Life Is A Race

Life is a race. Not a competitive race. Everyone's life is just a different race.

Our race may change course, there may be obstacles we must overcome, but if we keep our eyes on the Lord, we will reach our finish line and receive our prize. It is not always about the finish line, though. The journey is just as important. We need to make sure we don't miss something along the way while keeping our eyes on the prize.

Because I am a Christian and an athlete, this analogy is easy for me to see. Why do I race? Not to win (otherwise I would have given up long ago), but because it is a personal challenge. I'm a woman wearing so many hats -- wife, mother, Sunday School teacher, school volunteer, soccer mom -- juggling life's joys and frustrations. Talk about personal challenges! I hope to use this blog as an outlet for my frustrations and a proclamation of my joys as I tackle all the challenges I face in life.

One of my favorite Bible verses that helps me get through the hard times and relates to racing is also imprinted on my Road ID:

But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I. AM. AN. IRONMAN. -- A Race Report from Ironman Texas 2013

My race number

I have been training for this race....Ironman....for a long time.  It was so time-consuming that I never even blogged about my training.  Well, I had an awesome race, so here's my race report.

For those of you who are wondering what an Ironman is,'s a triathlon that takes all day to complete.  It's a total of 140.6 miles, including 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, followed by 26.2 miles (yes, that's a marathon) of running.  This particular Ironman took place in The Woodlands, Texas (just north of Houston), or....also known as the surface of the sun.



My friend and training buddy, Brian, did this race in 2011.  He talked me into doing it this year as my first Ironman.  It is always nice to have someone with you who has done this all before.  The plan was that I was going to ride with Brian to The Woodlands on Thursday morning, then Clark would meet up with us on Friday.  I got the kids off to school Thursday morning and tried to finish packing.  I was a wreck.  My stomach was turning and in knots.  Brian texted me he was on the way, and I was just getting in the shower!  He said he was stopping for gas, so I had a few more minutes.  Still....eeek!  Finally, he arrived, we loaded up my bike and all my stuff, and we were off.

The drive over wasn't too bad.  We stopped once and followed a very SLOW road for what seemed like forever.  We finally made it and decided to go straight to Athlete Check-in.  The line wasn't long at all [thank goodness, because I think I may have thrown up if I had to wait any longer] and the volunteers were super nice and informative.  After signing my life away on the waiver, picking up my backpack, getting my wristband and timing chip, we were ready to go.  We skipped the shopping and went straight to the hotel.  I have never seen so many people in compression socks all in one place!  Man...we are dorks....wait until they see all the aero-helmets.  [As of this writing, I do not own compression socks or an aero-helmet]

Checking into the hotel was pretty funny.  Brian told me he had a bunch of Marriott points, and his wife had cashed them in.  They sent them to him on $25 gift cards.  Well, he had about $600 worth of gift $25 increments!  While the woman entered in all his gift cards, I checked in and continued to wait.  LOL!  She said she'd never had anyone with that many.  I raised my hands and yelled, "You win the prize, Brian!"  We finally got our keys and lugged all our stuff up to our rooms.  We were on the same floor, which was nice.  
When we got off the elevator, there was a sign that read: 

We busted out laughing because we thought it was a joke.  Later, we found out it wasn't a joke.  Someone had done that and set off the sprinkler system!

I'm official!
Margarita is official!

We headed out for a late lunch, then chilled out at the hotel until the banquet.  My friend, Christina, would be at the banquet, so I texted her, and we all met up.  The food was great, Mike Reilly was great, though I couldn't really understand anything anyone said because the acoustics in the banquet hall just weren't good.  I met Matt and Laura, who were both doing their first Ironman, and we talked to some other guys from different places at our table.  The banquet helped calm me down, and I was able to eat, though my stomach was still in knots.

Lake Woodlands....pretty calm now

Pre-Race Swim:
Brian, me, and Matt after the swim
Friday morning was the pre-race swim.  I was looking forward to this because I always feel better once I see the water I'll be swimming in.  We headed out around 8:00 and walked the mile to the swim start.  They had an 800m course set up.  I decided I was swimming the whole thing.  The water felt a little chilly getting in, but then it felt great.  The water temperature Friday morning was 75.8.  The talk all week was whether it would be a wetsuit-legal swim on race day.  On Thursday, it was 75ish in the morning but warmed up to 79 by 3:00 and it was cloudy.  On Friday, it was supposed to be sunny and hotter, so I was not expecting the water to be cool enough on Saturday morning since it had to be 76.1 or cooler.  The pre-race swim was nice.  I did see just how muddy the water was.  I could not see my hand in front of my face....or other's feet.  I got to get loosened up and I wasn't feeling as nervous.  Brian didn't swim long, so he had gotten my towel and bag for me when I got out.  We saw Matt as we were headed to the hotel.  He forgot his timing chip, so he didn't get to swim, but he's a swimmer, so he wasn't all that worried.  We then walked back to the hotel to get our bikes because bike check-in was next.

Bike Check-In:
I showered the lake water off and changed out of my wet clothes.  I made sure my bike gear bag and run gear bag were completely packed up, grabbed my bike, and headed out.  Transition was about a 7 minute walk from our hotel.  Brian and I walked down there, volunteers showed us to our spot and carried our bags for us.  We saw Christina when we dropped our gear bags off.  We all ended up going to lunch together, which was nice to relax.  After all that, we were back at the hotel for a while to relax.

