A Simple Saturday Morning

So some days the weight of frustration is like an elephant sitting on my chest, and it’s been holding me down for so many hours that even when I finally move out from under the crushing impact, it’s still hard to catch my breath. It takes a little longer to let the bird out of the cage, to feel my wings spread and the breeze wash over me again. But when it does, I feel a wave of gratitude. It’s easy to neglect the simplicity of carefree breaths sometimes, when your brain doesn’t feel like it short circuited and you’re left with all the frayed wires to make sense of the mess. On this simple Saturday, I’m thankful for exactly that.

Really what’s better than a group of people sitting around a table in the evening, with good food, good drinks, and plenty of laughter? And my days have been full of that lately. Whether it’s in my kitchen, or my parents’ kitchen, or a restaurant. There are few things I love more than laughter, (and music.)

This morning I went for a little run. It’s overcast, the sky is full of gray clouds, but the air isn’t too heavy yet. (For a Saturday morning post sun-rise in July in North Florida.) It’s nice to have those moments again, where my own time is carved out from the world, this little piece of solitude. It used to be about time, and distance but not lately. Lately it’s just about enjoying the whole activity, getting to do this thing that’s my instant ticket to clarity – no matter how short lived.

Maybe today will see some beach time. Maybe it’ll see some crafting. Who knows? But I hope your Saturdays are sweet, and simple and your hearts are full of carefree easiness of summer.

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Trail Run Thursday Week 3: Joy of Community

Hello, hello! I know I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately, but bare with me. I come and go and you’d probably much rather read an enthusiastic post than some dribble that rolls out because of obligation. No obligation here, alright guys? So! First & foremost Happy Thursday! As you might have noticed I’ve rolled over from Throwback Thursdays to Trail Run Thursdays where I ramble a little bit about running. Coincidentally, it’s not always just running – it turns into a story about life too ya know?

Well, my running ‘schedule’ got a little crazy with my travels and all of the adventures of life last week, but I managed to get in some runs Wednesday-Friday, so I’d feel somewhat prepared for the Palace Saloon 5K on Saturday. This is a race I’d been looking forward to since my very first 5K last August. All through college I saw the t-shirts around town, and when I “became a runner” I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. Well, as it got closer it held a new significance in my mind because from what I’d read, it’s one of the fastest (and oldest) 5Ks in Tallahassee. I had a goal for myself to break 25 minutes in a 5K this year, and I knew if I worked hard this could be the one. As it got closer and all that craziness went down, I decided not to put too much pressure on myself because I wanted to enjoy it and there would be other races if it didn’t work out. Well, Saturday was a cool morning and I met up with my cousin Tim and his group and we did a couple warm-up runs. We met at the bank by McDonald’s and the rest of the group hopped in the truck to drive over to Messer Fields. We jogged there. At the crosswalk Tsige was standing there and I got so excited I screamed! At that point, I didn’t have her phone number, so it was the first time I’d seen her since our last trial run and her husband had been running Boston and I had been dying to talk to her! We hugged and dove into conversation, it was really nice and somewhat of a relief. We hung out at the fields for a bit and then went on another warm-up run. I was feeling good and excited (plus it was cooler than I thought it’d be because the sun wasn’t shining, so it definitely helped with that!) I ended up racing with Tim for the first 1.5mi and that really helped me hold onto the pace I needed. At the hill, I just told myself – if I wanted it bad enough, I could make it happen. I ended up finishing with a new PR of 24:40 and it was such an exciting feeling. I found people I knew during the race, and I love that too. I might have my goals, but I don’t ever take it too seriously – it’s too fun for that! I saw and talked to a sorority sister, a friend from Gulf Winds, my running buddy Tsige, my boss’s wife, and the list goes on. My cousin Sara lives right by the Palace so she came over with her dog Darla, and we all hung out for a bit. It was just a really fun morning, I was on that high of endorphins and adrenaline, mixed with that excitement I had for achieving that personal accomplishment. Plus it was exciting to see all the blue and yellow ribbons in support for Boston, (and the really awesome banner they had made for everyone to sign to send to the Boston Athletic Association!)

