new strength in who I am. I learn more about myself, what pushes me and how to stand up to those things or people or how much I can handle or new ways to navigate challenging moments. I grow.
  I love when return runners come once year and I get to see them again the next and it's like a little family reuniting for a few moments.
 I laugh with Lisa and take selfies with Danielle when we can catch a second.

 When race day comes I get butterflies. (If I have butterflies, imagine how my boss, the director, feels.)  We work so hard as a team all year long to see this one day unfold and want to see it go smoothly and perfectly. My role on race day has been different every year I have been there. My first year, I was mostly in the information tent, and a little in the food tent. My second year, I had learned more and oversaw the MAJCOM Challenge, so I spent time moving between their tent and the food tent and the timing tent and the information tent, doing a little bit of what everyone needed. Last year, my third race, I drove the lead vehicle, which allowed me to see the course in a different way, still also overseeing the MAJCOM Challenge. And then this year, I was on the lift, as a spotter for the lead runners, announcing their approach to the finish line, as well as also overseeing the MAJCOM Challenge again.  Each year, I've been given the opportunity to learn new aspects of the race, how things work. I have a pretty unique role, one that allows me to be mentored in just about every aspect of what takes place in our event.
 The point isn't to bore you with the details of what I do in my job. The point is that life is about learning and growing and my job provides me a lot of joy but also a lot of growth. I have a great mentor, who has taught me more than one blog could begin to sum up, who has become my friend along the way. he's cheered me on, pushed me, been lovingly honest with me and taught me so much about the industry and about life. I have met countless people who have touched me and inspired me and spurred me forward in my journey. I've encountered some who have challenged me through their personality and stretched me to speak my voice in new ways and learn aspects of myself I have struggled to know how to express (meaning, the side of confrontation).

 And this year's event was no different. I met new friends (Krystal and Emily), saw old ones (Ed, Annelise, Nick, Paul, Liz), worked with people who somehow have become a little family to me even though I only see them once a year (Josh, David, Glen, Alex, Amanda.) and got to experience new race-day roles.

 I am thankful for my job. Being in event planning is a challenge at times, and never ceases to amaze me every single year how we spend months putting it all together, planning, preparing, designing, meeting, etc... and in a few hours time watch all of that play out and then tear it all down to start over again for another year. It's thrilling and somehow heartbreaking all at once.

 Each year it makes me a better, stronger me in new ways, compiled with my other life experiences. Running does that for me, my Colombian family does that for me, and my Air Force family (even though I'm civilian) does that for me. And I am thankful for this beautiful experience.
 Here are some photos to show you some of my favorite moments of the weekend.

So Proud of these ladies, my new friends, who both took home awards! They inspire me

Team ANG, defending MAJCOM Challenge 2016 champions

The Full marathons of the ANG team

My new friend, Krystal

Prepping for the 2017 Expo to open

Old friends, Ed and Annelise

Me and Liz

The Expo

The finish line shoot, before the gun went off, as the sun rises


The flyover

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Little Things

The reality for me today as I sit and write is that I have had a crazy, chaotic, phenomenal week and my head and heart are processing those details and lessons and memorable moments.
 So as I work through that, I want to share in the midst of that some of the little moments that bring me smiles and will continue to do so for weeks to come, just as do the other little moments.

 1. When it's 7 am, I didn't sleep much because I can't shut off my  brain and I'm grabbing some quick things from the office on the way to do marathon expo set up and my co-worker calls to say he left a coffee on the desk for me. And a large one at that.

2. When you have a friend who is sweet enough and close enough I feel comfortable to ask to go pick up my prescription because I simply can't make it there and she gladly takes time out of her day to do so (...and come with a coffee in hand as well! ) (side note.. I might like coffee a little too much )

3. Hugs upon hugs from friends I only get to see once a year who have become a little family to me.

 4. Candy Corn White Chocolate M&Ms. Strange, but so deliciously good for a sweet treat.

5. Good friends I can count on when I need help... and new willing ones to jump in

6. Foggy, cool mornings

7. Seeing the sun rise

8. Sunglasses. For many years I didn't have these because of my eye glasses. This year I spent the money to get a pair of good prescription sunglasses and I am so thankful for them!

9. These girls... They make me laugh sometimes til my sides hurt and they hug me if I cry and we work together as an incredible team.