Friday Evening:
'Twas the night before Ironman,
the bikes are all racked....
Clark left Austin around 3:30, so I expected him around 6:30.  Brian and I had decided we wanted to eat a bit early, and just sandwiches.  We headed out to eat around 6:00 and just went to Which Wich right next to the hotel.  We sat outside because it felt good in the shade.  Plus, we could watch for Clark.  There was a lot more hustle and bustle than on Thursday.  There was a Dave Matthews Band Concert at Cynthia Woods Pavilion next door and a prom at our hotel, plus we were across the street from the mall and movie theaters.  There were limos and all kinds of crazy stuff all around us.  Eventually, I spotted Clark's orange Mini Cooper and tried to direct him to the hotel.  After going in circles a few times, he finally found the entrance.  I took Clark and Carter to the place we had lunch and sat with them while they ate dinner.  We grabbed a few things at HEB, walked by transition, then, we went back to the hotel and got to bed.


I woke up around 4:00.  The Starbucks downstairs would be open at 5:00, but I made coffee in the room and started drinking that.  I got dressed in my Desoto 400-mile shorts and Desoto green tri top.  I ate a bagel with peanut butter, but I couldn't finish it.  I sipped on my coconut water mixed with Skratch.  I double checked my special needs bags and texted Brian a few questions.  At 4:45, the official water temperature was posted at 77.2, so I didn't need my wetsuit.  At 5:00, I headed downstairs.  Starbucks hadn't even opened the doors yet, and there was a LONG line already.  I headed back upstairs, made another cup of that not so great coffee (Clark does roast our own beans, so I'm kind of spoiled) and took it with me.  Brian and I headed to transition with our 3 bags to put nutrition on our bikes and pump up tires.  I met Caroline next to me, and she helped me with my tires.  We headed toward the swim early since it was a long walk.

When we arrived at the swim start, we both got body marked, then got in line for the port-a-potty.  The lines were long and slow.  Brian dropped off our special needs bags while I waited in line.  We waited close to 45 minutes and only had about 10 minutes to spare.  I started my Garmin but then decided to turn it off and start it later [this would prove to be a BIG mistake!].  We both peed and dropped our morning clothes bags then headed toward the water.

Getting in the lake to start the swim

As we were walking toward the water, I pushed the start button on my Garmin.  It just said "Garmin" on the screen and would never go to the satellite screen.  [PANIC!]  Brian said, "Don't worry.  It will work.  Sometimes it takes a while."  I gave it a few more minutes while walking into the water.  I turned it off and back on.  Still nothing.  I knew I didn't NEED that Garmin, but being Type A, it was really going to help me to have it.  I did a hard reset.  Then, I started it up.  It took a while, but I finally got the satellite bar 1 minute before the cannon went off.  I looked around.  I looked at all the people on the bridge behind us.  The start didn't seem as crowded as I imagined it.  Then.....BOOM!  We were off!  I pushed the start button and started swimming.

Boom...the cannon goes off and we're off!
Washing Machine
I anticipated the swim to be rough and slow.  It actually started out not so bad.  I was swimming relatively evenly, lifting my head often so I didn't run into anyone.  I noticed my Garmin was asking me if I was indoors and if I had moved 100s of miles, etc...  I just hit the enter button several times and kept swimming.  I was sure it was getting the time, I just hoped it would find satellites before I got on the bike.  Around 500m, it seemed to get a bit more crowded.  I breaststroked some just so I could navigate around people.  I wasn't getting kicked or punched or elbowed, which was good.  It was just crowded.  I forged ahead and it eventually cleared out again, and I was able to get back into a decent rhythm.  Eventually, I reached the first turn buoy, which I knew was roughly 1/3 of the way.  We swam left to the next turn buoy, turned left again, and started swimming back down the lake.  It spread out again, and I was able to swim pretty steady for a while.  No one was swimming straight, so I kept having to go around people, but I couldn't see them sometimes until I was on top of them.  Someone was grabbing my foot at one point, and I got kicked in the goggles about halfway back toward the waterway, but nothing major.  I had succeeded in not swallowing a lot of water [which was apparently a REALLY good thing...some were not so fortunate and paid for it later].  I was trying to swim downhill because I know my hips were low from all the sighting I was having to do to get around people.  As I approached the waterway, I heard something.  I realized it was a big group of people on my right cheering very loudly.

Swimmers swimming up the waterway
 I eventually made it into the waterway.  I was worried it would be super crowded because it was so narrow and only 4 feet deep, but surprisingly, I swam right up the middle.  The water was more like the ocean on this part because the waves were all crashing against the sides of the canal, BUT it was so narrow that most people were swimming straight, which meant I didn't have to sight as much.  I tried to get back into a rhythm, swimming downhill, breathing relaxed, stretching out my strokes.  

Carter waits for me to finish with his cowbells
I was having to turn over more to make sure I didn't get a mouth full of water every time I breathed, but I was fine.  I knew it was nearly a mile down the waterway.  I kept looking off to the left to see if I could spot Clark and Carter and looked for them on the bridge, but I never saw them.  There were LOTS of people lining the waterway.  It was so cool!  
That's me coming into the finish

Finally, I could see that last red buoy.  I knew I was almost there!  I made the left turn and swam to the volunteers who helped me out of the water.  I didn't even look at my watch until later, but my time was 1:26:01.  Goal was sub-1:30, so that was great!
Out of the water!!

