Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Boo" Unto Others...

...As you would have others "Boo" unto you!

The Halloween tradition of "booing" a neighbor is simply delightful for all ages.  It is fun to do the booing, and feeling the love of being booed. While I was visiting my parents in Utah, they happened to be "booed" one evening.  Although they were a tad bit confused at first, I quickly explained the entire process, getting them both excited about picking two friends to share goodies of the season with.

Now, it was all fun and games until I was the chosen "runner," to place goodie at doorstep, ring doorbell and RUN!  I think I looked pretty silly running down their street to the safety of their home without being caught. Once inside, we all giggled, excited about their friends receiving their "boo!"

And without even a kid in sight, three adults accomplished not only something "child-like" but kind by serving a neighbor with a little holiday cheer.  Completely simple but really "simply" how it should be done:

"Doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you."

And so upon my return, it was time for our family to do a little "booing."  We LOVE to boo our friends, the Leaps, especially their daughter, Brittany.  One evening, after gathering a little treasure, Ethan and Tate, quietly walked down the street with our treat.

Knowing how great it makes my children feel when our doorbell rings and a mysterious treat is left on our doorstep, they couldn't wait to do it themselves...sharing the happiness.

And so it goes...when you serve others, you not only bring happiness to others, you feel pretty darn good inside too (even the moms, grandmas and grandpas).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pine Nuts: You Go and You Get What You Love.

My dad is what you call a good old fashioned, go getter...he goes and gets what he wants.  I witnessed my dad in action this past week on my visit to Utah.  Upon my arrival to their home, we sat at my parent's kitchen table, sipping Fresca and cracking open freshly roasted salted pine nuts.  I nibbled the meaty nuts and chucked the shells with ease not long after my father taught me the skill needed to fully master the pine nut eating ritual.

The next morning, I awoke to my dad packing up his car. He explained he was heading to the high country, some 4 hour drive to harvest more pine nuts.  The process was quite demanding, requiring a large tarp to be laid under pine laden tree and secured with rocks. Next, a long pole is heaved into the high branches and with pure muscle strength (and precision), the nuts are knocked from their home above to the tarp below.  My dad then takes the nuts to a water source and sifts out the fallen branches, pine cones and other unwanted items that find themselves on the tarp, mixed in with the beloved pine nuts.

After driving miles back home, the nuts were then washed and sorted, sprinkled with salt and placed in the oven for roasting.

Most people aren't willing to take the time and effort to acquire something as simple as pine nuts.  I mean, one can purchase a bag of pine nuts at the local grocery store (and they are even shelled for you!).  Who wants to drive for hours and expend large amounts of energy and time for a nut!?

My dad. Me. You.

It isn't really about the pine nut at all. It is all about what you LOVE and what you are willing to do for something you love.

Take the conversation I had with a man during the St. George marathon. He appeared next to me around mile 14.  I was feeling fresh and was he.  This allowed us to talk freely.  We struck up a conversation about our goals for our race. He asked what time I was shooting for.  After my reply, "Under 3:30," he told me he was going to stick with me.  That led to further discussion about this particular race. It was his first.  I told him, although I was from Virginia, I had run the last 16 of this race some 20 years ago with my friends after returning from an L.D.S mission from Denmark. He then replied, "Oh, you are a Virginian Mormon."  Upon hearing his tone, I quickly assessed he probably wasn't a Mormon. I then said, "Oh then you must be a Utah non-Mormon."  He laughed and explained he was a "Jack Mormon," which is a Mormon who isn't active in the church.

He seemed a bit embarrassed by his current state but I assured him not to worry. I said that it is essential we truly want to work for something. Those things we cherish, we work for and thus we hold dear. I explained that like our marathon journey, we wanted more than to simply finish the race, we hoped to finish with a specific time.  Because of such a lofty goal, months of orchestrated training runs, dedication and time would be required. It was important to us.

I continued to explain, "Like our relationship with God, if we want to feel close to Him, we must put our time and efforts on Him." I wanted him to realize that if he wanted a closer relationship to God he would be required to work...just like running.  And just like his ability to run fast and far, he would begin to grow closer to his Heavenly Father.  Similar  to the search for "pine nuts," requiring hours of driving, searching, knocking down, cleaning, sorting, roasting...we must go and get...and then we reap the rewards of what we truly want to reap.

I cherish my father's many adventures throughout his life, doing things he loves with those he loves.

Are you willing to go and get what you love?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Can Do This...St. George Marathon Recap

The alarm goes off at 4:00 (am!) and I begin my pre marathon ritual which consists of eating a large bowl of oatmeal, drinking a glass of water, hair styling (long thick hair if left alone will result in a sweaty rat’s nest) and making sure my running outfit is perfect for the upcoming conditions.