Those are post Palace pics!

Later, I’ll fill you all in on my Orlando concert experience of seeing Andrew McMahon on the Beacham on Saturday night, but that doesn’t really have to do with running. It does have to do with how awesome the weekend was though, and how much got packed in, and how I think it caught up to me since I went to bed at 930 on Sunday night! Following post-race hangouts, (and a little bit of beer and a taste of bloody mary because it was the Palace after all) I went home and showered and ate breakfast and headed on over to Orlando. Sunday morning after a great visit with JD and Tony I got back in the car and came back. I changed into my running clothes at a rest stop in Madison, and I arrived over in Southwood just in time for the 5.2 at 5 for Boston memorial run. I am so glad! There was an incredible turnout (more than 1,000 people!,) and it was a really inspirational experience. We sang the national anthem together, and “Sweet Caroline” and it was really touching. Tim and I ran together again (he slowed his pace down for me.) It was a hot, muggy run (because I wouldn’t normally run in the sun at 5pm) but it was wonderful. We hung out in the parking lot chatting for a long while afterwards, and like I said – I was exhausted! I didn’t even feel like making dinner, so after picking up a tuna sandwich from Jimmy John’s, and taking a shower – I crashed.

Tim, me, and Carson post-run in the parking lot.

Someone had a remote control helicopter flying over the crowd, and it turns out it was a video camera! My friend Brian sent me this video – it’s pretty cool, check it out!

Monday, the events of the weekend kind of caught up to me. There was so much excitement, and activity, and driving! I was feeling kind of sluggish (I’m sure my off kilter eating habits weren’t helping me out any.) Part of me was thinking I might  not go to the week three meet-up of Trailblazers, but by the end of the day I was like no! I was disappointed I missed last week, and it’s such a good start to the week! Plus, Tsige called me and having a running buddy is so encouraging. Of course, then I got stuck in awful rush hour traffic on my way to the trails and there was a disabled vehicle making the road I was on one lane, with one of those trade off deals, so I was late. BUT because life is awesome – there were people waiting at the crosswalk, to run with the “stragglers” through Forest Meadows. So, I made two new friends and we did two laps through the woods together – talking about all sorts of things. Central Florida, Mexico Beach, kayaking, cycling, motocross, (those last two I listened intently obviously not having experience in those areas haha) how we got into running – all sorts of stuff! After we made the loop two times, we were back at the entrance and mingling for a minute and then the group Tsige had been running with finished up. She was so nice about how she’d been worried I’d get lost because I was late and she kept an eye out on her phone in case. Running friends are awesome friends. I joined that little group and we did one more loop! (So much for “taking it easy” on Monday, I had planned on doing 2.5 or 3 miles, but that turned into 5.) But it was awesome because it gave me a new surge of energy, and those trails (of course!) were beautiful.

It just made me extra grateful for the community I’ve found in running. All of these days. At first I thought it might be a bit ambitious, or taking too much on pushing myself a few days in a row – but it was totally worth it. (And why I took two rest days this week, so I’ll be in shape for the Rose City 10K on Saturday.) It just filled my already full heart with an added appreciation for these people. I am just very content with where I am in life right now, and it has been a long time since I could say that. The fact that it’s not very conditional is so key, and important, and extra exciting. These new relationships I’ve formed (and older ones that were strengthened) just give me a new perspective on life. It’s been a really cool experience to get to know new people of different ages from different backgrounds, and to see support of each other in action. Picking up running changed my life, but I’ve seen it change even more as I’ve built relationships with people through running.