I headed toward transition, grabbing my bike gear bag, then waited for the port-a-potty.  Once I took care of that, I headed into the changing tent.  There were rows of chairs and lots of volunteers.  Wow.  I plopped down in a chair and dumped out my bike bag.  I decided to keep my tri top on because the pocket was big enough to hold the nutrition I needed to put in there.  I put on sunscreen (something I will skip next time), then tried to get my Cool Wings on.  It's hard to get those on when you're wet.  I put on my socks, shoes, and helmet, stuffed everything else in the bag, and headed out.  12:00ish  [That time sure went by fast]

Headed out on the bike!
I love the bike.  I had studied the map and elevation, so I had a plan.  I knew I'd had a tailwind for the first half, and that it was a bit more uphill, so I planned to push a bit going out so I didn't have to into the wind coming back.  I knew the hills shouldn't be too bad, but I really wasn't sure since it is 112 miles.  I felt great and drank 1 bottle per hour of Perform plus a Gu and some Powerbar chews.  That was the plan.  At mile 20, I got a cramp in my right side.  This has happened before.  I thought maybe it was my asthma, so I pulled out my inhaler and took a few puffs.  It didn't seem to help much, but I let up a bit, and the cramp did get better.  At mile 35, there was a guy in a women's bikini bottom with a sign that said "Doubters can suck it" and another that said, "You are NOT almost there!"  That gave me a laugh.  At mile 40, I stopped to go to the bathroom again.  [That's good. I know I'm drinking enough]   Apparently, this was also the point when Christina passed me.  I was watching for her but never saw her.  At this point, it was starting to heat up as well.  I was grabbing water and squirting it on my cool wings....what a life-saver!  I knew once we headed into the wind at mile 65 it would get a bit harder, but it would also feel cooler.  The course was beautiful, but even with all the pine trees, it was still hot.  We did get some shade for a while, but a lot of people were starting to feel the heat.  At mile 60, I grabbed my special needs bag and got the 2 Gus out and headed back out.  I stopped at a few more aid stations just to rest my feet a bit and refill my bottle without having to try so hard on the move.  I was feeling fine, though.  My toes got a little achy a couple times, but I just started pulling up more on my pedals and wiggled my toes some, and the ache went away (thank goodness).

Relaxing for a moment
Going out, I was averaging better than 19mph, which was my goal.  I knew I'd slow down into the wind, but it wasn't as bad as I thought.  A LOT of guys had issues with the "hills" on the course.  It was a rolling course, but very SMALL rollers.  I was passing everyone on the uphills, especially the guys with disc wheels and aero-helmets, and I wasn't even trying that hard because I wanted to save some for the run.  Living in a hilly place and riding lots of hills definitely pays off when you ride a relatively flat course.  I never left my big ring....that is NOT a hilly course [others would say differently, though]  
Race Mode, but smiling  ;)

I was mostly surrounded by guys because spectators would yell, "You go girl!"  By mile 100, I swore if I had to drink another sip of warm lemon-lime Perform, I was going to puke!  I also knew I was almost there.  Most of the roads were VERY smooth.  That was another complaint I heard.  The chip seal didn't bother me at all because it was smoother than any chip seal I've ridden on.  It didn't phase me a bit.  After mile 100, we were back on the main road with very little shade and lots of cars.  I was ready to be done.  Near the end, we had cones, and our riding lane was petty narrow.  It made it hard to pass people, but I did anyway.  I made sure not to push too hard, but a lot of it was downhill, so my average speed went up near the end.  Finally, I was done!  6:10:52...18.1 mph...faster than my fastest estimate of 6:15 [that made up for that ridiculously slow transition].

I knew my friend Kathleen was going to be in the T2 changing tent, and as soon as I walked in, she saw me!!!  She dumped out my bag and asked if I was changing completely, and I said yes.  She helped me get changed, and I made sure I had what I needed in my pockets....and she pushed me out.  It took a while, but I predicted it would.  12:00ish [I gotta work on those transitions]

Running on the Waterway
The run has always been my nemesis.  I did not know what to expect.  I still could not wrap my mind around running 26.2 miles after all that I had done, but surprisingly, my legs felt great.  My stomach.....did not feel great.  I had experienced this some in training, so I knew it would hopefully get better after a couple miles.  I wasn't going to drink the sports drink at first, but at that first aid station, I was ready for another flavor, so I took it.  My plan never even got started to run 2 miles, walk break, drink, eat, run 2 miles, walk break, etc....  I just decided to walk at every aid station.  I ran some, walked some, ran some, walked some.  My stomach was on and off, so I did what I could.  I was off to a slow start, but I knew once I was able to run more, my pace would pick up.  I was trying to enjoy it, but not only was my stomach upset, my lower back was cramping.  I tried stretching it at the aid stations.  The first loop went by pretty quickly because it was all new.  It was really hot, but there was some shade on the course.  The volunteers were great.  I was putting ice in my sports bra at every aid station, pouring water on my head, and drinking what I could stomach.  I said something to a guy about my stomach, and he said I probably needed more salt.  I did not bring salt tabs because I have never needed them.  I was tempted to pick some up off the ground that people had dropped.  Eek!  In the new neighborhood part, the wind was at my back, and the sweat was in my eyes!  A guy offered his rag around his neck to me, which helped.  It was SO hot, and there was very little shade in that area.  Eventually, I came around to the waterway, which I knew was the best part of the course.  They weren't kidding.  People were everywhere cheering for you by name [our names were on our bibs].  I was hoping I wouldn't miss my family.  I was getting tears in my eyes as I ran down that waterway.  Then, I saw my brother up on the hill.  He asked how I was doing and said everyone was right up ahead on the hill.  I walked for a bit so that I could run past them.  I told him my stomach wasn't good, but I was doing o.k. I saw everyone with their signs and ran past them and gave high fives.  When I looped around the other side, they had moved over there.  That was a huge boost.  Then, I ran through the Moxie tunnel with guys in speedos dancing around all the runners.

