Thank you.

I wanted to post this on Facebook, but it got too long… so here it is. My emotions are running high this week (and today I’m hopped up on Sudafed, because of course I would get sick this week), but you can be assured that I mean every word.

As this deployment comes to a close, I want to thank everyone immensely for all your support and prayers throughout this time. While I’ve stayed busy and managed to hold down the fort (sometimes it felt like just barely), I could not have done it without your support.

A special thanks goes out to my adopted El Paso family who have taken me in as their own for holidays and just because, laughed with me, cried with me, run with me, served youth with me, enjoyed a coffee, lunch, or sushi date, prayed with me, gone camping in Ruidoso, taken me to or picked me up from the airport, come for me when I got lost in the New Mexican desert on a trail run, inculcated me into Mexican culture (always a dream for this former Spanish teacher), and taught this huera some border slang. 😉

When we moved here three years ago, it was the first time I’d moved more than 15 miles away from both our families. I knew that we’d find a church and make friends, but I never could have imagined the amazing relationships that would be grown as brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have gone (even more) crazy without my church family. And that’s why I encourage anyone who moves away to find a church right away. If anything, it’s just a great place to find great people who will surround you with optimism and encouragement.

Thank you also to my sister Leah (and nephew Benjamin!), my friend Jackie, my Aunt Brenda, and my cousin Anita who spent time and money to visit while Aaron was gone.. I enjoyed counting down to your arrival, and the airport became one of my favorite places in El Paso. Those times are unforgettable. The best part? I got each of you all to myself. 😉

This separation has been rough, but adversity can build character if you let it. From my perspective, it’s been the most difficult of all the separations, and I pray to God it’s the last, at least for awhile. I’ve learned to take things to Him in prayer right away. I’ve learned to dive into His Word and intercede for my friends and family. As amazing as friends are, no one can be everything to you all the time. I’ve learned to put my trust in God, the only one who can really comfort us.

I just could not imagine this journey without you all, especially those in El Paso, suffering together in the desert :p. No matter what the future holds, my life has been forever changed by your obedience to “love each other deeply” as the Lord commands.

El Paso Half & Week 2 of 50K Training

Subtitle: The last race I will run alone for awhile on the last weekend I’ll be alone for awhile.

Let me just start by saying I am beat. I just woke up from a nap where I napped really hard.. and man, I’m sore and thirsty and still hungry.. and I didn’t even run the full.

Today’s race originally started out for me as the marathon. Then I dropped down to the half after it was clear that I was not in the mindset for training for the full. I was even thinking about not going today.. but glad I did.

Going to races alone is weird. I know plenty of people who did the race, even the half, but I still ended up just going there on my own and getting it done. I’ve been to enough races (alone and with people) that I’m kind of desensitized to the whole experience. A couple years ago I never would have gotten in line to use the portajohn 10 minutes before the start. Today I did. A couple years ago I never would have not taken pictures along the route. Today I didn’t. People, I was busy running. 😉

Anyway. About the half. The weather was pretty nice for this time of year.. it wasn’t too cold and it wasn’t windy for most of the run. I still prefer to start in the dark because by the time I turned the corner towards the end the sun was like, RIGHT THERE. And even in February that sun’ll getcha.

I started out slow, around 11:00 pace. I was not planning on PR’ing because I had just run 8 miles on Friday and did not recover like I should have for a race. I ate well last night, but I sure didn’t drink enough water or foam roll like I normally would. However, a competitive (masochistic?) spirit rose up in me around mile 4 because I felt great. I pushed it right along through the hills and mile 9. Every time I saw a hill, I smiled to myself. I know what those are. I know what form I need to get to the top without exhausting myself. I got it done. Then mile 9 hit and I just lost steam. Mile 12 was my slowest at 12:05. The bottoms of my feet hurt, which I attribute to tying my shoes too tight. My whole body was just sore and stiff, my upper body and hips especially. I fought some big side stitches. (I have to figure out fueling during the run!)

