Faith Rooted in Joy not Fear

Last Wednesday, on the one year anniversary of the terror attack in Brussels, a radicalized British-born man drove his vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge killing three and injuring forty before exiting the vehicle and fatally stabbing a police officer. The assailant was then killed by other police officers before he could cause more harm. The entire incident lasted just under a minute and a half.

This incident impacted me for a couple reasons, the most prominent of which being the fact that Mom and I will be walking in that exact area this coming June. if everything works out I hope to actually enter the Palace of Westminster and sit on one of the benches like a regular back-bencher.

One of the men who died as an American man on his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife who was also critically injured. This trip likely was a bucket list adventure for them, a milestone in a committed life. I imagine that they may have toasted to 25 more years before in the blink of an eye his life and their life together ended.

This trip will be the first time Mom has traveled to Europe, a trip that we have been saving for quite a while. In a blink it could be over, just like for that couple. Does that mean that we should not go?

On the contrary!

I faced a similar scenario two years ago before I traveled to Rome. Several prominent airplane accidents had occurred in the past year including the as of yet unsolved disappearance of MH370 and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by BUK missile purportedly of Russian origin provided to Russian backed Ukrainian separatist fighters. Then, while we were in Italy, Andreas Lubitz committed suicide by intentionally crashing the plane and killing 144 people. Most of my coworkers at the time declared their intention to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. As my trip approached, a few of them questioned whether all of this made me rethink my travel plans.

Without hesitation I replied, “No. Not at all.” Obviously, they did not understand and probably still do not agree. The reasons I explained to them then remain true today.

Starting with the least important, my reasons are as follows: One, the pure statistics of plane crashes and terrorist incidents provide the perfect counterpoint to those irrational fears. Two, the fiercely independent streak in me refuses to bow down in fear to those who seek to take away freedom or to random unpredictable accidents of man-made or natural origin. Third, and most importantly, as a child of God, death holds no fear for me. Killing me would be the least that someone could do to me. If I die, I leave this finite, corruptible body on a world infected by sin, death and decay to begin an eternity together with the sinless, incorruptible God giving glory to Him for all eternity.

To leave with faith rooted in fear would be to say to God that I do not believe that He is sovereign, that I believe that my effort can do a better job at keeping myself “safe” through life’s uncertainty. This sort of life holds very little if any real joy. I reject it.

Instead, I choose to live with faith rooted in joy, joy in the God who has delighted to love fallen humanity and a world tainted by sin and to redeem that world for His glory. I will delight in His creation with the goal in all that I do whether work or leisure to glorify and honor Him.

A Hero’s 5k 2017 – Race Recap

Race #121
5k #44
2017 Race #5
2017 5k #1
A Hero’s 5k #3

It has been a while since I ran this race. I am much different runner than the first and second time that I ran this race back in 2011 and 2012. Additionally, this year I want to focus on longer distances, especially the marathon. I had planned to run the iRecycle Half Marathon in Spartanburg but each time I looked for information about this year’s edition, I found nothing. I needed a March race, saw this one and ended up registering. Mom joined me.

Since I am in the middle of training for my goal race, Mountains 2 Main Street, I sandwiched this run in between 40 minutes on one side and 30 on the other to make a total of about 90 minutes. I did not intend to run super fast but I wanted to push the pace during the 5k to get a bit of an adrenaline rush or something similar.

I have decided that 5ks are my least favorite distance. If one looked solely at the number of 5ks that I have run, that fact would contradict my last statement. However, the only reason that I have run so many of them is the over-availability of the 5ks compared to all the other distances. That’s not to say that I don’t like them; I am obsessed with racing, of course.

Mom and I started the day with 40 minutes before the race. We had enough time to run 50 or even 60 but Mom wanted to make sure that we got back to the start in time. We definitely did since the organizers started the race ten minutes late thanks to an over run on the opening ceremonies. I still do not like them any more than I did back in 2012.

While we waited we happened to be with a group of other NHCC “runners.” After all, the race honors Geoffrey Whitsett, a former member of NHCC.

A Hero's 5k 2017

We headed to the start line and waited for the race to start. We had to wait another three minutes. Again, this is not my favorite. It feels a little presumptuous on the part of the race organizers to assume that the runners have endless time to simply delay for no other reason than a lack of time management.

At 9:07 (official race start was 8:55) we were off. The pace felt fast right from the start but I loved it so we kept it up. Mom mentioned that the wait made her body feel like she needed to make a pit stop again. I hate the timing for her.

We passed the restrooms between the lake and the trail but Mom chose to keep going.

Mile 1: 8:01

A little after this Mom speculated out loud that she might not make it and I should run without her. Of course, I told her that I wanted to run with her but if she saw a restroom she should stop and use it. Unfortunately, although there were likely restrooms available to use in the many buildings that we passed, it would have been a gamble to head to one to find a restroom. I figured that she would probably need to use that one between the trail and the lack when we passed it on the way back.

Even with a significant couple hills, this mile was almost as fast as the first.

Mile 2: 8:05

I felt really strong and was ready to push the pace. We headed back around the lake for the final mile. Mom told me that she was going to stop at the restroom so I went on ahead. We had already started to push the pace so I tried to keep it up. My legs felt strong. I felt strong. We parted ways and I kept pushing. I thought I could likely get a sub 25 final time, well off my PR but for a 5k sandwiched into a long run, I’ll take it.

