Water

Today’s word is water. After living it the desert for almost 5 years, water has become a welcome sight. We can see the wide, slow moving Susquehanna from our house, and the Bay isn’t much farther. I’m always reminded of how much civilization has relied on water for survival.

In the desert, abundant water can quickly become dangerous. Many times after a heavy rainfall roads would be closed due to rock slides or flash flooding. The ground in its perpetual dry state just couldn’t absorb enough of the rain quickly enough.

I don’t want my heart to be like the ground in the desert, desperate for water but unable to soak it up. I would rather be like the foundation of our house, made of river stone that lets water through as necessary. When there’s too much, instead of flooding, the sump pump moves the water out of the crawl space where it’s accumulated.

This process was strange to me at first.. Who wants water under their house?.. But now I understand. Water flows freely in and out, without causing rock slides or flash floods. That’s how I want my heart to be.

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.

During my running in central Illinois, I had some great ideas for blogs. And then I forgot them. Maybe the extensive sunshine and 60-degree highs I came back to in Texas have something to do with it.

I had a great visit home. For the first time I just took things one day at a time and didn’t plan out everything before the plane even hit the ground. I got to see all my nieces and nephews (we have six total now) and witnessed my sister’s baby make progress in walking. For three weeks straight, if you count when my aunt came to visit, I’ve been around people 24/7, unless I was driving somewhere or running. Honestly, it’s kind of lonely being back in my house now, but I’ll pick up my dog tomorrow from boarding.

I’m pretty sure I saw every kind of precipitation there can be within the two weeks I was in the Midwest. Rain, snow, drizzle, mist (yes, that’s a thing), freezing rain… I’m not even sure they have all those words down here. It snowed before I arrived, and then in true Illinois style it melted away two days later. I got out of O’Hare just in time yesterday since it snowed again.

January and February have historically been my least favorite months going on years now. For the time I lived in Illinois, these months meant cold, dreary, gray days for weeks. The spring semester is actually a little longer than the fall, and the first quarter of the new year always feels like forever. Being in the Southwest for the past few new years has definitely helped with the abundant sunshine and spring-like temps.

Deployment is mostly done, and we have a tentative date. But who am I kidding? Every date thus far has been tentative and it seems there’s always fine print. We’ve just let ourselves get excited though, because this has been rough. We’ll take all the excitement we can get. I hope to have my husband back by spring break. Please, Jesus, PLEASE.

So, I have a few numbers for 2013. It was an…. interesting…. year. It’s like the second book in a series… it provides a bridge from the old to the new, and can be kind of boring at times, but it’s necessary all the same.

600+ miles run. Until August, I wasn’t too particular about tracking every mile I ran. I had a good running year, and felt like I grew a lot as a runner. I worked past a lot of mental blocks in order to succeed physically, and that means a lot.

17 ESL students taught. This was a highlight of 2013 for me. And I’ll have about 17 more students this coming semester.

7 months of deployment. From May to December, we completed the majority of this time apart.

4.0 achieved. 30 hours of my grad degree are completed One class and my thesis to finish and I’m DONE!

3 visitors. Both of my sisters (plus baby) and my aunt came to visit. I’m thankful; it helps give something to look forward to.

2 trips. Colorado and Illinois. Both were great.

1 nephew born. My sweet nephew Benjamin. I love that kid.

2014 has potential. We’ll see what it has to offer.

My only resolution? To spend more than a third of the year in the same geographic location as my husband. 😉

The anatomy of a solo long run

Earlier this week I was considering dropping to the half from the full. I wondered if maybe I was burned out and should keep running but do less mileage. Then I thought about how far I’ve come since June with a new 5K PR (26:49) and a long run pace that sometimes has me wondering if I’m wearing a jetpack (10:15-10:35ish).

I had a sucky interval run on Thursday; I felt sick the whole time. But yesterday after working on school work at Starbucks, I decided to hit the trails and not get lost. 😉 That’s when I said to heck with my insecurities and laziness.. just DO IT! There’s no sense in wasting all the endurance and fitness I’ve worked so hard at, and I have my first 50K with my husband in May (Jemez Mountain Trail Run in Los Alamos, NM).

I was out late last night, which means I slept in this morning. I sat around my house, downing Pop-Tarts debating with myself if I should run today or tomorrow. 12 miles or 14 miles. I was debating which route to take, and if I should take the dog for a few miles. My brain was a hot mess. Since my husband deployed, Saturdays have just been weird and my least favorite day of the week, so I figured that I might as well do my long run. If anything, I’ll feel better afterwards.

I had plans later in the day so I calculated the latest time I could leave for 14 miles to get back in time to shower and get there. At 11:05, I laced up my shoes and leashed up my dog and we were out the door. Missy is such a great running partner, so we did about 3.8 miles easy as a warmup.