I knew at that point that I wasn’t going to PR (I would have had to beat 2:19:17, set at the Ft. Bliss Half in 2012, a race I also wasn’t prepared for) so I let myself just sink into slowing down and riding it out until the end. I crossed the line at 2:22:51, only three minutes slower than Transmountain in October. Still a respectable time.

A problem with me going to races alone is that I get disoriented easily. I know El Paso’s downtown well enough to not wander into Mexico, but I couldn’t remember where the parking garage was. And when I got there, I wandered around looking for my car. It’s old enough that there’s no key fob to help me find its little chirp, so I have to rely on my memory. Hard thing, that is. 😉 I am so blonde sometimes it scares me.

Overall I’m happy with my performance. I pushed too hard in the middle for a race I wasn’t prepared for. But I knew I wasn’t prepared for it. I’m happy that I got my Sunday long run in, and with 2,000 of my closest friends to boot. 🙂

So, 50K training for the week looks like this:

Total miles: 29, not shabby!

Monday: 4 miles

Wednesday: 4 miles

Friday: 8 miles that felt AWESOME. Man it was a fantastic run. I got up feeling sick and tired and achy but it turned out to be the best run in awhile.

Sunday: 13 miles

I skipped the hill run.. still not ready to add the 5th run in there. This training is only two weeks along and I was doubting. Doubting myself and how in the world I’m going to be able to run 31 miles on trails in the mountains and not get lost, much less run at a decent pace. It’s a trippy feeling for sure, but I remember feeling the same way while training for the marathon in 2011.

You have to trust the training and even when you don’t want to run, do it anyway. I am here to say that you’ll never regret a run. Ever. I realized that the only thing (barring injury) stopping me from becoming an ultrarunner is myself.

Approaching homecoming

Shoot, guys. It’s coming up fast. According to my nifty countdown app, we are at 4% left. However, do not be fooled by my technological prowess, friends. I do have a calendar on the wall and I’ve been crossing off days with a Sharpie since I hung it up January 1.

Before we actually went through a deployment, I had all these media-fed ideas of what it would be like. Some of it has come to pass, like the uncertainty of dates, dropped Skype calls, and crazy math to figure out differences in time zones. But some of it won’t be like what you see on TV, or even from homecoming pictures and videos (which, btdubs, make me bawl my eyes out). For us it’ll be different because of the nature of his mission over there. There won’t be a huge ceremony or large formations (thank GOD)… we’re not hiring a photographer… he didn’t wear multi-cam… no skanky dresses (at least not for me!)… I’m not making glittery signs with questionable verbiage about the nature of the first night together. The moment will be more private and mostly ours. I keep thinking I’ll pick him up in the middle of the night, but who knows.

I’ve been in an emotional vacuum for these last couple months as far as the anticipation of homecoming. After you’ve been through long separations like this, you learn to shut off that part of yourself. It’s good, really, because anything else is just a roller coaster, and you save yourself from potential disappointment. But now that we’re getting so close, my emotions are sputtering to life.

For us, and for lots of military couples out there, life will be all different but the same all at once. I can’t just drop my whole life in order to reacclimate my husband to our life stateside. It’s a strange feeling, because I had always pictured being able to just fall off the face of the planet during block leave. But that’s not even an accurate picture of life. Life has been going on despite the distance… actually, lots has been going on since he left in May… daresay the most important parts of the past few years that we’ve lived here. It’s hard when you realize that there are large chunks of your marriage that you haven’t shared with each other. I can barely put in words what it’s like to be married and be “one” and all that, but at the same time not be “one.” It’s a very strange feeling. Like phantom limbs.

