Sunday, January 29, 2012

Take Every Thought Captive

It was the perfect storm of positive mental encouragement for this marathon. First, let me just say that according to the various experts from Runners' World, I did most everything completely wrong to train for this marathon. I ran 22 miles just 3 weeks before the big day. I followed that 22 miler with almost a week completely off running due to the Bahamas trip. My max mileage topped out at only 29 miles. Then, during my taper week I did a two-a-day, followed by another one to film my Unbreakable audition. But maybe that's what I needed. No pressure. All signs pointed me to having a crummy marathon. I had put myself in my favorite position-- the under dog.

So what went right? Nearly everything, mentally. To start with, I've been reading through the book of Hebrews in my quiet time. And I just so happened to be in chapter 12 yesterday.  One of my favorite passages: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2). Then last night, the movie Miracle happened to be on t.v. It's the incredibly uplifting story of the USA hockey team who defeated the Russians to win Olympic Gold. Finally, this morning I picked up one of my devotional books, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Here is part of what it said for today: "Keep your focus on me. I have gifted you with amazing freedom including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind... Let the goal of this day be to bring every thought captive to Me.... I will guard you and keep you in constant Peace, as you focus your mind on me." I can't even describe how much those words moved me this morning. They speak perfectly to my struggle in the marathon-- the downward spiral my mind takes. So, I wrote "take every thought captive" on my arm so that I would  have a reminder to fix my eyes on Jesus. My mantra? "I am clothed with strength and dignity." Taken from Proverbs 31, and cemented in my brain by Beth Moore in her book, So Long Insecurity.

So, here is what I learned in today's marathon:
1. Don't go out fast! My first mile was 10:30; 30 seconds slower than my goal pace for the race. I didn't let it bother me. In the last marathon, I went out @ 9:15 and crashed and burned.
2. Know your body and listen to it. I ate when I felt I needed to  eat, and did the same with water. When I started cramping, I switched over to mostly Gatorade, even though it usually makes me nauseous. I had no choice if I wanted to finish. I also had to quit eating my Cliff bars because they started making me nauseous. I actually spit the last bite out and didn't finish the last bar. 
3. It is possible to run through leg cramps. It's not pleasant, but it's possible. I figured either run with the cramps or walk with them and take twice as long.
4. I can actually make it 26.2 miles without stopping for a potty break.
5. I can drive myself home after running 26.2 miles.
6. Remember, you are running with the other runners, not against them.
7. Smile. It makes the run a little easier.

Almost forgot to add... I set a new PR by 29 minutes! 4:34. And I'm retiring from the marathon. (Although there's still Boston...) 

Probably my favorite song of the day:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Marathon Mind Fog

Ok. This is totally a "Note to Self" because running a marathon is a lot like child birth-- the farther away you get from the actual event, the pain of the thing seems to be completely forgotten. So, here are some things I'd like to remind myself of, the next time I decide it would be a great idea to run a marathon:

1. It's A LOT of running. Ok, that seems like a no brainer. But really, I always forget the multiple weeks of 3-4 hour long runs on the weekend.  Then the day of the long run, there's the feeling of exhaustion the remainder of the day. The painful shuffling around the house in my compression pants. Lying around on the couch. However, I do get to consume copious amounts of food on those days.

Uhm... that's about all I've got. Maybe I should save this list and add to it after the 26.2. I really thought I had a long list of "why nots." Must be part of the Marathon Mind Fog I seem to be in. It has to be something chemically happening in the body when a person goes from 14 weeks of adding mileage to all of a sudden cutting back. As a matter of fact I did 2 things this week that I will attribute to the Marathon Mind Fog because had I really logically thought through these things, I would have run screaming in the opposite direction. First, I sent in an email application for a reality t.v. show called "Unbreakable." The description is pretty much a Tough Mudder on steroids. Sleep deprivation is the most frightening of the challenges that I might face. In reality, with all of the applicants, the odds of me being selected are pretty slim. I mean, who wants to watch a tiny Christian book nerd English teacher fight through obstacles? And for my second act of irrationality... I signed on to do the Keys 100 mile relay race. With a team of people I don't know. Not all that bad, except for the fact that this social phobic will be trapped in a van with them for 100 miles (minus the ones I run). Yikes. My palms are sweating just thinking about it. So, maybe I can add to the list:

2. The final weeks before the marathon cause me to completely lose the ability to apply logic and reason to simple decisions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bahamas Mission Trip 2012