The Moxie Multisport Cheering Squad

Now, for loop 2.  The 2nd loop is always toughest because it's the middle.  I ran the dirt path out and back, then walked up the embankment to the parking lot.  There was shade in the parking lot, so I started running again.  I was able to do a bit more running, but then my stomach really started hurting around mile 9.  I hit the bridge across to the swim start area in the sun and just had to walk.  I was thinking to myself, "This is going to be a long marathon."  I said a little prayer at that moment asking God to get me through this race and just give me the strength.  I knew only He could give me the strength I needed at that moment.  I walked longer than I wanted to, then tried to jog a little.  I approached the volunteers asking if we wanted our special needs bags and told them yes.  I knew I just had to run around the park to my special needs bag.  I was able to run slowly.  Once I got that bag, I sat down in the grass and took off my wet socks and changed into dry ones.  It felt great to sit down for a minute.  I had not thought about what to do with the socks I took off....those were my good socks.  I stuffed them in my tiny pockets in my running tank.  I grabbed the Gus and gummi bears and ate the 2 Pepto tablets I had in the bag and grabbed my rag that I planned to get wet and put on my neck.  I was stopped for a few minutes, which made that split really slow that my family and friends were a little worried.  At the next aid station, I drank some chicken broth.  Chicken broth has never tasted so good!  I quit drinking as much perform and drank more water and ate another Gu at mile 12.  My stomach was settling, but my back was killing me.  It was so cramped up that it felt like my stomach.  I discovered it hurt more when I walked, so I tried to run as much as my stomach would allow.  As a result, my overall pace picked up.  As I came around the waterway to complete loop 2, I saw my friend, Maggie!  I gave her a hug, and she told me I looked great.  
Carter running with me down the waterway
Then, I saw my family again.  My son, Carter, ran with me for a short distance, then he headed back to the family.  I was feeling a bit better, as the sun was getting lower, and some clouds were rolling in.  Again, the Moxie guys...this time one of them had pinwheels stuck in his speedo.  I was cracking up!!  I saw Kathleen again too!  She was really encouraging.  I then heard a woman say to her husband, "Come on, you only have 9 miles to can do that with your eyes closed!"  Another runner and I got a huge laugh out of that.....she has NO idea!

Feeling good on the run
Loop 3 was exciting.  I knew I had this.  I kept drinking chicken broth, which seemed to help the cramping and stomach.  I kept pouring water on my head for a while longer.  I saw a guy carrying his shoes and walking in his socks around mile 19.  He was on his 3rd lap as well.  His friend urged him to keep going and walk with me.  I asked him if he had blisters.  He said yeah, and I told him to go to the next med tent he came to because they would have something.  Poor least he was on the last loop.  I walked with another guy around mile 20 or 21 who said this was his first race....ever.  He looked like he was in his 50s.  I asked him why he signed up for an Ironman as his first race, and he said his brother is 18 years younger, and they were both doing it.  He looked good.  He was still on his first lap, but he said the swim about killed him.  ;)  He was running and walking, and I knew he'd finish.  He was being smart.  The glow sticks and lights were on the trails at this point, so it was going to start getting dark.  Clouds had rolled in, which was also nice.  Eventually, I was running/walking with Julie from Ohio.  She was in T2 with me.  This was her 4th Ironman.  We chatted for a while and went back and forth, but I eventually ran past her as well.  I was getting faster and faster as the sun got lower and the miles flew past.  When I hit mile 23, I could taste the finish line, and I was ready to be there.

The Finish:
As I approached the waterway the 3rd time, I knew this was the home stretch.  I hit mile 24, and I just started running.  I decided I was going to run and run and run.  I saw my family on the other side of the waterway as I passed.  I could tell they were impressed I was running.  I was smiling from ear to ear, running past everyone, taking in the crowds of people watching me fly down the waterway, and getting tears in my eyes again just thinking about what I was doing.  I'm about to be an Ironman!!!!  I knew I had to go down and up and around then another down and back on the other side before heading to the finish line.  I decided to take one last walk break before mile 25 so I could really finish strong.  There was a nice breeze, and I knew the last out and back was cool because it was shaded all day.  When I saw that MILE 25 marker, I was ecstatic!  I saw Kathleen again on my way out for that last little out and back, and she said I looked great.  I started running and running, passing everyone in my path.  
Almost there!

Running down the finish chute
I was smiling so big!  I know people were smiling back, but I didn't see them.  I heard them calling my name, though.  That last 1.2 miles was the longest 1.2 miles I have ever run!!!  
Right before I hit the finish line
When I hit the finish chute, I couldn't believe I had finally made it and was feeing great.  The out and back finish chute was a little mean, though, especially with a slight uphill going into the finish.  As I approached the finish, I didn't see my family because 1. there were blinding lights in my face and 2.    I was concerned someone was going to get in my finish photo.  
There was a guy in front of me, but when he stopped to hug someone, I ran past him and finished all by myself.  

I could hear Mike Reilly calling out others' names, but it was so loud at the finish line that I had to strain to hear over the crowd:  "Kelli Hughes from Cedar Park, Texas, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!"
You. are. an. Ironman!

Run time: 5:27:25

Total time: 13:28:50


Jennifer was my volunteer at the finish line.  She was awesome...took my stuff for my picture, made sure I got what I needed, I pointed out my family and told her this was my first Ironman, etc...  I met back up with the family, took some pictures, picked up my morning clothes bag, ran into Julie while doing that, then headed back to the hotel.

I spotted my family -- I did it!!

What a day!  I did not realize the temperature climbed to 96 with a heat index of 100.  There were LOTS of people who did not finish probably because of the extreme heat.  I honestly didn't feel the heat as much as I thought I would.  My ranking was much higher than I thought it would be, especially my run, which was my best of the 3 overall.  Apparently, average times were 22 minutes slower this year compared to last year.
Ironwoman right after the race

My cheering posse (mom, brother, dad, son) with their signs
Me with Clark and Carter
Finisher's certificate
This was such an awesome experience.  I'm sure I'll have more reflections later.  I do want to thank God, first.  Then, I'd like to thank everyone who encouraged me, trained with me, and believed in me.  I could have never done this without each and every one of you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sole Sisterhood.  That's what our shirts say.  The back says, "Friends to the Finish."  This is my friend and awesome running partner, Jen, and me in San Antonio when we ran the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in November.  We bought these shirts at the Expo because we're cheesy like that (and the shirts are super cute and soft!)  Jen has asked us to link up with something about sisterhood.  The first thing that came to mind was this picture.