In the end part of reintegrating into life together is accepting that the other person has had experiences, good or bad, that have shaped them throughout the separation… experiences that you will never get to go through with them. Another part is for me to realize that I won’t have to do everything on my own anymore. I don’t have to take out the trash all the time, or call customer service, or vacuum (can you tell which “jobs” are his?). And while from the outside it may look like it’s easy to let him do those things again, there’s a defiant and resistant part of me that says, “I can do it myself!”

I like the woman I’ve become throughout this deployment. I’ve become more stable emotionally (we’ll see if that sticks…), I’ve learned to take things to God in prayer right away… I’ve learned to just take most things in stride. I’ll be 28 in April and I feel like I’m better, more of who I’ve wanted to become. If that makes any sense. I feel different this time around; definitely more at peace and less anxious.

I want to be able to be that woman when life is complete again. The problem with love and marriage and relationships is that there are emotions… a lot of them. I’ve been so used to being alone, living alone, that sometimes I just don’t react to things that I normally would have if he were here… there’s no one to immediately react to my reactions (unless I call or text a friend), so then it seems silly to react, ya know? And the dog, well, she just looks at me with her enormous, ridiculously buggy eyes and she just gets it. No explanation needed. But even though there will be someone here with me, the someone, I hope I can still have self-control about certain things.

March is going to be a busy month, and we won’t even be together for half of it. That’s right, not even half. He needs to see our family, and I will still be in the middle of the semester and then traveling to Portland to present my research. April and May will also be busy months.. but I’m hoping that after graduation, things can settle back in to normal life, whatever the eff that is. That is, of course, unless we move. 😉 See? Always on the go. Never a dull moment.

Anyway.. I just needed to get some thoughts out so I can go to sleep in peace. There were far too many voices in my head. And now I’ll get all comfy in my bed with the dog… poor thing doesn’t know what’s coming, and I don’t have the heart to tell her. 😉

Jemez Mtn 50K Training: Week 1

Welcome to my chronicles of 50K training, the craziest and longest race I will run so far. I wrote weekly updates when I ran the Illinois Marathon in 2011 (three years already?!) and it gave me something to look back at and see how I was progressing more than just looking at my Nike+ app.

This week was hard. I took about two weeks off of scheduled, ordered running. I gave blood at the beginning of January, and I knew that it would take me weeks to feel good running again. I won’t give again until this race is over. I’ve kept up my fitness for the most part, and so I can still run 10+ miles without any major issues.

The training schedule, which is mostly time-based, calls for 5 runs during the week:

-45-60 min easy run

-hill run (either just time on a hilly route or hill repeats)

-1:15-1:30 easy run

-long run

-60:00 easy run the day after the long run.

Whew. That’s a lot. I’m still trying to figure out when to do all my runs. I really enjoy doing a long run on Sunday before church. I got in the habit while training for Transmountain.The streets are quieter, and I have to get up on Sunday anyway so I might as well do that and then sleep in on Saturday. I’m also trying to think about what it’ll be like when I get to train with my husband (yay!!!). Some of the super long runs we’ll have to do on Saturday, unless we start a 26-miler super super early on Sunday.

Okay, so this week I ran a total of 25 miles out of a total 40 miles for February.

Monday 4 miles with Elizabeth. We kept a pretty good pace. It felt great. I went to gym and had “leg day,” which for me right now is some squats and lunges. I’m still getting used to the weight room, and I didn’t go heavy at all. I’m still using dumbbells. Not sure how heavy I’ll be able to go so that I can still run all these miles.

TuesdayRest. I take my rest days seriously.

Wednesday 4 miles in the canyon. I got my weeks mixed up, so I ended up doing hill repeats. It called for 3x600m hill repeats, which means you find a hill approximately .37 miles long, run up it at a fast pace (yeah right!) and then jog or walk down. Um, if I work my butt off to run up a hill, I sure ain’t walkin’ down it. My hill ended up being .25 mi and it was HARD. By the second and third time, I was just focused on getting up the hill without stopping and with good form, bringing back memories from running over Transmountain. These hills were sandwiched in between a 1.25 mi warm up and cool down.