Trail Run Thursday

In lieu of Throwback Thursday, I’m making it Trail Run Thursday (even though I went trail running on Monday.) Also, Monday night’s location was Tom Brown Park so this post is just full of alliteration. I know people occasionally read this blog who are also runners, and if you live in Tallahassee I suggest you try out the Trailblazers group through Gulf Winds that meets on Monday nights each week up until June with a “graduation” run at the Great Potluck Bash 4-Mile Trail Run. (I’ve never run Potluck but it’s one of those where participants try and predict their times!) So, Monday night was the first meeting of this group. I was kind of nervous because my only trail running experience was when I did the Miller’s Madness last August, and a few trail runs out at the Greenway (which kick my butt every time!) I knew it required the ability to let your body adapt to the different terrain and granted I haven’t been out on the trails in a while. Sunday morning, following Saturday’s 10K I just did an easy 2.5 mile recovery run. Monday night I was planning on doing the 3ish miles with the beginning group because I knew it’d be a bit taxing. Tsigy one of my running buddies from the Springtime training group was like, hey! we’re already here, we’re already gonna get sweaty – let’s do the six! (She’s such an encourager.) So, I might’ve struggled some but we did the six miles out there (the most I’ve done on trail,) and oh my goodness I forget what an awesome feeling of empowerment trail running gives you. There’s something about jumping over limbs and pushing yourself up hills, and being surrounded by trees and rocks and leaves. I love being able to look over to my left or right and see this gorgeous swampy scene,  a sunset reflecting off the water (I’ll admit – this reminded me a bit of Central Florida/Home, and that made me smile on the inside.) Seriously, the views out on those trails are just breath taking. It was a tough run, but exhilarating. Completing a challenge like that without giving in, makes me feel so on fire about life. So thankful that my friend pushed me that extra length, and didn’t let up! It’s such a motivator! I’m looking forward to exploring other trails of Tallahassee over the coming months, and getting to know more people in this group. It was an awesome turn out and as always a fun experience and adventure. It takes a lot out of me at the time, but I know it’s only making me stronger. I was glad to trade the roads for the day, and I know I need to discipline myself to do it more often!

I did yoga on Tuesday and just a few reps of weights yesterday morning (the evening was spent getting new tires, running a last minute trip errand, and finalizing my packing.) I ran a four miler in the dark of the early morning today, it was about 60 degrees, and the neighborhood was pretty quiet. It was nice to just be me and the pavement. And it’s also been nice to give my body a break lately. I’m thinking it’s probably needed it more than I know.

Run the Edge Facebook shared this photo in my News Feed this morning from Paws and Pavement, and it’s so true:

“Running is like celebrating your soul. There is so much it can teach you.”

Just Do It

One of my favorite pages on Facebook, Distant Runners posted this image recently and I just think it’s great:

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this season I joined a training group that meets on Monday nights to gear up for the Springtime Tallahassee 10K. It’s been a great experience, and has given me the opportunity to meet so many new people. Prior to this the only time I’d run with others was on race days. There’s something special about hitting the road with a group. I find myself exerting more energy into the hills, picking up my pace, and I love being able to keep up a conversation when we’re running. I swear it’s what’s been shaving time off my 5K results lately. Unfortunately the past two weeks, I missed the group run. It’s crazy how much a difference it made in my week. Even throughout the day when I’m feeling sluggish and tired and would really rather go shopping or home to take a nap, when I pull into the parking lot of the park my stomach gets all full of butterflies with nervous excitement. You never know who you’ll see or what the run will have in store.

Yesterday, I finally made it back out there. Even though I was like ehh I don’t know, some of my normal running buddies lately wouldn’t be there, and I really took it easy last week so I knew the last long group run would be tough. The intermediates were going to run 5.5 miles, but I ended up running with a woman I’d met a few weeks ago, who also missed last week, and oh my gosh it was one of my favorite runs in so long. She really pushed me. We were keeping up with what’s normally my 10K race pace, and after a turn off we missed a turn and ended up tacking on extra mileage (we knew where we were so we just took a long way back to the park.) She was so encouraging on the hills, and it was really nice to have someone to chat with. It just reinforced all the reasons of why I go out there. And it felt so good to dominate that run. Plus, she works at the hospital and told me a crazy story about another woman we were running with in the beginning. Apparently she was her patient when she had BYPASS surgery a year and a half ago! She’s not even fifty! And you should see her run! She’s so healthy and fit, and it just blows my mind that she went through that so recently. (And it’s also scary to be reminded that sometimes it doesn’t matter how healthy or in shape you are, some kind of sickness can still attack.) It was just so inspiring to see and know.