10. Getting a text when I'm exhausted and hot and thirsty to tell me there's an iced coffee waiting for me, and I was completely not expecting that. (again with the coffee... lol... it's so simple and yet brings me so much joy, and likely more so when it comes as an unexpected surprise)

11. Quiet Sunday afternoons with perfect weather for a little time in the hammock.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricanes and Life

I do not usually follow all the news stories because I get tired of the opposing viewpoints, the opinions and the negativity. However, I have diligently been following the stories of Hurricane Irma.
I have a lot of very good friends who live in Florida, as that was once my home too, for 7 years. So I have been watching their activity, following the storm and keeping up with what has been happening with it.
My kids have also been quite interested in its events as well, asking quite a bit of questions. They don't remember, but they have lived through a couple of doozie hurricanes themselves. But I remember well those storms.
 Elizabeth was 2 and Joseph was only 4 months old. We chose to stay. From experience, let me tell you that trying to evacuate a state that is going crazy over the approaching storms is just as ridiculous as those from the outside would say trying to stay in the storm is. Both come with risks. We got hit with the effects of 4 storms that fall, but 2 were doozies in our city. The first, Hurricane Frances came rolling in just after labor day. In florida, the temperatures at that time are no joke. It's hot and it's humid. We weathered the storm at our in-laws and came home to assess the damage a day or 2 after it passed. We lost power and branches and there were other minor inconveniences, but we "weathered" the storm alright. Another storm came rolling in behind that one not long after Frances. Hurricane Jeanne came in, and she came as a direct hit to our city. We also chose to stay for that one. We stayed at a friend's home, who had a generator, as many of us were still without power at that time from the first hit.
 I've never really sat and described the experience  (I was not a blogger at that time). It's one of those things hard to put to words. The house is completely dark. Shutters cover every window and every door, so it's a really strange experience because it feels like the middle of the night, but it's really the middle of the day. When you lose power and everything is covered, it's very easy to lose track of what time it is. Joseph, a typically very happy baby, was miserable in the heat with no air (our friends had not activated the generator yet, as we waited for the storm to pass.) The winds were wicked, as you could hear them whipping against the shutters and tossing things around outdoors. We did our best to make a party out of the storm.
When the eye of the storm passed over, it was the weirdest time. They call the eye of the storm the calm, and it is. It gets completely quiet. The wind goes away. The sun comes out. The men decided that was a good time to go outside for a quick check of what's happening. It felt like it was over. But we knew that the second half was yet to come. The experience was unforgettable.


 The point is not really to tell you the story about my hurricane experience. The point is that all of this hurricane talk lately has not only made me recall my experiences, but it has also brought with it thoughts about life's storms. (Call that the writer in me, or maybe just how God helps me learn.)

Life is messy sometimes. We get storms of our own that threaten to beat us down or change our way of life. Some storms threaten us in more powerful ways than others. And some seasons, we have more than one "hit" to our life. In fact, sometimes it feels like the hits just don't stop.
 I am not good at explaining to people who ask why God would allow such tragedies (be it in regards to death, cancer, divorce, job loss.. or hurricanes, fires, wars...) But I can explain what i have learned,  sharing how regardless of tragedies, I know that God is always there. I know that even when tragedy strikes, God is still in control. I know that, if I allow Him, He will use the storms to transform me into a stronger woman - a better Rachael, a stronger daughter of the King, a woman to be used by Him. But sometimes I have to look back at the storms of the past to remember how He has done that for me before so that I can keep pressing forward through the storm of today.

 There is a song that says "In the eye of the storm, You remain in control. In the middle of the war, You guard my soul. You alone are my anchor, when the sails are torn. Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm."
 You can listen to the song here

 Life can be tough sometimes (understatement.) But I can use these every day life experiences to remind me just the same of how He is in control.

 By the way, we lost some pieces of our roof and had to get it replaced, we were without power for 2+ weeks, but we survived the direct hit that year, as well as the other storms that affected us in those surrounding weeks. Which reminds me that when the storms come, He will be there; and in the end, I know it will be ok.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What I learned this Summer

I am linking up with Emily Freeman today and talking about what I learned this summer. It has been a beautiful summer and it has gone way too fast. Here are a few things I have taken in during these months.

1. The son of a tiger comes out painted.

 That is a new phrase I like, and it is to say: Your child looks a lot like you. It was said to me when I shared this photo of me and Elizabeth.

 When I was told the phrase, I did not understand it. It took a few minutes for it to sink in, but now I love it. There are all kinds of these phrases that exist to make explanations for hundreds of scenarios. We say a lot The apple doesn't fall far from the tree... I like this way of talking.

 2. Kintsugi

 I am in love with this art. I learned about this when discussing some of my life, and a friend shared with me a series her pastor was doing at church, using Kintsugi art as the example. Broken pieces of pottery made even more beautiful by fixing them back together with gold. The cracks are evident, but so beautifully displayed.
 We are like that. We are broken in a lot of ways. We all have stories for our lives that have hurt places or cracks. But  we don't have to hide those cracks. God fills them in with His love, His gold. This art is beautiful. For many reasons.