Thursday – Rest. I probably could have done some yoga or something, but meh. I was still kind of sore from weights on Monday and my glutes hurt from those hills. When I say a workout kicked my butt, I mean that literally.

Friday7 miles. Technically anywhere between 1:15-1:30 is okay, but I just did an even 7. I took Missy with me for the first 4 miles because she doesn’t get out nearly enough, and then I did 3 more. They were slow. And arduous. And kinda sucky. But I got them done. How’s that for fasted cardio, eh?

Saturday Rest. Ehh. I fell while cleaning up the yard and knocked my head into none other than a huge trash can. That gave me a nice mark on my forehead and also messed up my neck and shoulders. All around I feel better today but dang. I sure am klutzy.

Sunday 10 miles. I. Got. It. Done!!! I tried to make up excuses to not go, as I usually do. It’s too late (I woke up at 6:15, not too late). My neck hurts from yesterday. I can do it tomorrow. I should just sleep more. It’s only Week 1! Lies, lies, lies. I got up, ate a cheesestick and a couple dried apricots and headed out the door. I immediately regretted not getting up earlier; I love meeting the sunrise. The weather was perfect: sunny (of course), not too warm (49*) and hardly any wind. I started out slow and had a lot of negative splits as I went. I hardly checked my pace.. I was just concerned with covering the miles.

If I can just take it week by week and trust the training, I’m going to be fine. Where I get all messed up in my head is when I think, “Man, my pace is slow and I’m hurting at mile 8… how am I going to run 31 miles? This isn’t even a third of what I need to do on race day…” I’ve been through this process before. That’s what training is for; I wouldn’t need a 16-week training plan if I could do it already!

The running will come; I’m not concerned about that. My current issue is nutrition. I can’t eat much before a long run, nor can I eat a full meal afterward. I just feel sick. I try to drink water on my run in little sips, and take a couple of GUs. I haven’t figured out if these cause me issues or if it’s something else. But I still have a whole box so I’m using them up. After my runs I try to get protein right away, usually in a protein coffee drink (almond milk, protein powder, coffee, creamer, ice) or in a smoothie. But then later in the morning I’m starving sitting in church. So I need to figure something out, especially when I couple that with being stressed. My appetite is the first thing to go when I’m stressed. Right now the runs aren’t so long so I don’t have much to worry about, but when they start getting past about 14-15 miles, I need to have a better plan for nutrition before and after the run.

Hydration is also another issue, especially as it starts to warm up over the next couple of months. I’ve had some heart palpitations recently, which could be related to so many factors.. but I’m willing to bet hydration is one of them.

Here’s to a new week of training beginning tomorrow (no day of rest after the long run!) and only a couple weeks until my man is back on US soil.

He is mine, and I am His.

The more I know Him, the more I want to know Him.

The more I love Him, the more I want to love Him.

It seems impossible that my heart can continue expanding in order to contain more love, and yet I know my love will never match the weight of His sacrifice.

I am utterly overwhelmed by His presence, in which He searches every anxious thought, every worry, every fleeting feeling of joy. Every sin, every mistake, down to every cell.

He renews me day by day, restores me even beyond where I was before. He makes me new, but I’m still me.

His love is absolutely indescribable; if it were able to be embodied in mere words, there would not be a person left lost on this Earth. Taste and see that the Lord is good. His mercies endure forever.

The darkness of the night overcomes my soul, I feel weary, hopeless. Ready to give up.

The sun rises on a new day, on another chance to redeem these aching bones, dry from laboring in the desert.

He is perfectly good, perfectly just, perfectly compassionate, a perfect Father. There is no one like Him.

His ways are higher than mine, higher than the tallest mountain. His thoughts are so far above me, swirling in the clouds and perfect blue sky above and below me in the depths of the ocean.

I am again reminded that I am only a piece of creation, but not just a piece of creation. I am His Created One, special, I have a purpose, I am worthy of His love. Not by anything I can ever gain or merit, but by His sacrifice alone.