Then I finished and happened to see a 22 on my Garmin before I pushed save. That confused me so as soon as it finished uploading I opened the stats, 2.91. That’s short. I know that a GPS is subject to error but two whole tenths is not within the margin of error.

Mile 3: 7:32
Final time: 22:55

As soon as I finished I headed back around to get ready to take pictures of Mom. I was a little disappointed when Mom said that Ellis would not be coming with us today meaning no pictures. Turns out, we got some pictures!

Mom has a fabulous stride, so perfect!

A Hero's 5k 2017

We then headed out for a little more. Mom stopped when we got back to the car but I got in another 20 minutes after that. I felt so strong and so excited about could be to come with my upcoming races.

Normally I include a race recap but life has gotten in the way. Perhaps I will add a separate recap later.

Sickness Induced Apathy

Over my life I have not been sick often. I am incredibly grateful for this health. When I do get sick, I consider myself a rather terrible patient, not the worst, but no where near decent.

Even the slightest cold makes me feel like the most apathetic person. I thrive on goal making and goal completion but when I feel even slightly sniffly, the only thing I feel like doing is turning on the TV and binge-watching Netflix. (My current binge show of choice is Jane the Virgin.)

I still usually muddle through y day; it galls me to have to call in sick even if I have paid sick days. It’s impossible to count the days exactly but I think I have taken less than 10 sick days in my working life.

This post concerns a potential sick day from a week ago. Last Monday I slept terribly. My throat began to feel sore earlier in the day so I knew a cold or at least cold symptoms would plague my next few days. I did not expect the disrupted sleep. I started to feel chilled even while I knew I was sweating under my top sheet.

Each time I woke up I contemplated the pros and cons of calling in sick. I kept hoping each time that I would feel better and when I didn’t I kept debating whether I should stay home. On one hand, I knew that rest would help me recover more quickly. On the other, we had MAP testing at school aka high stakes testing with all sorts of requirements that throw a wrench into obtaining a sub if any would actually take a job at my school.

In the end, I told myself that I felt just terribly enough that I could muddle through a day of testing and low-key tasks with my students.

That day felt like it stretched on interminably. I knew that I felt sick and gave up fighting it. All I wanted was to go home, curl into a ball and binge-watch Jane the Virgin.

I am not saying that all it takes is will-power to cure any illness. That’s ridiculous. I am saying, however, that apathy can be more infectious that the actual illness. I knew I felt sick and simply gave in to feeling miserable. I expected to feel awful so I wasn’t surprised when I felt awful.

It affected my mood, my interactions with my students including the particularly trying student that I had to keep in my room for four hours that day. It affected how much I was able to get done of the normal things that I needed to do to keep my head above water at school.

When I finally did get home after this terrible, no-good, awful day (literary reference alert.) I no longer felt most of the symptoms from earlier in the day, save the tail end of a headache on its way out thanks to pharmaceutical help. However, I persisted in my plan to veg out on the couch and binge-watch.

I didn’t need to. I no longer felt terrible. However, I felt entitled to veg out and do nothing when I was at home after suffering through the miserable symptoms at work. I had the start of woe-is-me syndrome.

After an hour or so of doing nothing I had to head downstairs to restart the modem so I could continue to indulge. While down there I decided to go ahead and prep all the stuff I needed for the morning. Something about getting up and moving snapped me out of my apathetic stupor.

I still didn’t feel 100% but my motivation returned. I no longer was interested in feeling sorry for myself. Instead I dove back into the daily tasks that needed to get done.

It was then that I started thinking about the subtle mood shift and analyzing how easily I slipped into apathy and entitlement. Not once did I ever pray and ask God for help with facing the day and all its challenges.

Instead, I adopted an internal habit of naval gazing. I looked inward and downward, took my eyes off God. My grandmother has this habit. Many times when something is happening that she doesn’t like or doesn’t understand or any other number of reasons, she looks down at her lap, shoulders slumped. Often I have wondered what she thinks about. Now I think I have a little taste and I don’t like it.

The next time illness knocks me down, I want to get back up by looking to the source of my strength. Sometimes that will mean taking a sick day and resting. Sometimes that will mean pushing through, relying on the strength that only God gives.

Hit on at Walmart

I had a vastly different post planned for this week than this. I could not, however, pass up the subject that completely unexpectedly landed at my feet.

I headed to Walmart Saturday evening with the intent of picking up some thread for my next cross-stitch project and some groceries so I would have something to eat for supper. I normally purchase my thread from Hobby Lobby since they have a wider selection. The need for groceries had me head to Walmart since they have both.

I’m not as familiar with Walmart’s layout so I ended up making quite a trek around the store before I found the right section. As I looked for the specific aisle, a young black man about 25 years old, pushed a cart past me. He asked what I was looking for. My first thought was that he was an employee, even though he wasn’t wearing a blue vest.

Even though I did not know where the thread was, I declined the help. I typically try to find the item on my own if at all possible. Since I was headed the opposite direction, I thought that was the end of the conversation.

Little did I know.

He wheeled the cart around, got my attention again and said, “Can I ask you a question?”

I thought maybe he needed assistance finding something.