I brought her home, got my GUs and half-full water bottle, and I was out the door for the other 10.2. It was very strange weather here today…. cloudy and cold, even at 11:45. I couldn’t find my earband so I just grabbed a hat I got at my first ever trail race in Illinois. I ditched the gloves, though… my hands get warm fast.

Mentally I was in the game. I knew exactly the route I had to take to get those 10.2 miles, and I could envision myself at different point during the run. It felt strange to be running my long run on a Saturday (I got into the habit of running Sundays) and in the middle of the day.

The warmup was perfect and set me up to get in mostly negative splits. I had a lot of miles in the 9:00’s. That was definitely not my goal; my 7-miler last weekend was slow and torturous, and this week I just wanted to get the miles in and do it at a comfortable pace. However, by mile six I knew I’d be running faster than last week.

The first part of my route today had some shady characters…. a guy purposely slowing down and staring, random groups of kids…. that’s my part of town for ya. However, by the time I hit miles 9 and 10 I was running through a pretty neighborhood that reminds me a lot of roads I ran in Illinois.

When I hit the halfway point at mile 7, I started feeling really good. I always, ALWAYS have a hard time getting out the door, but I get progressively happier throughout the run. By mile 9 I started to feel my quads… and they HURT. It’s been awhile since a run has made me sore, but honestly I’ve kind of missed it. The great part about my route today was that by the time I started hurting, I had a slight downhill. It was probably only 1-2% but it made a difference.

I kept the last few miles strong and finished 14 miles in 2:24 (10:19 pace!!!). I got a new 13.1 PR. I felt so good afterwards. I was cold but one of the best rewards is a hot shower followed by FOOD.

I think this month will be good for mileage. I’m finally out of the post-race slump/resting period and can hit the pavement hard. This month so far I’ve run 34 miles already!

Moral of the story? Get your ass out the door. It’s hard and you don’t want to, but you’ll be so glad you did. Every long run gives you bragging rights. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

A Very Beth Thanksgiving

As I reflect on the Thanksgivings I’ve had since getting married in 2008, I’ve realized that we’ve had exactly one tradition: no tradition. And I kind of like it.

Thanksgiving 2008: I honestly don’t remember what we did, but I know we (my husband and I) spent it with our families. This was pre-layoff, pre-Army, pre-moving. Little did we know how much life would change….

Thanksgiving 2009: Aaron was in training in Arizona, and I flew out to Phoenix to spend the weekend with him. We stayed at this resort Thanksgiving night and had the dinner the hotel offered. It was awesome. We spent the rest of the weekend at a cheaper place, haha. One night at that place was enough for our bank account!

Thanksgiving 2010: Aaron was in Korea, and it was the first set of holidays we spent apart. I spent the day with my family and his, and I remember Skyping with him in my in-laws’ living room.

Thanksgiving 2011: This was our first Thanksgiving just he and I, and it was our first here in Texas. We had signed up for the Turkey Trot, but we decided to skip it to make a huge meal with all the fixins, including my first turkey. We had leftovers for dayyyzzzz.

Thanksgiving 2012: Aaron had just returned from an exercise overseas, so we were so happy to be together. We did the Turkey Trot in the morning (now one of my absolutely favorite things to do every year), and then stayed downtown for the parade. Later we spent the day with dear friends Alvin and Lacey and Lacey’s family just a few miles from our house. It was nice.

Thanksgiving 2013: This is what I have dubbed A Very Beth Thanksgiving. Even before Aaron deployed in the spring, I knew who I’d spend Thanksgiving with, my “adopted” family here in Texas. It was 24 hours of crazy fun. Wednesday night I went to a friend’s house and had a delicious ham dinner with friends from our college/20-somethings small group. Then, early Thursday morning Leah Beth, her oldest son, and I went downtown to run the YMCA Turkey Trot.

race2013

I had my sights set on running a new 5K PR this year, but after I took a little over a week off because I was sick last week, I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I was shooting for 26:30, but I’ll take this! My previous official 5K time was 27:33. I’ve taken nearly 6 minutes off my 5K time since my first 5K in 2010 where I had a time of 32:17. I really think though that if I’m consistent with speed and hill work I can improve even more. I also was hoping to see Farrah of Fairy Healthy Life and we ran into each other!

I PR'd! 26:49 official time!!
I PR’d! 26:49 official time!!

After the race, Leah Beth, Nolan and I were freeeezing from being sweaty. We headed back to their house, destinkified (yes, it’s a word) and finished up dinner. We did not cook our own turkey; instead, we ordered a smoked turkey breast from Rudy’s Texas BBQ. We had a slightly unconventional menu, including fruit salad, cranberry walnut salad, Texas potatoes, corn casserole, Hawaiian rolls (um, duh), apple pie, and Mississippi Mud. I have to say, this is the first holiday where I have not overindulged!