The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." -Exodus 33:14
I almost broke down and cried in the Super Wal-Mart the other day. I admit that I've had emotional times in the Super Wal-Mart before... mostly frustration at the people who randomly stop their carts, blocking the aisle and stare at a loaf of bread for unbearably large amounts of time, but I'm not talking about that. It was my first venture out into public after coming back from mission work in the Bahamas. First, I was a little overwhelmed at the massive amount of people in there. I think there were more people in Wal-Mart than I had seen the whole week in the Bahamas. It felt stifling. But what really almost pushed me over the emotional edge was the food. Shelves and shelves of food. And none of it expired. We have such abundance in America. We live in a country where 10 bucks buys more than a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. We take so much for granted. I mean, really. I walked into Super Wal-Mart carrying my water bottle because in the Bahamas I carried water with me everywhere. You don't just turn on the faucet and fill a glass. Drinking water must be bought. Must be bought, not I think it tastes better so I buy bottled water. And don't even get me started about our roads and sidewalks. First of all, we have sidewalks everywhere. My son who went on the trip as a student said, nearly in awe, "The roads are so smooth here."

Every year, the school where I teach sends the 8th grade students to a Mission Camp in the Bahamas. This year is the third year I was able to go with them. The trip is always an amazing experience, bonding with the students outside of the classroom and watching them grow in their relationship with God, and in relationships with each other. On this trip, we spent time not only in Nassau, but also on the island of Eleuthera. Eleuthera provided a time of respite; it was a stunning place to quietly enjoy the beauty of God's work.  

On my third day into the trip, during my quiet devotion time, I was noticing again how this very structured, time-driven woman could barely keep track of what day it was. Each day in the Bahamas was about God's plan for the day. We were there to serve each other and the Bahamian people; time mattered only because we needed to eat, board a bus to do ministry, or go to sleep. I was stunned with the thought that this freedom from time is exactly what God must want for us. It was only about Him and doing work and spending time with His children. The Bahamian people seemed to have figured out that concept much better than we Americans. We fill each second with something: T.V. or radio or cell phone. It was so refreshing to just spend time building relationships with the people around me. The Bahamians are much more laid back. They seem to take life as it comes to them, not rushing around driven by a timeline or a schedule.

I am so thankful that I get to attend this trip each year. This year was extra special because my son was there. It's always bittersweet coming back home-- to move from ministry mindedness back to me mindedness. Even though I never want to fall back into the same driven, scheduled, busy me, I always do. Little by little I get occupied again with the next thing on the "To Do" list. Little by little I begin to forget the poverty, and I start complaining again about my "old" car and how I wish I had a new one. I'll complain about there not being any food in the house. I'll complain about the price of gas. I wish it weren't so easy to get caught up in myself.
Performing a skit for students

Mixing concrete for a work project

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Numbering my Days

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. -Psalm 90:12
At the close of another year, like most people, one thought has been nagging my mind, "Will I make New Year's resolutions?" Now, normally I am not a huge fan. Too many resolutions go wrong. I spent 3 years of my life working in a gym, watching the resolutioners flood through the doors for the first few weeks and then gradually taper off. The only thing guaranteed to succeed about resolutions, is that most of them fail. Moving into 2012, though, I feel compelled to set some goals. (Because I feel better NOT calling them "resolutions.)

My goals are driven by thoughts of the devotion I first read two years ago. "Just One Word," contains a different type of challenge sent out from FCA Endurance (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). The challenge is to simplify and originates in the powerful verse penned hundreds of years ago by the apostle Paul: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14 The idea is to choose just one word that you will focus on for the year. It really sounds simple, until you start actually trying to settle on the ONE WORD that will drive you for the year. It requires some thought, but most importantly prayer. I thought about this on my run yesterday, "Lord, what is the one word you want me to target?" My mind landed immediately on "excellence." For a perfectionist like me, that word fits. But not quite like I thought it would. Instead, God seemed to be prompting me to think outside the box. To leave behind the idea of attaining perfection in the things I do, but to focus on the way I do it. He seemed to be nudging me to not focus so much on the product, but on the process. To DO everything with excellence for Him, not for a result. To me, it means to stop focusing on the finish line, and to start focusing on the training it takes to get there. I have to love the process, the day to day stuff. I have to be excellent in the lesson plans, not just the teaching. For me, that also means that I have to be more present... to give my full attention to whoever needs it at the moment. I'm excited about this new challenge. 

So, here are the things I will be working toward this year...
1. To be a wife that is truly a compliment to her husband.
2. To be a mom who is very present to her boys.
3. To begin writing my first novel.
4. To help my husband achieve his dream of opening his own gym.
5. To finish in the top 5 at the Miami Super Spartan.
6. To PR in the marathon and half marathon.
7. To win my age group in a 5k.