Next week is our taper week and a little celebration leading up the race on Saturday. I’ll be disappointed when this group comes to a close! They announced that they’re starting up a Trailblazers group though that will run out at the Greenway (remember all those photos at sunset I used to post?) That area kicks my butt on runs, but I should probably suck it up and face the challenge.

Anyway, if you’re a runner (or if you’re not and you wanna get into it) if you’re feeling sluggish or slackerish just remember how good it feels when you get out there and do it. Happy Tuesday y’all and happy running!

Spend Less, Give More: To Write Love On Her Arms

If you’re just now tuning in, I’m doing a “Spend Less, Give More” series. I’ve spotlighted several awesome organizations so far: Charity:Water, Heifer International, and TOMs. In the spirit of giving this holiday season, I’m encouraging you guys to not waste money on junk, but instead contribute to something with a purpose, somewhere that will improve someone’s life! So far, these organizations have centered around assisting basic physical needs in life (that obviously have chain reaction effects to everything else – education, opportunity…) but today I would like to share with you guys To Write Love On Her Arms. This is a different one because it’s about the inside – suicide prevention, mental health help, recognizing emotional issues.

(Image via TWLOHA Facebook.)

To Write Love On Her Arms mission is simple: “a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

The TWLOHA story started back in the spring of 2006, (founded by Jamie Tworkowski)  when a group of friends joined together to help Renee, a 19 year old girl suffering from depression, a drug addiction, she was a cutter…a treatment center refused her, so a group rallied around her and provided her with a support system for days. Just loving her, praying with her, taking her to events, coffee runs, cigarette breaks, just being there for her before she entered a rehab program. The group started selling t-shirts to fund-raise for Renee’s treatment, and with those t-shirts a movement was sparked. The team soon realized that there were literally thousands of people all over the world, who had questions, who needed someone to talk to, who could benefit from the message of hope and encouragement – people need to know they are not alone.

 

Did you know that more than “350 million people around the world, suffer from depression?” (Find out the FACTS.) It’s sad because depression is almost like a taboo topic in our society. It’s deemed normal to talk about our feelings in the face of tragedy, but what about the rest of the time? There seems to be a stigma surrounding depression. It’s a shame because not talking about it, is part of what makes people think they’re alone in what they feel. We all have questions. We each have a story. Your story matters. You are important. You are loved. You are worthy. God has a purpose for your life, and you are not meant to walk alone. That it gets better, that there is possibility, that things can change…

“The vision is better endings.  The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships.  The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love.  The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise.  The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.  

The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.  

The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.  

The vision is hope, and hope is real.

You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.” – TWLOHA, vision

To Write Love On Her Arms is meant to serve as a “bridge to help.” You’re encouraged, if you or a friend needs to talk to someone – call a helpline or seek treatment.

If you’re not familiar with To Write Love On Her Arms, I encourage you to go check out their website, read the blog. If a TWLOHA event is coming through your area – go. The Heavy and Light tour kicks off in January! There are a lot of ways you can contribute to the TWLOHA movement. You can make a donation here. There’s a huge assortment of merchandise in the TWLOHA store, everything from the original t-shirts, to hoodies, stickers, even iPhone cases. Like other items featured in the previous posts, something as simple as a t-shirt can be a great conversation starter, and a wonderful way to spread the word. Is TWLOHA an important cause to you? you could even Join the street team!

 

 

If this is you, don’t be ashamed to seek help, don’t give up, and please don’t feel like you’re alone in your struggle, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you think you have a friend going through some of these problems, support them, love them, encourage them, make sure they know how much they matter to you, help them find help. Life is a heck of a lot better when we support each other.