Don't we look like rockstars?  LOL!  This photo captures sisterhood on so many levels.  Our sisterhood runs deep, Jen and me.  Of course, we run together.  We run MANY miles together training for marathons and whatever else we decide to run.  We are sisters but also friendly competitors.  Our running sisterhood means we encourage each other, train together, complain together, pour out our hearts to each other, push each other, make each other laugh, and make excuses for why a run wasn't our best.  :)  We provide each other with a little friendly competition, yet we drag the other one out into 18 degree weather to get that last long run in before the race.  Yeah, that's sisterhood.

Our sisterhood began when we met, both 6-7 months pregnant with our last child, attending the Mom's Group at our church.  You see, Jen's daughter is just 3 weeks younger than my son.  They were baptized together.  My son claims her as his girlfriend.  They had a bond before they were born.  Jen and I have since discovered many other things we have in common besides running.  Her father-in-law married both of us, her parents got divorced after the same number of years my parents did, our mothers both live in town, we both had the same first car, we're both type A, we had the same wedding photographer, and we're Christians.  We even kind of look alike as far as hair color, eye color, height, and shoe size.  We were destined to be sisters in Christ.

There are many ways we are not alike...she's younger....she's an introvert....she's a much better writer than me.....and a faster runner.....

but these things do not affect our sisterhood.

It isn't the things we have in common that make a sisterhood.  Those things bring us together initially, but it's the times and words we share with one another that really bond us.  This is true for any sisterhood.

Linking up with Jen

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ipod Malfunction or Divine Intervention?

First of all, do you know how hard it is to take a picture of an ipod with a point and shoot camera?  
That's the best I could get.  Geez!

I didn't know what to blog about yesterday.  Then I went for a run.  

My ipod has been on the fritz lately.  If you've used an ipod, you know that the play/pause button (at the bottom of the circle) is the same button you use to turn it off.  Well, mine often doesn't want to turn off.  Yesterday, it wouldn't play, pause, or turn off with that button.  It got stuck on, and the only way I could get it off was to put it in the dock.  Bizarre, I know.  I can use the menu button to get to the playlist I want, and I can push the center button to start it, but turning it off is another feat altogether when that bottom button doesn't work.

Needless to say, I had a slow start to my run by the time I got it to work (and by golly I was going to run with music even if it was only 5 miles!)  It was cold, sunny, crisp, perfect running weather.  I was wearing my running capris that have a zipper in the back, where I keep my ipod.  I used to listen to my playlist from the beginning each time, but I've been putting it on shuffle lately.

As I ran, a song came on that I wanted to skip.  So, I reached back and felt for the skip button in the pocket while running and wearing gloves.  If you have ever tried doing this, it is quite a feat, and if you actually push the right button, it's a miracle.  I pushed it, and it quickly skipped to the next song.  Yay!  I don't have to stop running.  The next song that came on was a Christian song.  I didn't think anything of it until the next 5 songs that came on were Christian songs.

What is going on?  Did I switch to a different playlist?  Or is God somehow controlling my ipod?

As you can see from the photo of a snippet of my running playlist on my ipod, I do not have a high percentage of Christian songs on my running playlist.  I thought I had somehow switched to my "Christian Music" playlist.  Because I didn't want to stop running, I just kept on.  I didn't mind the music, but I knew it would start to repeat after a while.  At my halfway point, I saw two of my friends biking up a steep hill, and I stopped to cheer them on.  Because I had stopped, I pulled out my ipod to check the playlist.  It said Kelli's Running at the top, and just to be sure, I hit the center button.  It started playing a Christian song that had already played, so I skipped it, and it played ANOTHER one!

Really?  Is this what you mean by focus?  I thought I'd get at least a few days to ponder it before putting it into practice.

Eventually, the original song that I skipped came on, and I decided to delete that song from my playlist. Other songs came on after that, but I only had 15 minutes left of running.

Whether it was God or not, it made me think.  There are many facets of my life where I can make more room for God or just use Him as my lens instead of the world.  I also realized how much harder this focus thing is going to be than I thought!  Ugh.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Now that I've chosen a word for 2013, I need to figure out exactly how to carry it out.  So, I started, of course, by going to Wikipedia, and looking up the word focus.  Here is what it says:

Focus (cognitive process), selectively concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things
Focus (optics), a point toward which light rays are made to converge
Focus (linguistics), a concept referring to the way information in one phrase relates to information that has come before
Focus (earthquake), an earthquake's underground point of origin or hypocenter
Focus (geometry), a focus of a conic section

Hmmmmm....a convergence.  That's what happens through a convex lens or when a cone comes to a point.

Naturally, I looked up convergence.

Convergence (logic), the notion that a sequence of transformations come to the same conclusion, no matter what order they are performed in
Convergence (mathematics), refers to the notion that some functions and sequences approach a limit under certain conditions

The same conclusion no matter what.  Approaching a limit under certain circumstances.