 3. Lake Baptisms are really special

 Maybe because it was the first time for me to see one. Or maybe because something about it felt akin to the baptisms of the Bible. No, there is not special water and a baptism in a pool or a tank or giant tub is no different. But I found it beautiful. This was a first for our church to do.

 4. Cheez- Its are my guilty pleasure

 I have discovered my favorite "go to" when needing to crash a craving is cheese its (and orange soda.) Yes, I know, both snacks go against all my healthy habits, but come on, we all have this! I think this comes from my childhood, which dawned on me one afternoon when I was being made fun of for my indulgence against my normal healthy habits. (does it even count that I choose diet orange soda??) Well, anyway, as a child, when we would travel on a road trip, we didn't stop at places for meals too often, we packed our food and snacks. Including all our drinks. I realized that cheese its and orange soda were often in that grouping of snacks. Maybe there is a correlation? I don't know, but if you ever want to know the way to my heart.... these small snacks will win some points ;)

 5. I like Soccer

 Maybe this is the Latin culture influence on me. Perhaps so. I played this sport as a little girl, but really only because I enjoyed being involved. I was actually terrible at it! But I have come to really enjoy watching these games or at least catching the recaps. I didn't think I cared for the sport, but... I have discovered I do.

 6. I love to be creative.

 There are more forms to art than just drawing. Writing is one. But I have discovered other little things I like to do. Like making cards (Thank you, Paula) or scrapbooking. Not your typical Creative Memories scrapbooks, but there are other forms of scrapbooking. I am not going to ever be recognized for being a great artist in this sense, but I find it enjoyable and relaxing. And there is not really a right or wrong to it.

7. I do not have a particular style. 
  See the many sides of me.
 The farm girl with muddy boots; the runner; the lady who likes to dress up. the beach girl in me with flip flops. I used to think that a person should have a style... a sort of way to define themselves, I guess. But I kind of like that I don't. (And also, I think that people having a certain style may be a societal misconception.) It just depends when you catch me which side or style of me you will find.

8. Kola Román

 This red soda is delicious. I suppose you could compare it to red creme soda, but even that is not quite the right description. The point is, it's a Colombian soda I discovered on this trip that I had not tried the previous year and I loved it. Perhaps I can find it in Jungle Jims, should I ever make the trip that way.

9. Giving speeches is not scary
 I ended with an A in my summer speech class. I was so excited about this! I learned a lot of little techniques and I can't say I enjoy getting up in front of others (I don't really like the attention centered on me) but I can say I enjoyed the process of how it helped me grow. 

 The next few months will be full of more lessons, no doubt. I am in a mathematics class and a sociology class, so I am certain there will be many lessons that stem just from those. Our race we work for all year long is two weeks away and there will be fall travel. I am excited to see what more will come my way in lessons learned. Lessons learned= growth. And growth= a better me! 
 One day at a time....

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Little Moments

 This week, in my little moments, I found laughter in between my moments of (perhaps admittedly exhausted tearful times...I can't help it, I'm a crier.)  And here is what brought smiles:

 1. A funny math professor.
       Classes started up again this week, and for the first time, I am on campus for one of my classes. I do not like math. At all. And the title alone of this class scares me off a little - Quantitative Reasoning. But, the professor is funny. He's not even trying to be, he just is so animated in his expressions and his stories. And wow is he intelligent. He doesn't even bat an eye at numbers and rattles off things while all of us look at eachother like "He didn't even think about that, he just knew." I suppose that is what makes him the professor. It's a lot of group work, and it's going to be an interesting semester. But I think the class will be survivable with this professor. He's excited about what he does. That makes a difference!

 2. Making cards with my best friend.
  She's so creative. and she's such a great listener. And she's so patient. And I am blessed to have her as my best friend. We live an hour apart, but we try to get together every month at least. This month we got together and made cards. She's so good at that (by the way, she also mails me cards consistently, which make me smile). But we had fun learning how to make cards from her. (Elizabeth joined in on the endeavor.)

 3. Running Stairs.
  How, do you ask, is running stairs a "little moment" in my week? Well, I know that either hill training or speed work ought to be part of my training regime. But I am not good at doing that because, well, quite frankly, I do not like it. So when my girlfriend called me up and said "Let's do stair workouts" I groaned inwardly, but hugged her as we finished. Hard work outs kind of suck. But... they also kind of feel awesome. And at the end, my legs were jello, but we have made a new routine out of this. And I am kind of excited to see where it leads. And... to have a buddy to do it with.