Run for the Redfish

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So, Saturday came and went and I survived! After weeks and weeks of training I can now say that I’ve run a half marathon. Run for the Redfish at Pier Park in Panama City Beach was actually 13.35 miles, oh boy. So many things I learned in just a day, things I would want to do differently next time, etc. but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. It was a slow shuffle across the start when we took off. I had a wave of anxiety as I jogged to the first turn where there were tons of spectators taking photos and videos on the side. Then I tried to remind myself that it was just a run, something I do every weekend and to chill out and enjoy it because it was finally here! The first few miles were smooth and enjoyable, and yeah I alternated the amount of success I had at the hydration stations. A few times they were some perfect sips, no mess but others there was a splash I felt water drip down my leg and was thankful it wasn’t sticky Gatorade, later I accidently splashed myself in the face water droplets covering my eyelashes. The scenery was great though, it was really nice to be able to just turn my head and see the waves rolling in on the beach – teal blue water that looked like it was chemically enhanced to be so pretty, straight out of a cruise catalog of the Caribbean. That’s a long time to be running so my brain goes about a million places. I usually pray a little bit, mindful and thankful that I even have the ability to be participating in such an activity. Then as I was listening to Jack’s Mannequin on Pandora, mentally drafted a little thank you note to Andrew McMahon. I thought about the track meets I used to hang out at during high school. My running friends from over the years who stamina and ability I’d always admired. That’s all going on inside my head you know but then there was plenty to notice around me, too. There was this one person cheering on the side of the road with a “Find Your Happy Pace” sign that made me smile every time I passed it. There were kids with crayon drawings, high-fiving their moms as they passed. A whole family all in matching shirts that kept relocating to different miles to cheer on someone’s significant other. They were so supportive of all of the other runners that passed too, though! Runners of all ages, male and female, different sizes were surrounding me. I felt overwhelmed when I thought about how cool it was that here was this huge group of people all with this one thing in common, though we might have had different goals (some with certain times in mind, others just wanting to complete the race,) it gave me goosebumps to think about how we were all part of one big tribe united in this bond.  I was so excited for the people leading the pack who I saw as they’d already reached the halfway point and were on their way to the finish. So excited for the one female that was up there with that group. The kid who was under 14, a speedy one! The guy in the Gumby costume who was carrying the head at that point, (and still trucking along.) The guy with team of cheerleaders who glanced over and told me good job around mile four, and when he sped up after a water station, I saw him fist bump the man in front of me. Around mile 5.5 an older gentleman in an Iron Man Finisher November 2012 shirt passed me, and I just thought “wow! How incredible!” The friendly police officer at the turn-around point who made jokes with the guy running behind me. The second half the sun was higher and brighter and felt like it was shining directly one me. The next long race I’ll definitely need to wear a cap. The wind picked up and there wasn’t much shade, and I was feeling it around mile 9, not like tired yet persay just knowing that I was nearing the end. The temperatures were definitely warmer than they’d had been on my runs in months! Nearing the 80s by the end, and I’d grown used to running in the dark, cool temps of early morning and evenings since the sun has been hiding for so long! There were two men running together by me, near the end and it kind of helped that there was someone up ahead so I knew what path to follow to the end. Eventually I reached the point where you cross the street to the median, nearing the finish line! Normally during a race at that point it seems like it’s so close, that time I wondered to myself, why does it feel so far away?! But I’d conserved some energy walking through some of the last hydration stations to give myself little pick me-ups so I pushed myself at the end. It was kind of weird because the runners were all so spaced out so there wasn’t anyone near me when I was coming in to the finish. I distinctly remember a couple sitting on the sidewalk shouting and cheering. A woman in a lime green jacket screaming “You go girl, come on you can do it!” It was just so encouraging in that last bit, ya know? When you crossed over the finish a DJ was playing pumping music, cheerleaders were cheering! It was all pretty encouraging though as I took the water and the medals being handed out, and sought out a shady spot, I don’t think it’d really hit me