Well, I know my "conclusion" is God.  Focusing on Him will make things clear.  I think about a cone or light rays converging.  If you turn that around, you have spreading.  What if focusing on God will conclude in the spreading of focus to other areas of my life?  Maybe I just need to change my lens once in a while.  If I get too focused on any one thing besides God, I reach a limit.  I ignore other things around husband.....the friends....
Instead, I need my focus to be more like an earthquake's hypocenter.  Focus on God so that focus can branch out to all areas of my life.  Then, everything will be in focus around that one central subject.  It's o.k. to have portions of the photo out of focus because that creates interest, but you don't want all your photos to look like that.  Usually the entire photo is in focus when photographing landscapes.  A good photographer has many lenses and plays with the focus on each photo taken depending on the final product they are going for.

I want to be a good photographer in my life.  That means I must have many lenses and learn to change my focus frequently depending on the outcome I want to achieve.  There is always some focus, though.  A completely blurry photo is worthless.  I feel like a lot of my life "photos" lately have just been blurry without a focus or with the wrong thing in focus.  It's time to change that.

I'm sure I'm over-thinking this and it will be something else I haven't even thought of, but that's where I'm starting.

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's been 10 months, but I'm going to try to get back at this blogging thing:

So, I did it.  I succumbed to the pressure of the blogging world to choose one word for 2013.  I had been thinking about it, then my friend Jen, who happens to lead my Bible study, had us all choose a word today during our Bible Study Open House.  

Many words were flying around my head....
but the word focus kept coming back.  Not just the word.  Pictures too.  I never see pictures.  I'm always envious of those who pray and see visions.  Today I saw a vision.  It was a camera lens focusing on different parts of the frame.  First, the foreground, then the background, then a particular subject.  It then bounced around to my husband, my children, my training, the housework, and of course, GOD.  

So, I've chosen focus as my one word for 2013.  I know this is the word because I have a hard time focusing day to day as well as just balancing everything in my life.  I feel like I really need to pay attention to where my focus is.  It needs to be on God first and foremost, but can I have other focuses?  Once I know where my focus should be, I am very efficient and very productive.  It's finding the focus that's the problem.  I tend to only be able to focus on one thing at a time very well.  

Whether it is right in front of me, like the women's retreat I am currently planning....

Or farther away, like the Ironman I am training for in May....

I seem to do o.k. with one or two things at a time.  I seem to do well with things that require checklists. Things where there are expectations from other people besides my family.

I don't always do well with the day to day relationship with my husband, my kids, keeping up with the housework.  If I put my primary focus on God, I think it will be easier to focus on multiple facets in my life and keep everything in focus.

So, that's my word.  I have a feeling it's going to be a lot harder than I think.

Linking up with Jen and the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Imperfect Beauty

The beauty of an imperfect mother of pearl on my "mother" pendant

This weekend, I attended our church's women's retreat along with 80 other amazing women from my church ranging in age from 18 to 80.  It was a fantastic weekend of relaxation, laughter, and inner reflection.  The theme of this year's retreat was "Honoring the Everyday You".  We participated in several activities to get to know others and to get to know ourselves better.  A couple times we did a writing loop after hearing a poem.  We even did a listening exercise and came to realize we all have to work on our listening skills.  So, what did I gain from this weekend?

First, the obvious was that I really learned to appreciate the women that surround me.  I appreciate them not just because they are fun to be with and are so supportive, but also because they are all so uniquely themselves.

I came to realize my own unique qualities, even the ones I don't like, are part of who I am.  That is who God created me to be.  I am beautifully and wonderfully made.  Right?  Um...well, o.k.

I began to realize how critical I am of myself sometimes.  I demand perfectionism more often than not, and I don't always feel content with who I am or what I'm doing.  This weekend taught me that there is no perfect (OK, I already knew that, but I always need reminders).

I started thinking about the things I am passing to my children, such as values and the way they see themselves.  I do not want them to see the imperfections, but I know like all of us, they will.  My hope is that I can help them to see the beauty and not compare themselves to others as I have always done.

I also learned a hard lesson in giving up control.  So, the week leading up to this weekend, I got a sinus infection on Monday, went to the doctor and got an antibiotic.  Then, I got a migraine Tuesday night so bad I vomited and didn't get much sleep.  Wednesday afternoon, my son came home from school, played with his friends for about and hour, then he came home and said he didn't feel good and threw up in the entryway.  Ugh.  He was throwing up for 8 hours (until midnight), so again, I got very little sleep.  My son stayed home from school on Thursday.  I finally got a decent night's sleep, though.  I was leaving Friday for the retreat, and was finally feeling better from everything.  Saturday night of the retreat, I started feeling bad and ended up throwing up as well.  Ugh.  My body ached all over, so I didn't sleep well at all.  When I finally got home Sunday, I went to my room and took a 4 hour nap.  I was so exhausted.  I'm thankful my kids were able to play at the neighbor's house.

I wanted so much for it to be the perfect weekend.  Instead, I get a stomach bug.  That was completely out of my control.  You know what, though?  It did not ruin the whole weekend.  I still had a great time and got a lot from the retreat.  I was even able to go on a bike ride with a couple friends on Saturday afternoon during our free time.

I surrendered control, and I really didn't miss anything at the retreat.  I felt well enough to go to the Sunday morning session and worship service.  So many people asked how I was feeling on Sunday.  I felt so loved.

God knew just what I needed.  He knew I needed to feel loved because I had started to doubt myself while doing some of the activities.  I was realizing I am unique, but I also felt in some ways I did not measure up.  I was feeling inadequate.  Not worthy.  I was comparing myself to others, and I knew that was not what I was supposed to be doing.

You see, I'm a very competitive person.  I think that's something my kids have also inherited from me, unfortunately.  I always made straight As, never got in trouble, strived to be the BEST in everything (from band to sports).  It was hard for me to accept that I was not good at something.  I've gotten better in that area, but it still comes out.  So, when we started a project at the retreat where we traced our body on a large piece of paper then decorated it, I had to remind myself that it was NOT a competition!  LOL!