When I didn’t say anything right away, he added “If you’re not in a hurry that is.”

I managed to give him an “okay.”

“Are you in a relationship?”

I kid you not. That was the last thing I expected him to ask. My face displayed my sheer befuddlement.

“You don’t have to answer,” he mumbled.

I paused a little longer, considering if I should lie and say yes or if I should say no and what to say after that. Finally I said, “No. I’m not interested.”

“Oh ok. I just wanted to tell you that you’re really attractive girl.”


I turned and walked away as quickly as I could while pulling out my phone to text Mom about the patently absurd thing that had just happened to me.

I know that this happens to some women all the time or at least on occasion. This is the first time in 31 years that it has happened to me and it provoked a lot of deep thoughts.

My first response was laughter. I found the minuscule thread section and could not contain the giggles. I kept laughing as I sobered up and thought beyond the surface comedy.

I started to think about why this had happened. The cause I settled on, although I will never know for certain, was what I was wearing. I hadn’t dressed up. I wore just the “around the house” stuff I spend the day in, a well – but not tight fitting – t-shirt and my “Run Like the Doctor Told You” leggings. I realized after this encounter that this may have been the first time I have worn them “out in public,” basically anywhere expect working around the house. Beyond that, it’s likely the first time I’ve worn leggings “out in public” since these are my one and only pair.

These leggings help accentuate my figure which since I have started running and strength training is the fittest I have been in my life. I will not lie by omitting the fact that a part of me liked it. We are created to be desired and loved. This craving manifests in so many forms, a large portion of them unhealthy. This is why flattery is such a powerful currency.

As soon as I realized that part of me liked the attention, the rest of me recoiled in repugnance. I am so much more than my looks. Would that man still think I was attractive if he really knew me, my likes, dislikes and most importantly, the primacy of God in my life?

I hate the objectification of women that pervades our society. On this principle alone, I will not eat at Hardee’s. Mom and I encounter it at least once a week or so on the run when random strangers honk at us or old men ogle us from their pick up trucks. Runner’s World ran an article in their December issue about this. This is beyond not okay.

Then came Sunday. We’re in the midst of a series on I Thessalonians and have just started a mini series within the larger series on sexual purity. Before Peter came up to speak, another man from our church via video shared the first part of his struggle with pornography, a thing that my family has history with, one of the causes of my parents’ divorce. It made me wonder about the kinds of thoughts that may or may not have been going on in that man’s mind when he thought about my “attractiveness.”

Pornography is also a familiar subject to all those brought up in the same repressive, Fundamentalist/Independent Baptist culture in which I spent so much of my life. I must qualify the way in which I just used the term “familiar.” Unless intimately acquainted with the sin, all those within that bubble knew the fire and brimstone consequences of succumbing to that base evil. As a female, my acquaintance with the subject was the strict legalistic enforcement of the dress code. We were told that if the neckline of our shirt came up to more than four fingers’ length below our collar bone, we invited men to sin by lusting after us.

So how do I balance all of this? I enjoyed the attention yet wholeheartedly believe that a woman is so much more than her looks. I know that what I wore drew this man’s attention yet I do not control his actions, only he does.

Once again, I come to the end of an entry without a clear directive answer. My wisdom pales in comparison to God’s omniscience. In the end, I hope taht all this rumination draws me closer to God in whom dwells all wisdom and truth.

A Day without Caffeine

I drink a lot of coffee.

Anyone who knows me responds, “No, duh.”

I could attempt to trace this back to when I first started drinking coffee-if I remembered-and my subsequent evolution as a coffee drinker. That would appeal to my strength of context but would not serve the point of this essay.

Currently, I drink three cups of coffee a day: one with breakfast, one at school during planning and one as I unwind at the end of the day. That final cup is just as caffeinated as the first. At the beginning of the school year I discovered that I needed that cup of coffee to sleep well. I tried to cut it out in an effort to get the best sleep possible but found that effort counterproductive.

Last week, the “unthinkable” happened. I ran out of coffee.

Mom offered to make the Costco run for me, something that I had to keep putting off thanks to several long days at school. She also brought over some of their coffee to tide me over. (I have the best mom ever.) The “crisis” would have been averted. Unfortunately, all she had left was decaf.

Finding the words to describe the brain fog that ensued would be a Herculean task. I have never experienced anything like that before.

I first noticed the effects in first period when I attempted to speak in Spanish. The words took their time to come if they came at all. Perhaps a better way to describe this would be a brain quagmire. The thoughts were lost in a thick, soupy mess.

During my planning period, I could barely keep my eyes open which meant that my first planning period without a meeting drowned in the brain quagmire.

I trudged through the remainder of the day which included a two hour grad class after school. By that time, a pounding headache joined the quagmire. I felt terrible and still had Life Group ahead before I could go home. I even contemplated taking the next day as a sick day; that’s how awful I felt.

After a couple ibuprofen and a large cup of coffee at Life Group, I felt completely fine. By the time I got in my car to head home, I felt like a normal, functioning human being again.

This experience generated thought-provoking questions, questions to which I do not have answers. Two conflicting facts drive this dilemma. One, I sleep significantly better when I drink a cup of regular coffee in the evening. Two, the lack of caffein has the potential to detrimentally affect my work and overall functioning.