None of this makes sense. It all sounds crazy. Who would do that? Who would have the audacity and tenacity to declare undying love when we clearly could never earn it. Even the largest, strongest, most valiant army could never fight for His love and win the battle.

We can’t win the battle. We can’t even imagine to try.

This all defies logic, time, space, physics, common sense, earthly laws.

In His presence is the only place I can feel completely undone yet completely satisfied. It is literally heaven on earth.

His love is light that pierces every shadow of darkness and leaves nothing undiscovered. His love tears me up in the best way possible. It removes every blemish, stain, and premeditated sin to reveal a perfect and blameless soul, one that He will accept.

His love tears me up, and then puts me back together.

He is mine, and I am His.

Back from running sabbatical

I ran a total of 42.2 miles in January. After some high-mileage months (for me) with 80, 90, even 100 miles, I really needed a break. I was mentally exhausted from training and final exams and just stuff, and realized that “sleeping in” (ahem, 7:30 am) and enjoying coffee in the morning was all it was cracked up to be. Amazing. Folgers or Starbucks, it really didn’t matter. I don’t know if I put on any pudge during my “sabbatical”… if I can call it that. I only took a true and complete break from running for nine days. Nueve. I’ve also been relishing in the fact that although this is my last semester of grad school, it’s way less demanding than others. And we’re also down to the last little bit of deployment, so it’s been a nice break over all. Thank God.

This week I ran 15 miles, which is 15 more than I ran last week. I meet up with my twin Elizabeth and we ran twice in what is left of winter in the desert. This morning I really didn’t want to get up and run, but 50K (!!!!!) training starts next week and I wanted to have something going into it.

50ktrainingplan

Shoot. This is gonna be intense. However, I am loving the timed runs. My goal is to finish the 31 miles. To get up and over those mountains. Most likely during the week I’ll run out the door having a mileage goal, but the time guidelines put it all in perspective.

I think the differences of this training plan versus a novice-intermediate marathon plan are that I have an hour-long run the day AFTER the long run. Usually the day after a long run is like FREEDOM!! and rolling, icing, whatever. The other difference is that the long runs go up to a marathon. I have no doubt that these differences are for making your body get used to running on tired legs. I like the hill workout in the middle of the week; I can easily incorporate that into my schedule by hitting up McKelligon Canyon or other choice locations on the other side of town. Heck, even the treadmill will get ‘er done.

jemezmtntrail50k
Jemez Mtn Trail 50K Map

The hands-down greatest thing about this race is that my husband and I are training (mostly) together. Not sure about runs during the week, but long runs will be attacked in full force by the W’s. It’ll be great. I’m excited to show him some of the routes I’ve been running around town, and share in chasing down the sunrise. We’ll also be able to hit the trails on a regular basis; I tend not to go out there on my own. We are already planning on a couple of training weekends in the mountains of Ruidoso. 🙂

2013 was a great year for running, just downright fantastic. Probably my best yet. I was at the peak of my physical running fitness at the Turkey Trot 5K. It felt so good to be at that point after months of training and pushing myself out the door before the sunrise. But I undoubtedly needed a break from the rise-and-grind.

Consequently, I dropped down to the half from the full (coming up on February 23), and with 50K training starting this week, I’ll use the race as a training run. My 13.1 PR is 2:19:17, which was achieved after doing about the same amount of “training”, so we’ll see what happens. I can’t really compare the El Paso Half to the Transmountain Half… I won’t be running over any mountains this time.

I never ever thought that when I started my running journey four years ago that I’d really be able to run an ultra before I turned 30. It was a goal that was so crazy but here we are, two years before 30 (I’ll be 28 in April) and it looks like I’ll be able to cross this off the list! I’m gonna take it day by day and not get down on myself about pace. I’m just gonna trust the training and then enjoy the results of my labor.