My "Me Paper"

As I looked around the room at all the "Me Papers," I really started to see how very unique everyone is.  Not only were the body shapes different, but everyone went about decorating in a very different way.  Some got really artistic using fabric and paints to clothe their body shape and others like me just cut out words from a magazine and did a collage.  Some covered the entire paper and others had only a few things on theirs.  Some were excited about the project and others were apprehensive and overwhelmed by it.  And one woman, who was actually our speaker last year, had nothing on hers because she couldn't find any glue!!  LOL!  She decided hers was blank because she was open to new opportunities.  :)

I asked God to show me what I needed to learn from the weekend, and He did.  He showed His mercy and grace through all those around me.  He allowed me to give up control and be taken care of by others.  He helped me realize my unique qualities, good and bad, and how those qualities make me who I am.

He also helped me to realize I am worthy, and that worth is not measured by earthly measurements or comparisons.  It doesn't matter if my kids are well-behaved, or if I don't work outside the home, or if my house is not perfectly clean, or if I don't have a flat stomach, or if I talk too much, or if I'm not as funny as the woman next to me, or if I don't feel as smart, or if I sometimes forget God.

I will always be worthy to Him.  He will always offer me His love, mercy, and grace.  I just need to be ready to accept it.

Linking up with Jen and Soli Deo Gloria at Finding Heaven Today:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Austin Livestrong Marathon Race Report

Shirt and Finisher's Medal

Well, I did it. I completed my second marathon, along with my good friend and running partner, Jen. If you aren't a runner, you may think doing a second one isn't as big a deal as the first (or you may just think I'm completely crazy for actually doing that again!). Well, the first marathon is pretty sweet, but if you are a competitive person like I am, the second one is even sweeter. The reason is that you run your first marathon just to finish. Well, o.k. I still had a goal time for the first one, but I still just wanted to finish. The second marathon (or any other distance) is all about getting a PR (personal record). There are lots of factors that go into getting that PR. First, the training, which is something we can totally control. We trained harder this time than last time, running faster overall, and running many more weekly miles and lots more long runs. The training was 6 months long. We knew we were better prepared and at a much higher fitness level than we were 2 years ago. Second, staying healthy and not getting injured. We train smart, but things can happen, so we have some control, but not total control. I actually ended up with a slight ankle injury about 3-4 weeks ago. I stayed off the ankle some but eventually started running on it, and it was touch and go. Then, I had a week at Disney World walking all day everyday, and that really helped. Praise God! Third, the last thing that can actually make or break a race -- weather. That is something we CANNOT control. We ended up with the most perfect weather! So, we were set up for a great race.


We went together to pick up our packets downtown on Saturday. It had been raining all night. It was a bit chilly and still cloudy with scattered thunderstorms. We drove around trying to find a parking spot so we wouldn't have to pay to park. We finally found one and walked in for our packets. We got our packets, exchanged our shirt sizes, and walked around the expo a little while looking at running apparel and tasting free samples of energy food and drinks. The race shirt is probably the best one I've ever gotten. It has the map of the course on the front with all these cute labels. VERY cool!

The shirt


So, I'm sure you now want to know how I did and all the grueling details about the race. Well, my time at my first marathon was 4:27:44. Since I really wanted to stay under 4:30, I was happy, BUT I wasn't happy that I slowed down so much the second half of the race and that I wasn't able to stay with Jen. We really thought we could run it in 4:15. So, this time I wanted to make sure I didn't go out too fast so that I could maintain the pace for the whole race. I knew we had a LONG uphill climb starting at mile 9-10 and going to mile 19, then we'd get to go downhill to the finish. So, I knew we had to be careful not to push too hard on the uphill. We set our goal time at 4:15, but we thought 4:10 was in reach. So, we set out at a pace that would have us finish in 4:10. Our plan was to run with the pacers, but we couldn't find them at the start, so we just ran the pace we thought was right, according to my Garmin.


We got downtown about 1 hour before race time and got the BEST parking spot -- very close to the finish line. We had to walk a few blocks to the start, so we starting walking and found the port-o-potties before the lines got too long. Then, we found where we were supposed to start and got out of the wind. It was pretty chilly. While we were standing around, a guy that I used to work with 10 years ago was standing right next to us. What are the chances? I talked to him for a while, then it was finally time to actually line up. The National Anthem was sung, then they started us. It took us over 8 minutes to actually get to the start line, as there were 18,000 runners (most were running the half marathon). Only 1427 females ran the full marathon!

MILES 1-18 (the uphill climb):

We started out great, not too fast, considering there was some downhill. Then, we had a bit of a climb for 3 miles and slowed down just a tad. Then, we had 3 miles downhill where we made up some time. At that point, we came back toward downtown, and there were SO many spectators screaming and yelling and cheering. It was so awesome! The Livestrong Team was so great! Once we left the crowds, though, we were headed to the dreadful 10 mile climb. We had just reached the 1/3 mark (2/3 to go!), though, so that felt good! Shortly after our climb started, the half marathoners broke off. I was thinking, "Wow, they have less than 2.5 miles to go! Sure would be nice!" At that point, I still felt pretty good, as we were almost to mile 12 (almost halfway). I knew our families would be camped out around mile 18 or so. I also knew the downhill started at mile 19. That kept me going. I did pray several times because I'd feel a twinge in my ankle or my hip that I've been having issues with. It felt like it took forever to get to our families because it was all uphill. I thought we'd never get there! Jen was pulling ahead of me just slightly, but she is a tad stronger than me on the uphills, and I usually speed up on the downhills. I knew if I kept her in sight, I'd be able to catch her once we headed downhill.

Our Families Waiting to Cheer for Us!