Over the weeks and months to come I hope to explore this and come to a much better balance, a balance that, hopefully, does not include dependence on a thing, in this case a chemical.

More with Less

One of my strengths according to strengthsfinder is Learner. A Learner “will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you.” This has played out in my life repeatedly. I have never met a topic that I haven’t wanted to learn more about. According to my goodreads profile, I have read 2820 books. That barely scratches the surface because I did not start keeping records until my early twenties.

This strength is both complimented and enabled by another one of my strengths: achiever. “No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied.” I have a sometimes unhealthy obsession with goals and to do lists.

This means that I often find myself stretched in many similar but distinct directions through no one’s fault but my own. Most years I have not written out formal goals although I certainly had them. Recently though, I have written them out courtesy of my blog, any iteration. Sometimes the lists of goals even matched the year. In 2012 the list contained 12 items. The lure of my favorite number overpowered any sanity I may possess. I followed all the right advice, save limiting the number of goals. I made them S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based. I tried to check-in every month. Those final days of each month flew by, full of last minute attempts to be able to check the item off my list.

I look back on those goals and can remember few. Those that I do remember, only vague generalities come to mind. For instance, I know that every year I had some sort of number of books I wanted to read that year. In the end, how effective were those goals?

The goals were accomplished but I sacrificed quality for quantity. I added stress to my life. I wanted to do it all. This led to disappointment over not accomplishing an enormous quantity instead of celebrating what I had achieved.

As evidence to my typical “go big or go home” mentality, I own a 160GB iPod classic which Apple no longer manufactures. That iPod is crammed with podcasts, yet another way I supplement my learning. A couple weeks ago, I started listening to The Minimalists podcast. I wasn’t sure if this podcast would be a keeper or not knowing that I do not agree 100% with their take on minimalism.

As I listened, it grew on me. I have been moving down this path towards minimalism for a while now and the podcast helped me start to understand things I knew already. As I have listened these past couple weeks, I have begun to contemplate what brings me joy? How can I create a life that values quality over quantity?

This also aligns with my belief in Christ, my calling as a child of God. He does not want us to be busy with the myriad distractions of life around us. His sole purpose for us is to find the greatest joy in Him, in making His name great.

After spending a significant portion of the words published on this blog in its short life on goals/intentions for the year, I plan to shift focus. One of the things mentioned on the podcast is that we as a culture have perverted the word priority. That word literally means “first thing.” Even though people talk about their “priorities,” such things cannot exist. By matter of default, if one thing is first, nothing else can share that spot only replace that which used to be the priority. I had too many “priorities.” Even if I had all the time in the world or even as much as a person in a “normal” job has, I cannot strive after reading and writing and running and teaching and photography at the same time. Something has to give.

Even now as I have come to this conclusion and put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, I feel the tug, the alure of all the goals. I want to do it all even though I know that I can’t. Some of the priorities may be able to work together. I wrote that sentence just now without irony. Now, I look back and the absurdity blares forth. I certainly am far from perfect.

I do not know what this will look like as the year progresses although I have an inclination that writing may win out as my passion priority while performing well in my chosen profession will also have a seat at the table.

How does this all connect to the title, “more with less?” My hope is that as I let goal of all the faux priorities, I will reclaim quality, more, with what remains. I also hope to learn to be truly content with what I have. Thus less is more.

GHS Half Marathon 2017 – Race Recap

Race #120
Half Marathon #37
SC Half Marathon #28
2017 Race #4
2017 Half Marathon #2
GHS Half Marathon #4

I have a slightly less than sane habit of running half marathons (or comparable distances) two to three weeks after marathons. (15k a week after my first marathon and then the Tryon half a week after that, Camp Croft after Savannah, Spinx after Twin Cities, TR after Tobacco Road and now this one.) If I were to rank those performances, today’s would be the best by far.

When I first realized that this race would take place two weeks exactly after the marathon, I rued my urge to register for all the half marathons. Good thing I had already paid for it though or I might have been tempted to skip and run closer to home.

I persevered and headed out, with my only goal being to finish under two hours. I was on my own for this one. I didn’t mention it to mom after I noticed the timing, figuring it would take her a little longer to recover from the marathon. Plus, she is not nearly as crazy as I am.

My runs have gone phenomenally well this week so I knew that a sub 1:55 was likely in the bag.

We arrived with plenty of time to locate the bib pick up table – more on this later, pin the bib on and wait for the start.

GHS Half Marathon 2017
Singlet and shorts in February? Just wrong.

Right on time we were off. I spent much of the first minute or two trying to get my music to play. No matter how hard I pressed the, the music would not start playing. I had to take the armband off, the phone out of the case, and close and reopen the app – all while also holding my handheld – before it would start. That’s one way to start a race, not one I would recommend.

Just before the start I bumped into Cindy Lucking, a local speedy masters’ runner. (She also ran the HHI 8k. I want to be her when I grow up.) Once I got my music started she commented on it and mentioned that she might stick near me so she could hear the music. I figured that we may run a few hundred yards at the same pace but she would pull away. That’s exactly what happened, although I ended up catching her near the end.

I settled into what felt like a comfortable but slightly faster than normal pace and started to really enjoy the run. I remember grinning like a fool after the one and only turn around . I loved seeing the swarms of runners still to come after us.