So, we had Leah Beth and her family; me, Elizabeth; and my “Mexican twin,” also Elizabeth, for dinner. We call each other “twin” because even though we have different cultures and first languages, it is freaky how many things we have in common. Seriously freaky. I just love having wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ! We truly are a family away from family.

Elizabeth, Leah Beth, Elizabeth (me)
me, Carson, Elizabeth
me, Carson, Elizabeth

Do not be deceived; our day wasn’t over after dinner. We watched Elf, which I am ashamed to admit that I had never seen. Elizabeth left and Leah Beth and I left to work a shift as “friends and family” at Old Navy. We worked together at a table giving cards to people who had received wristbands as they walked in for a chance to win a million. Most people were really nice and even offered to share a portion of their winnings with us, and we also of course had a couple interesting characters. After our shift was over, we shopped at Old Navy (50% off!) and then went to Target expecting it to be pretty busy. However, since the sales had started so early, at 1 AM it wasn’t busy at all. It was probably the calmest Target experience I’d had here.

photo_1
Working at Old Navy

We got home roughly at about 2 AM and we crashed. Hard. I’d been up for almost 24 hours because silly me, I had caffeine late Wednesday night and couldn’t stay asleep. The Very Beth Thanksgiving was undoubtedly a Thanksgiving to remember!

As you can imagine, it’s difficult to be half a world away from your spouse anyway, let alone during the holidays. But I’m thankful for a family who’s adopted me as their own (I’m Aunt Biff in that house ;)). Not every military wife with a deployed spouse has that. Several times this week when I thought about how many people I know here who love me and would help me out at any time, I became teary-eyed and felt overwhelmed with gratefulness.

Now the countdown is on for the end of the semester. Monday begins the last week of classes, and then we have finals and then I’m DONE until the third week in January. My favorite aunt comes to visit soon, and then we spend the weekend together here before flying back to Illinois together. Both of my sisters have come to visit me this year at different times, but my family hasn’t been together in one place since last Christmas. A year is a long time to go between visits!

I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Run When: Transmountain Challenge recap.

Run when you haven’t trained in awhile.

When I signed up for the Transmountain training group, I was more hopeful than nervous that it would help push me over the mountain. Aaron had just left and I needed something to keep me accountable, especially for long runs. Every long run was hilly except for when I went to Colorado. I’ve always hated hills, but I ran anyway.

Run when it’s hot and dry.

Desert heat is no joke. 95* and 12% humidity will can make for a slow, frustrating and dehydrating run. But I pushed through and ran anyway.

Run when you’re sad.

My husband’s been gone five months now, and I’ve missed him.. a lot. I’ve been wanting to share this whole experience with him, and he ran his first marathon this month. And I’m sick of sharing experiences with him secondhand. But running is something we have in common (and we’re both ultra-hopeful in 2014), and I ran anyway.

Run when you’re sick.

There were a couple times I was sick and still did the long run, and they were both eight-milers. For one I had been feeling sick to my stomach for a couple days and had only a few hours of sleep the night before. I seriously considered skipping the run, but I woke up on Sunday at 5:15 anyway. I figured since I was up, I might as well run. The other time I was coming down with an upper respiratory infection and at the top of the first hill I had a coughing fit. But I knew the next day I’d get some antibiotics and rest,, so I decided I would run anyway.

Run when you’re on vacation.

I went to Colorado in August and was soooo excited to run at lovely pre-autumn temps at 8,000 feet among trees and mountains and rivers. So of course I ran anyway.

Run when you’re busy.

I was busy with a class and work this summer, and now that the fall has started I am working on, but not limited to: grad classes, thesis, teaching a college class, preparing my teaching portfolio for a competition, and submitting research to conferences. Whew. But I made my mental and physical fitness a priority, got up early, and ran anyway.

Run when you have to start early(er).

There were two Sundays where I had to start at 5:45, and that meant getting out of my house at 5:15. That’s eaaarrrllllyyyy. Even the dog thought I was crazy. But I ran anyway.

Run when you have to do the long run alone.

September 15 I did the Color Run with some girls, which was a Sunday, so I did the long run the day before… a 13-miler on my own. That was more of a mental battle than anything. I finished with a 12-minute pace, and was pretty sure that was a good indicator about how I’d do on the half. I ran anyway.

Run when you feel good.

The last month of my training, I really hit it hard. I kept on top of my mileage, scoring 90 miles in August and 100 in September. I did all my speed workouts at the gym, up to 6.5 miles on a treadmill. I’m not a huge fan of the treadmill, but I ran anyway.

Run when you’re thankful.

Running encourages my relationship with God. It gives me perspective, helps me focus, and reminds me of how our bodies are created for such amazing feats. It gives me time to meditate, think, pray, and take in nature, so of course I ran anyway!