We finally reached our families. We smiled for pictures as we ran by and gave high fives to the kids. Jen was probably 15 seconds in front of me. I thought I was never going to get to a downhill. We had literally been running uphill for 10 miles with very few flats or downhills. Finally, just past mile 19, I saw the downhill grade. It wasn't much, but it wasn't uphill!!! That was huge for me mentally. I knew from running my first marathon that the last 10K was the hardest part of the entire race. Not only are you physically tired and your legs are burning, but you are mentally tired, and it's really hard to stay in the race mentally.

Jen at Mile 18

Me at Mile 18

MILES 18-20 (seeing our family and starting downhill):

I have to be honest here. The marathon distance is not my best best distance. It is not my favorite race. For me, it is mostly mental. I knew I had to stay in the race mentally. At mile 18 or so, right before I got to the downhill, I was thinking, "Why am I doing this? This is NOT fun!" I knew that was not the right thing to be thinking. I knew if I caught up to Jen, we could lift each other up, and I'd just gain a little confidence. I felt like she wasn't slowing at all and I was. I walked at a water station and watched her run through it, so she gained on me even more. When I crossed the 20 mile timing mat, I was about 30 seconds behind her, which was the farthest I had fallen behind. So, I was determined not to let that gap get any bigger. I just tried to get into a groove and keep an even pace. I had to tell myself to stick to my heart rate and not listen to how much my legs hurt. I got into my music and just kept on going. One of my Christian songs came on, and I just let it take me through the next few minutes of running.

MILES 21-23 (the downhill, but very hard part):

Just before mile 21, I was gaining on Jen (because it was now downhill). Then, she started walking. I was in a groove, so I actually ran right past her! I didn't even turn to her because I knew she'd see me and start running. I knew my passing her would give her some motivation. I also knew she'd catch me and probably pass me. Good thing we are both competitive. I kept thinking, we've trained together and we started this thing together, so we're going to finish this thing together. Well, she did catch me pretty quickly, and we ran together for a bit. Then, I ended up having to walk, and she gained on me again. Then, we were both running about the same pace for a while, walking a bit at water stations, when she walked again when I didn't. This time, I ran up to her, and she looked back, and I said, "I'll walk with you." Believe me, I was ready to walk. She said, "Do you want to just run together to the end?" I nodded. That's all I had the energy to do.

MILES 23-26.1:

I don't remember at what point that was, but I'm pretty sure it was right around mile 22-23. Up to that point, the miles seemed to pass slowly. At mile 21, I remember thinking 5 miles seemed like a lot more. At mile 23.5, the pacers we planned to run with passed us. We both looked at each other and shrugged. That was our super fast goal time, and they had just passed us with only 2.7 miles to go. I actually felt good about our race at that point. I knew we had slowed a bit, but not that much. We ran side by side, walking when we needed to for the next mile. When we got to the University of Texas campus, it was pretty flat. Jen seemed to be pushing hard, and I was really struggling. I couldn't catch my breath, but my HR monitor wasn't working right, so I couldn't tell what my HR was. I knew it was HIGH, though. She looked over at me and was worried. I told her I was o.k., but I really needed to walk. We only had 2 miles to go, and I hated to walk, but I really needed to! We walked a bit, then we started running again at a decent pace. I knew there was an uphill right before the finish line, so I was preparing for it. Once we hit mile 25, I kept telling myself, "just another 10 minutes of running--1 more mile". That was the longest mile ever!

Jen and me running up the last hill 500m before the finish line
(Can you see the forced smiles?)


We started up the hill, but we finally decided to walk. Our legs were just not going to take it. Then, we saw our families near the top of the hill. We decided to start running because they would be taking pictures of us. We smiled, but that's NOT how we felt (except that we knew we were almost to the end). They were 500m from the finish line. There were signs every 100m from there to the finish. That was the longest 500m I have ever run in my life. Jen pulled ahead slightly, and I just couldn't catch her, but I was SO happy with my race. I was so happy I didn't let the marathon distance beat me mentally like it did the first time. I didn't run even splits, but they were much more even than at my first marathon.

My final finish time was 4:11:40, 16 minutes and 4 seconds faster than my first marathon. Jen beat me by 6 seconds and picked up a 9 minute PR herself.

The finisher's medal


We were both SO happy with our time, but we were SO tired! We staggered through the finish chute picking up Gatorade, chips, bananas, and other stuff people handed to us. We were both so done mentally we couldn't think. I literally staggered over to get my medal. I kind of stared at the woman at first, wondering what she wanted with that medal she was holding. LOL! We went over and got our official finisher photo taken. We tried to stretch a bit, but we really just wanted to keep walking. We had to walk a LONG way to meet back up with our families, but we eventually made it and just collapsed on the grass to rest for a while.

Sitting on the Capitol Lawn

Now we're standing

Doing the Supergirl pose (and that's all the energy we had left)


All in all, it was an incredible race! After training for so long, it is nice to have a happy ending. I have to thank God for getting me through. There were times throughout the race where I just asked Him to carry me through, and He did. I knew I could not do it without Him. I have several verses I think of that get me through. I could also not do it without all the spectators who came out to cheer everyone on. Austin is such a great city like that. It was cold, but they were still out there cheering. One guy was doing back flips on a trampoline in his front yard, others were passing out Kleenex and Vaseline, others held clever funny signs and would move along the course so you'd see them multiple times, and others just called out your name (our names are on our race bibs). It is so cool to hear your name called out by someone you don't even know. I could also not do it without the support of my husband (thanks for taking the great pictures, honey) and my best running friend ever -- Jen!!!

Oh, and you're probably asking, "Are you going to run another marathon?" You'll have to ask me again once I can walk normally. ;) Right now, I don't think I ever want to do that again!

Linking up with Jen:

Finding Heaven