When I got close to where Mom had parked, I could see her thanks to her distinctive purple jacket. I gave her a little wave and thought she saw me. Nope. I waved again and then called out “hey Mom!” before she recognized that it was me and took a few pictures.

GHS Half Marathon 2017
GHS Half Marathon 2017

Mile 1: 8:18
Mile 2: 8:16
Mile 3: 8:12
Mile 4: 8:21

Shortly before the fourth mile marker, the course heads back onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I knew that it was going to be a warm day and I had just my handheld with water not my OrangeMud quiver with Gu Roctane drink. I decided to take the Gatorade offered (more on that later) starting with the second water stop.

I have no idea why this particular stop gave off a feeling of clutter and disorganization. It was placed just near the Travers Rest sign with plenty of space and volunteers. Perhaps the volunteers weren’t ready? Whatever the reason, runners were having to come to a complete stop and wait for drinks. I skipped it and decided to start taking Gatorade at the next one.

Before starting the race I had planned to walk when I ate my fuel like Mom and I have done all throughout marathon training. On a whim, I decided to try running through the refueling “pit stops” this time, walking only when I took Gatorade to avoid sloshing it all over myself. While it took some adjustment to be able to breathe while I chewed, I managed to do it. My brain did manage to forget to get the fuel a couple times so I took in a little less than I had planned.

I still felt good and purposefully avoided looking at my Garmin. I have found that I perform better with less data filling my head. )I decided this even before heading towards a minimalist lifestyle.) It was a little discouraging to see runners pass me far more frequently than I expected but I kept telling myself two things: one, I am running my own race. Two, I will catch them in a few miles.

Mile 5: 8:20
Mile 6: 8:14
Mile 7: 8:09
Mile 8: 8:15
Mile 9: 8:07
Mile 10: 8:14

Only a 5k left. I knew my pace was faster; my legs were telling me loud and clear. I knew I had a sub 2 hour half marathon in the bag and wondered if I could snag a sub 1:50. (The 1:45 pacer had passed me fairly early on in the race so I knew that was just a pipe dream.)

Just like I told myself earlier, I started to pass people, mainly guys. I love it when I get to “chick” someone.

Normally the last few miles of a half marathon pass tortuously slowly. Not this time. I kept asking myself “how far can I get, how much closer to the finish before this song ends?”

I also thoroughly enjoyed saying “thank you” to each cop manning a street crossing. This is a recently acquired habit but one that I want to keep permanently. Life is a lot more enjoyable when you practice gratefulness.

Then came the last mile. Even though this one didn’t feel any longer than the ones before, it definitely felt harder. We also had a few tight turns right before the finish as we got off the trail and onto the road that led to the finish line on the TD Stage behind the Peace Center. I passed a guy at the 13 mile mark right as I started to speed up and wondered if I could hold him off. When he sped by me two seconds later I had my answer.

I pushed as hard as I could to the finish crossing just after the clock ticked over 1:48. I had done it! I did struggle to press the button to pause my Garmin feeling a bit rushed by the volunteer handing me the medal. Two extra seconds crept into my overall time.

Mile 11: 8:06
Mile 12: 8:17
Mile 13: 8:12
.15: 7:50
Overall Finish: 1:48:11

I am absolutely thrilled that I was able to pull off a performance like this two weeks after a full marathon with minimal speed work. This time is only 9 minutes off my PR. Now I have to decide whether HHI or GHS will be my goal half next year.

Race Review

Registration and Packet Pick Up
I had no issues with registration.
However, I still do not like how they handle race day bib pick up. The website states that it will be at TR High School, which it is. However, the parking lot is quite large and the actual table is not immediately visible. Thankfully, we had plenty of time to search unlike last year. Perhaps organizers could add a caveat as to its specific location?

Race Shirt
I laughed at the description of “butter soft” that the website gave the shirt. Then I put it on. That is an apt description. I love the shirt.

Prerace/morning amenities
There were plenty of portapotties provided. The race also offers a shuttle ($10 cost) for those who park at either end of the point to point race. Both ends also offer plenty of parking.

This is a point to point course with one out and back portion at the beginning. Very little has changed since I first ran the inaugural edition in 2012. The only things that have changed were byproducts of updates to the Swamp Rabbit Trail of which GHS is also a title sponsor. I absolutely love the Swamp Rabbit Trail and this race uses it well. It is a net downhill course. (Nothing in Greenville is downhill for longer than perhaps a mile.) The finish at the TD Stage is phenomenal. Mom commented, “No wonder so many people run this race. It is such a cool finish line.” (GTC, take note.)

Course Support
There were plenty of water stops. Each had Gatorade and water. Several also had Hammer Gels. I was very thankful that the electrolyte drink provided by the race turned out to be Gatorade which I prefer. The website stated that the drink would be Hammer Heed-which I have never used-and Gu Gels for the fuel. In reality that turned out to be Gatorade and Hammer Gels. This may seem trite but runners practice with specific nutrition and often do not like or cannot tolerate a wide variety of products.

Finish line and Post Race Amenities
It is no wonder that this race continues to grow while Spinx withers. Take note GTC. This race offered water, juice, soda, two different kinds of snack bars, fruit snacks, fruit and pizza. There may have also been other things that I did not see. It is well organized and creates an atmosphere that draws people to stay and join the party.