 4. New Friends
  I love meeting people. Of course I don't become best buddies with everyone I meet. But I am thankful for the circles into which I get introduced and how each and every person brings a different story to the table. We all shape each other, really, in some way or another. But in my Math class, we work in groups. So I am getting to know a whole new group of people, different ages, different goals, different stories. I love seeing how we are all made up. I specifically connect with Monica, who sits in the first row of the classroom and I sat myself next to her and we laugh at the professor's antics, we discuss our work lives, we both have kids, we are both moms working towards a degree. It's pretty cool.

 5. Beautiful Sunrises
 It's that time of year where the time of the sunrise is beginning to shift. and usually this happens in the middle of my morning runs. And I love watching the sun come up.The colors of the sky changing, the warmth of the sun's rays rising above the dawn-kissed morning.

 6. Nature
 Nature is my favorite way to connect with God. And just feel... free and happy. It's also the time of year on my morning runs when a lot more critters are out. The deer jumped back into the woods as I approached yesterday. What a beautiful animal, really. The weather is in that in between stage, and while I am not at all ready to say goodbye to summer warmth, the cooler mornings are also somehow refreshing- a reminder of the beauty that change can bring.

 7. Good Books
 I love to read. I spend a lot more time now in text books than I do in recreational books, but I still try to find time to read little bits. I enjoy all genres and all authors. But I love to read and learn or immerse myself in a story. I'm currently reading an autobiography by a famous Colombian author and it's fascinating and adding to my knowledge of their culture. I enjoy a good story which also helps me learn.

 8. Peanut Butter
  I don't think that needs a lot of elaboration, and yes, I know it's random. But peanut butter is delicious. :) And it makes me happy. Especially a good PBJ sandwich!

 Sometimes random, sometimes making no sense to others, My little moments help make me take in stride the other moments that can at times feel overwhelming. I am so thankful that I have a lot of these mixed in with the others. No, it does not mean life is perfect. But it means life is being lived.
 One day at a time. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week 1 Training

With every good intention of being on track with my training again, life has thrown curve balls that have made for some difficulties already in my week one.
 Fasting required by blood work, which in the end was a bust and turned into returning a second day in the week after fasting again made it so I missed two morning workouts. I could have done something, but when routine parts of the workout call for the morning coffee, let me just say that at 4:30 a.m. without that cup of coffee to get going, the morning exercise is made far more difficult!  And early morning at work also threw that routine off. So, week one has started out with a lot of interruptions. The trick is that as these interruptions are only going to continue to be in my path, finding ways around the "excuses" and just pushing through any and all of that one way or another.
 there is always an answer, it's just a matter of figuring out the best answer for that particular day.

 So, onward I will press with the endeavor. Weather has never been a thing to stop me. And unless I'm really sick, that doesn't tend to stop me, either. But at this season in my life, with school, the busy season of work, juggling some various things at home... I admit that not having coffee at 4:30 in the morning before I run was a show stopper. I may have found my weak spot! ;)

 But this morning all of that faded away as I laced up while the others in my house still slept. One cup of coffee in me, I was ready to go. Determined and looking forward to knocking out a solid 5. Seems minimal compared to what I have done in the past , but considering the surrounding events, I was truly looking forward to me, the open air and my feet on the pavement. The ground was wet with rain, and the steam rose up from the grass as the cool rain met the heat of the day and rose up to greet me good morning. And as I stepped out the door, I smiled.

 I love to run. Nevermind my pace or what my week was or wasn't. For me, it isn't about first place, 534th place or last place. It's about clearing my mind. It's about feeling free. It's about the accomplished feel of sweat. It's about the fact that running represents moving forward.
 As I was only a mile in to the run when I thought about how much I've missed these training runs. For me, it's not about what place I am in or who or what is ahead of or behind me. For me, running is a representation of pressing forward. I am working towards a goal. And I am quite goal oriented. I am pushing forward towards my future with my schooling, regardless of the obstacles in my way. I continue to pursue dreams in spite of the naysayers. And I run forward, looking ahead, not behind. I look towards the goals, not backwards at the difficulties. Although it is good to reflect on progress and how far I have come, looking forward is where the hope is. And running is a representation of that.
 I nearly forgot how good it feels. Training for a race is hard some days, just like going to school or spiritually growing or trying to lose weight or change a bad habit. But the rewards in the end, and even in the process, are so beautiful. Because training, running, pushing... it's about moving forward, one step at a time.
 I love my morning long runs.

 This little quote seemed to sum it best for me. So, as I press forward in my races, in my schooling (semester begins again on Monday!) and in all my other endeavors... I am thankful for how far I have come and where I have yet to go.