yet. Afterwards they had an after-party where awards were given and they served free gumbo and Landshark at Margaritaville. We were able to cheer on the last two participants from the front deck, and it was awesome to hear all the clapping and motivating words from the crowd. It was such a positive environment full of encouraging, inspiring people. All of the organizers and volunteers were so nice and helpful! Everything was incredibly organized and made the whole thing so stress-free. I’m so glad I picked this race to be my first half-marathon. I never would have thought that at twenty-five I would have set and accomplished this goal. I’m not normally proud of myself for things, but this one I am. It’s an incredibly feeling to be self-motivated to achieve something, and something that you have to do through discipline, and work hard for. Like my Dad said, “who’d have thought at twenty-five that the same girl from years ago who cried in the backyard when volleyball wasn’t going to work out, would run a half-marathon?” Yeah, I think the same thing…This is coming from the girl who the hardest I ran in my whole life was the time I was walking in Bay Meadows in seventh grade with my best friend Beth, and some dogs got out and started chasing us. She was on the track team, and I definitely was in front of her – I did not want to get bit by one of these dogs! I remember when we got back to her driveway, both pretty breathless, she was like “whoa! You ran faster than me!” That was because something was chasing me, I was trying to get away but now it’s for the fun of it, I run because I enjoy running. So yeah! This has been pretty exciting. And I’m thankful for the friends and family who encouraged and supported me along the way, for not making me feel crazy for wanting to do this. I’m thankful that my parents woke up way too early on a Saturday, drove me to Panama City Beach, cheered for me, helped me feel better after I was exhausted – just such an awesome support system. My friend Lizzi (the one who is a super speedy awesome runner, who made me so inspired watching her become a runner along the way) sent me a card in the mail I got last Thursday, and it was so sweet and I teared up and it welcomed me to the 13.1 club. I am so excited to be a member. Mandy mailed me a tie-dye 13.1 sticker! I need to get my car washed so I can stick it on a clean windshield… In case you’re wondering, the rest of the day involved plenty of Gatorade, Powerade, water, an epson salt bath soak, napping, pretzels and other assorted salty snacks, chicken, and bananas. Later after a stop by my grandma’s house we went and watched some football at Mango Marley’s, and indulged in an Oreo Brownie Sundae. It felt like a pretty long day, and in the middle of it I was pretty exhausted, but by the end of it I was thinking that my body didn’t feel like I imagined it would – completely worn out, (though definitely somewhat sore!) So! Now that this one is under my belt, I’m looking forward to doing another one in the spring. My cousin thinks I should train for a full, but I’d like to get my time down on the half first. I’m thinking about one in Albany, Georgia in March. In the mean time, the holidays are upon us and I’ll be going to Orlando in two weekends for JD and Tony’s Tacky Sweater Christmas party! AND I was browsing yesterday and found a 3-mile fun run through Sea World that Saturday! Yeah, it’s at 715 in the morning, but hello! So worth it! I’m psyched!

In case you’re curious, here are a few photos from Saturday:

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Gorgeous sunrise on the way to Pier Park.

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Waiting to start the race!

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Oh you know, just tying my shoes…

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Rounding the first turn…(note – I don’t keep my arms like that I try to hold them lower, more relaxed…)

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Gumby crossing the finish line!

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Me getting to the finish.

P1070117 Woohoo!

IMG_5727Me and my medal, sure a little dazed looking at the after-party.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

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Tomorrow morning I will be running my first half marathon in Panama City, “Run for the Redfish!”  I’m equally nervous and excited right now. I know, I know I shouldn’t be nervous I’ve trained and I’m prepared – I’m just anxious to complete this goal! I’m sure it’s just pre-race jitters. I can’t believe after so many weeks of training, it’s finally here. Who would have thought that someday I’d be able to say I participated in a half-marathon? Not me, that’s for sure. At least not the me from six months ago, and the rest of my life. Even with the hiccup of those stupid stitches in October, it didn’t mess up the plan! So, we’ll see how it goes. Like my cousin said, no matter what “you’re setting a PR!” Which is true, since I’ve never run one before. I’ll let you all know how it goes! Have a fabulous Friday, and a wonderful weekend!