I saw at least two photographers on the course but have not seen the photos yet.

Unlike racemine, the setup events full results were not available until a few hours later. However, you could text your bib number to a number printed on the back of the bib to get results that included your time, age group place and overall place.

This race is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites

Hilton Head Island Marathon Race Review

Normally I include the race review after the recap. A marathon, however, deserves its own separate post.

Registration and Packet Pick Up
Nothing unusual cropped up during the registration process. Additionally, we arrived too late to experience packet pick up in its new location. Our race day pick up went fine albeit a bit awkwardly. There were a few different standing signs with different race distances displayed. I lined up behind the one displaying “26.2.” Immediately a volunteer standing in front of the tables told me to line up a few steps to the right, behind the sign displaying “8k.”


I said something about lining up behind the sign because of what it said. A volunteer behind the table immediately told the first volunteer to “just tell them it’s a mistake and we can’t move the sign.” I’m sure that she meant “them” as “any participants that come after then” but the fact that she said it that way before handing us our bibs and gear was a bit awkward and off putting. Keep in mind that yes, this was one incident, however, it left an impression.

Race shirt
Unlike the shirt from 2014, this year’s shirt currently resides at the bottom of a bag destined for Goodwill. I loved the dark blue color of this shirt. The fit was adequate but not good enough to include in my rotation of long sleeve running shirts. The fabric type does not lend itself to lounge wear use either. I will admit that I have fairly picky tastes when it comes to race shirts especially since I started heading down the minimalism path.

Pre-race/Morning Amenities
Bear Foot Sports does an excellent job making full use of the tents that they have set up in the finish area. I suppose it should be more accurately called the start/finish area. They provided coffee, snacks and assorted other amenities. I did not partake in any of the extras (tiny bladder) so I cannot speak to the quality. The one thing that Bear Foot Sports could improve on is the number of portopotties available. All three races start together which makes for a lot of people at the start, especially when family and supporters are included in that number. After we picked up our supplies, 35 minutes before the start, Mom got into line. It took her at least 20 minutes to get through the line even though it wasn’t that long when judged by number of people in line. If I remember correctly, there were a total of 3-5 available stalls.

This course is full of out and backs, especially in the marathon. On one hand, I love out and backs because they offer opportunities to check my place in race standings. On the other hand, having so many included on one course limits the overall expanse. The course went nowhere near the toe or heel of the island. (Hilton Head is shaped like a shoe.) The island is covered with countless bike path/pedestrian trails yet this course covers a rather insignificant portion of them. Apart form the Cross Island Bridge and the Spanish Wells Plantation area, the course is flat and boring. I also continue to harbor extreme dislike for the parking lot weave and short “trail” section. I have one question. Why?

Course Support
Since I carried my OrangeMud quiver, I did not pay close enough attention to the exact number of water stops but I thought they were more than adequate. I found out from the guy who ran the timing services that they had planned to have another water stop between miles 2.5 and 5 (on the Cross Island Parkway) but SCDOT prohibited this particular stop because of the potential for too much litter.

I also had another negative one off experience at one of the later marathon course only water stops. It was manned by two girls. The first time through, no issue. I’m pretty sure that I actually did not stop the first time through. On the second visit I asked for Gatorade. One of the girls pointed at the table where there was one cup holding Gatorade, the rest had water. At that point in the race I was taking two cups so I was a little upset. If I had wanted more I would have had to grab an empty cup and fill it from the dispenser myself. As I write this out, I know that it sounds petty but at the time, it left a poor impression.

Finish line and post-race amenities
I love the finish line of this course, the curve around the small lake/pond, the final turn to the finish chute. I should add the Jarvis Creek Park portion to the scenic portions of the course.

The post race “party” is accessible, has lots of food, water and even Gatorade available and presents awards in a timely manner.

Race Photography
I am usually impressed by the number of photos that the official race photography company captures. This time it appears that there were photographers stationed at just two locations on the marathon course, one of which was the finish line. Perhaps the company had just enough staff for the half marathon course and any overlaps with the 8k and marathon course. Thankfully Ellis was there to ride along and take more pictures.

Race Results
The head of Charlestowne Timing Services has also frequently worked with Scott Bagwell and Palmetto Timing. Charlestowne Timing Services also uses, a favorite for a data nerd like me. He had a tent set up with computers to search up results, one of them connected to a printer that upon request, one of them connected to a printer that upon request delivered a small slip of paper containing name and results. I love this feature. Palmetto Timing is getting one soon too.

Overall, this is a pretty good small marathon but not one that I would run multiple times, as a marathon. I will most definitely continue to run the half marathon for as long as I potentially can.

Reviewed and Renewed Intentions

A quick note to address the vocabulary choice in the title and throughout the rest of this entry: from here on out, instead of using the word “goal(s),” I plan to use the word “intention(s).” This is to align my actions this year with my overall focus of intentionality. These “intentions” all serve a specific purpose in helping me advance closer to achieving intentionality overall in my life.

Now to the meat of the post

Right now I am still focusing on rebuilding. I noticed almost right away that once I made the goal of completing the daily exercises at least four days a week, it became even easier to find excuses to postpone or skip. That first week I found myself over at Mom and Ellis’ having forgotten the resistance band that I use for some of the exercises and a bunch of snow outside making me stay put. I ended up skipping five days in a row. Not cool. I started noting on my calendar each time I actually got it done. I’ve been more consistent but there is still considerable room for improvement.