Run when you’re ready.

Sunday morning I woke up with a conservative 2:30 goal in mind. That’s roughly an 11:27 mile. My first half was in January 2012, and it was extremely flat and I finished with a time of 2:19:17. I knew I’d trained way more for this race than I did for that one, but I had a huge 6-7 mile climb in my way this time. But then I thought, my last two long runs were great — the 14-miler (10:51 pace) and the 6-miler (10:12 pace) — so I knew I was more than ready.

transmtn

We started at 7 AM with cloudy skies (thank you El Paso!) and in the low 60’s. Miles 1-4 were up a steady but slight incline. Mile 4 was pretty flat, and then miles 5-6.5 were TOUGH. However, by the time I hit mile 4, I knew I had this whole race in the bag. By the time reached the top (5280 ft) I resisted the urge to lean over the guardrail and scream. I was so excited that I had run to the top without stopping to walk. On virtually every long run, I walked a small portion of the inclines.

miles 1-6

At mile 7, we started the descent. Oh man, people, THIS is the reward I’d worked for for 15 weeks. I FLEW down that mountain and I felt AWESOME the whole way. The mountain really does look different when you’re not zooming past it at 60 mph. During the descent, I picked up a couple PRs along the way: 10K (58:26) and 5K (26:56).

miles 7-13

Mile 13 was HARD. The descent on a paved road through desert scenery had turned into a flat concrete road, and I really challenged myself to run fast. I was doing the math in my head, and knew I had blown the 2:30 goal out of the water, and probably the unsaid 2:25 goal as well. I predicted I’d finish somewhere between 2:15 and 2:20. I crossed the finish line at 2:19:58! I had put that mountain under my feet and finished a race on my bucket list. BAM. DONE. All the training was 100% worth it. Besides the Illinois Marathon in 2011, this was my favorite race so far. Our bodies can do so much more than we think they can. The battle is in the mind.

Run when you have bigger goals in mind.

What’s next? I signed up for the Turkey Trot 5K with hopes to PR. The first week of November I start marathon training for the El Paso Marathon in February. I’m going to add in more strength training, yoga, clean eating, and trail running this time around, and in 2014 I want to run my first 50k or 50mi with my husband. Now, go get you some!

Tail end of summer

This summer flew by so fast. Tomorrow is three months down in this deployment, and that couldn’t make me happier.

I set out in the middle of May to kick butt in my class (check), do well with my research assistantship (check) and lesson plan for the fall (nope!). In May Leah and Benjamin came to visit and I just could not get enough sweet baby snuggles.

June brought lots and lots of 12-hour days because I had work in the morning for a few hours, and then I had class in the afternoon for two hours a day. I will never ever ever take another summer class again. My assistantship has gone so well. I basically got paid to learn how to do corpus-based research and start on my thesis. This week is the last week of the 10-week appointment, so I’ll be submitting my thesis proposal to the department and also to the IRB for approval. This fall I’ll be taking two online classes, working on the data collection/analysis part of my thesis and teaching one ESOL class, and intermediate level class. My schedule will be wide open for the most part, which seems to happen when Aaron’s gone. Rawr.

At the end of June I also started training for a half marathon, the Transmountain Challenge, which goes from the west side of the Franklins to the east side on Transmountain Road. I drive this road all the time so I am well aware of the bends and turns and gain in elevation. Training has gone really well so far. In July I ran 73 miles, and to date I’ve run 32 this month. I missed two of my runs last week because of stress and feeling sick. I’m not sure if it was all the junk I ate the weekend before, or a bug, but it took me several days to feel 100% again. I’m glad I rested because yesterday I had a fantastic run, 10 miles up and over Scenic Drive and back again. It was deliciously cool, only 66 degrees at 6 am, and at one point there was a strong headwind. But I powered through it and finished the run breaking an 11:00 pace. It. Was. Awesome.

Last week I took the plunge and signed up for the El Paso Marathon, which is February 23. It’ll be my second marathon, and I’m so excited. It starts at the top of the road I’ll be running on in October, so the elevation goes down down down for 26.2 miles. When Aaron gets back, we want to run an ultra together. Living in the Southwest gives us a lot of awesome options in NM, TX, AZ for ultras. Yes, we are crazy. And yes, Aaron has a blog! Check it out at The Ultra Road!

I think I’m slightly crazy  to do my thesis, finish up my grad coursework (I’ll graduate in May!!), and train for a half and full marathon while having a deployed husband. Running keeps me sane, though.. it forces me to be accountable, pumps up my self-confidence, and allows me to not feel guilty about eating ice cream.

My next post will talk about running in beautiful cool COLORADO! Heading up there later this week to visit a dear friend. It’ll be Missy’s first road trip, so pray for us. Haha.