I also learned a lot about just how much I need to do before Chicago but that’s for a soon to come marathon reflection post.

Health and Nutrition
For the month of January I will consider the intention of drinking two water bottles a day a success. I think there may have been a handful of days where I drank only a little over one bottle a day but overall I achieve this intention. I have also successfully made brining my water bottle with me to lunch a habit. I do plan to keep this on as an intention because the habit is not quite ingrained.

February rolled around. I failed to set “official” health and nutrition intentions for the month. I no longer had the water drinking intention hanging over my head. I found myself slipping back into old habits.

Before I get to my February/March intentions, I will briefly mention that I successfully achieved my maximum two Ghiradelli peppermint bark bar per day goal. On only two days with the second falling on the last day of the challenge, did I eat more than two.

I have three intentions for February/March: one old and two new. The old is the two water bottles drunk per day. The first new goal has to do with sugar consumption with an added (marginal) financial benefit. Every Friday I have “retro Friday” with my students. I used to give them bite sized candy every time they used the word of the day in a sentence but to keep myself from going broke I retooled it and made it once a week. That means that there is always candy easy at hand, the delicious kind like Twix and Milky Way. As marathon training ramped up I found myself hungry all the time. For someone with a propensity for a sweet tooth that does not make for a good combination. So, I have made this intention as follows. I will not snack on the bite sized candy I have available; I will make sure to have something else handy. (The financial benefit will come with the fact that I will be able to use that candy for the purpose I intended.)

The second new intention has to do with sleep. A big part of health has to do with being able to get regular sleep. While I think my sleep habits are much healthier than my sweet tooth tendencies, there’s room for improvement. I will admit that I almost made this goal two fold but thought better of it. One step at a time. For years, I have gotten away with letting myself push right up until “bedtime” and ended up getting to bed 15, 20 minutes after the time I said I would go to bed. This specific intention is as follows. Unless there are extenuating circumstances (not finishing a journal entry is not one) I will start the process of getting to bed at 9:55 on “school nights” and 10:55 on weekends so that I’m in bed on the hour.

Reading and Writing
According to goodreads, I am six books ahead of goal pace to read 100 books this year. I want to build a little more of a cushion because I am not bringing books to read on my UK trip and probably won’t bring any on the road trip either. Reading for 15 minutes each weekday is one of the four things I added to my new to do section of my day planner. I think under most circumstances 15 minutes is doable.

The writing intention has been a little more difficult to prioritize. As hard as I tried, life has has gotten in the way a few times and I have not been able to journal every day. When I have been able to write, the quality and quantity far surpasses what I used to write as a general habit. I am still working towards accomplishing this intention.

So far, so good. When an unexpected snow fall changed plans, I made sure to have my camera with me so I could get out and take a bunch of pictures. I have also posted to Instagram every single day except for one Sunday when it completely slipped my mind.

This one is hard to quantify. So far I have said yes to all opportunities that have come my way. That means that even recently I have had to pray for a heart change. I have the opportunity to meet one on one for a coaching cycle with the district Title 1 ELA specialists. I won’t get into the details here but I will summarize my initial feeling, dread. No, that will not be my approach. This is a new opportunity that with God’s help, I will embrace.

Phew! That was a lot but so much fun to dig into. I can’t wait to see what the next 6 weeks will bring.

Hilton Head Island Marathon – Race Recap

Race #119
Marathon #9
SC Marathon #2
2017 Race #3
2017 Marathon #1
Hilton Head Island Marathon #1 (7th consecutive time running, 6 previous were the half)

I’m pretty sure that I have never been more relaxed heading into a marathon before. (It is a bit surreal though that when I run Chicago in the fall, I will enter the double digits club for marathons run.)

A big thing that helped was the lack of personal goals. I had plenty of goals for mom.

We would have preferred to arrive soon enough last night to pick up the packets. I got permission to leave school right at dismissal – instead of having to wait until half an hour later when bus holding finished. Mom drove me to school and then picked me up so that we could leave right from there. If traffic had cooperated, we would have arrived in time. However, we all forgot about rush hour traffic in Columbia.

That left race morning for picking up the packets.

We settled into the hotel room, unpacked some stuff, laid some stuff out and got to bed fairly early. Race morning went smoothly. We arrived with plenty of time to pick up the bibs and for Ellis to run back to the car to get some body glide. I was going to try it out for the first time. I was wearing my sleeveless Oiselle singlet and it had been a long time since I wore my OrangeMud quiver with a sleeveless shirt. (The chafing potential is immense.)

It was nice and chilly at the start. I wish it had stayed that way. I wore my jacket until a few minutes before the start. I was just slightly chilly in the singlet but I am so glad that I made the decision to wear it. Temperatures got above 65 degrees by the end of the race which is way too warm for February in my opinion.

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017
Mom’s considering whether or not to acknowledge me as her child

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017
The answer is yes…for now

Precisely at 8am we were off, rather abruptly since the race director skipped any sort of countdown.

Although the some of the distances are different than previous years that I have run this race, everyone still starts together and stays together on the nearly 1 mile out and back portion. I continue to not be a fan of this situation.

We set off at a fairly conservative pace or at least what felt like a conservative pace at the time.

Mile 1: 9:07
Mile 2: 9:08
Mile 3: 9:15
Mile 4: 9:12

Nothing really stands out about the first few miles of the race. These were familiar miles, the only miles of the course that we shared with the half marathoners. The next 5 miles include the first time out and back over the bridge as well as the “lovely” detour through a park parking lot and a brief trail section that I still don’t like and had even more roots to watch out for thanks to hurricane damage. (The town has significantly recovered since October but it’s slow going.)

The slower miles below were the miles where we walked briefly to refuel. One of those also includes a pit stop for me. Even though I drank nothing the morning of (I have a tiny bladder), the urgency was real. Mom saw a porto-potty that turned out to be right on the course…a few miles later when we doubled back…and asked if I wanted to stop. I said no at first but then she pulled a “Jen” and told me to go. I thanked her profusely when we got back on the course.

Mile 5: 9:47
Mile 6: 9:25
Mile 7: 9:51
Mile 8: 9:00
Mile 9: 9:24

Somewhere around mile 8 when we were running through the parking lot, the 4:15 pacer and the one runner who stuck with her entered my view. That served as a wake up call. I wanted to bring Mom in under her Boston Qualifying time. She may not be as interested as I am but I thought that would be a really cool thing for her to achieve on only her second marathon. I realized that the pace felt easy because it was, too easy.

I made a new goal to get back in front of the 4:15 pacer and try to put as much distance between her and us and hopefully get back under that 4:10 goal. We had a little bit of back and forth over the next couple miles when we stopped to fuel and get some Gatorade at the water stop but soon we passed her and started to put some distance in between us.

I felt really good, the best I felt out of the entire race through the next four miles. We entered the Spanish Wells Plantation area, a new section of the island for me. (I would hazard a guess that there are far more residents than renters there and residents of a fairly wealthy variety in this section of the island.) This also was a really fun section because Ellis found us on the course (he brought his bike) and started taking pictures and cheering us on as we ran. He stuck with us for pretty much the rest of the race, riding ahead, waiting for us to catch up and repeating the process.

Also early on in the section Mom needed to make a pit stop so we stopped for what might just be the quickest pit stop ever and made a goal of catching up to and passing the 4:15 pacer who had passed us back.

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017

Mile 10: 9:12
Mile 11: 9:34
Mile 12: 9:29
Mile 13: 9:07

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017

I started to struggle a little right at the halfway point but I’m fairly certain that that was just mental. Once that tricky mile was done I entered the section where I felt the second best of the race. Mom started feel it, though, towards the end of this section so our pace slowed and continue to slow. I wanted to bring her in under 4:10 so I tried to be as encouraging as I could while motivating her to pick up the pace.

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017
(Yes, I was sticking out my tongue.)

Mile 14: 9:12
Mile 15: 9:42
Mile 16: 9:34
Mile 17: 9:19
Mile 18: 9:34

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017

The next section included the bridge again, the third out of four times that we would cross it. While it still felt considerably easier due to our hill training, it still was not easy on tired legs near 20 miles. It was also the long slow incline side which I like least. That definitely slowed our pace. Mom definitely hit the proverbial 20 mile wall but kept going.

I knew the final miles would be tough but had no idea that I would hit my wall only 4 miles later. That wall taught me a lot about this training cycle but this post will be long enough so I will come back to that later.

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017

Mile 19:
Mile 20:
Mile 21:
Mile 22:

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017

Just before the mile 24 marker my legs felt like they were going to fall off. Okay, that’s rather dramatic. (It was mile 24 of a marathon. I think I’m allowed to be dramatic.) That was just after we crossed the bridge the last time. We walked one time around that point just because for a moment it felt like I couldn’t run any more. I made myself start running again though and knew that stopping again would not be in the cards, not if I wanted to finish in good time.

The 4:15 pacer also made another appearance when she passed us again just after the 24 mile marker. That confirmed to me the idea that we had been dramatically slowed down. This action inspired both us. (I found out later that it inspired Mom as well.) I did not have much left in the tank though.

My mantra became “one more step, one more step.” Those two miles felt so long.

About a half mile from the finish the music finished. I knew then that I had failed to bring Mom in under her Boston qualifying time. (The playlist I created was exactly 4 hours 10 minutes long.) We were close enough though to finish without figuring out how to get the music started again.

It was such a relief to get off the highway and get back into Jarvis Creek Park. Only a brief jaunt around the side of the lake and a final turn. Even though I had little left in the tank, I wanted to finish on a high note. I urged Mom to dig deep and put it all out there. We both found a little bit more and “sprinted” to the finish, ahead of the 4:15 pacer.

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017

Mile 23: 9:53
Mile 24: 9:51
Mile 25: 9:22
Mile 26: 9:27
final .31 2:37 (8:51 pace)
Final time 4:13:44

Although it’s my slowest marathon since 2012 I learned a lot through this cycle that will inform Chicago’s training. I am also super pumped that Mom did so well! She won overall grand masters female! This year that included an extra medal since the race served as South Carolina championship race for the year.

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2017
This might be one of my favorite pictures of us.

So…this recap is pretty long as it is. I will save the race review for another day.