I head to the buses that will carry the runners on a 26.2 mile journey away from the finish line, along the race route to the start of the marathon.  It is along this drive, my seat passenger points out various aspects of the race that we will encounter along our run.  She shows me the road that drops us into the town that only leads us to our steep climb along miles 7 and 8.  We see groups of volunteers preparing each water stop that we will soon partake.  After what seems like a journey in itself, we leave the buses and enter phase two of any marathon, the bathroom lines.

It is dark. It is windy and extremely cold.  The lines are tremendously long and I search for the “best” one.  After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, my turn finally comes.

By now, the marathon start time fast approaches. I quickly place my valuables in the designated drop off area and make my way to the start.

I am alone as I stand in line with thousands of runners.  I am okay with being alone.  I truly believe running a race is an individual journey.  Although I know not a soul in my sight, I feel the support of friends and family with me.  I know they have seen my hard work. They know how much this race means to me and will be awaiting to hear from me at the end of my chosen adventure.  This gives me strength as the gun sounds.

I always seem to tear up just a bit as I begin the first miles of a marathon.  The miles of running, the early mornings, late nights, tempo runs, speed workouts…the commitment to a goal and the knowledge that I did everything I had promised to do takes center stage.  I am ready to face the hills, the heat, the muscle pain, muscle fatigue, mental struggles…I am ready to race.

The first few miles whiz by as my body wants to keep up with others running too fast (for we all are fresh), jockeying for positioning and adrenaline pushing me along.

The sun begins to rise above the mountains and its warmth settles on our backs.  Extra clothing quickly starts to fly over head as runners now get serious about settling into their paces.

My mind gravitates quickly to the daunting miles that lie ahead and I wonder if I will be able to keep my pace and succeed with my goal of breaking my personal record of a 3:30 marathon.  It is here, during these early miles, that I remind myself, I am capable of reaching my goal.  But in order to accomplish it, I must try.  I know it will not be easy  but it is possible…if I simply try.

With that I begin my descent into a little town…with a “big” hill.  I hadn’t really expected many uphills along this race but had been warned about it by my friends.  As the road turned, I looked up, and there, in the distance, I see it, the longest uphill road in history.

It is here, the pace group for the 3:25 runners (a pacer leads a group of runners with the goal of 3:25 along, giving advice, encouragement and keeping pace) approaches from behind. I can hear the lead pacer saying, “Okay, runners, gear up for this hill.  Keep a steady pace…we can do this!”

For a moment, as the group of about 20 runners passes along side me, I think I will jump aboard and give this pace a whirl…but seeing how fast they approached and passed me, I decide to forgo that stupid idea and keep my current pace.

Running up that hill was completely insane.  Runners were walking.  Runners were huffing and puffing.  Runners were suffering.  I was suffering.  But I decided to try to keep moving forward and that I did. Before I knew it, mile 7 and 8 were a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, the uphill climbing did not agree with my previously pained hamstrings. I had taken a few Advil before the race and had planned on popping a few during…but alas, I had forgotten them in my bag.  After a few miles of some good pain in my right hammy, I chanced upon a spectator offering tissues and Advil.  I quickly put out my hand, receiving the blessed pills. 

At mile 10, I notice that at the water stops, there is also a med tent. There, two or three people are down on their knees ready to rub “Ben Gay” on any area in need of attention.  I decide to make a quick stop, where a person dabs this much needed cream onto my right hamstring.

Miles pass, with even more hills and I anticipate the promise of a 2000 feet drop in elevation. I can't wait to let my hamstrings take a break and let my quads take over.

It doesn't take long before the downhill portions begin.  I immediately and without much effort, begin making my way, down…down…down into Snow Canyon.  Here the constant red rock is met with white rock making for the most beautiful vistas.

My body is pleased with this new arrangement, letting the quads finally do some work. I begin to pick up my pace and quickly fall into a comfortable groove.

As mile 19 approaches, I look ahead and in the distance, I can see the 3:25 pace group.  I thought to myself at the time, “maybe I can catch them.”  I begin to slowly pass people and begin anticipating the descent into St. George.   It would be here that my friend Amy would be cheering.  I am so relieved I feel so good at this late stage into the race. 

Sure enough, right at mile 23, I see Amy and Reed. Sign in hand, they cheer for me, giving me that final push to keep going.  Newly charged, I notice the balloons carried by the 3:25 pace group only a few blocks ahead.  I quickly gain and by mile 24, I have reached them.  I can't believe I have actually caught them. I know at that moment I will  beat my 3:30 time. But now, I might actually beat it BIG time!  I am surprised I feel as good as I do. Normally in a race, there is a mysterious point of time that “a light switch” goes off and I feel horrible both in body and mind.  But here, at mile 24.5, I feel fine.  Stride in stride with the other runners, I make my way to the final mile.  As I turn the corner, the crowds are cheering, “One more mile!”  But then, it happened, the switch is flipped and my body says, “I have had enough.”

It is strange when this happens.  You wonder why you can’t simply keep running at pace when you only have a half of a mile left.  But you can’t. In fact, you can barely keep running.  Your mind is screaming at you to stop this nonsense…stop!  In fact, other runners around you are already walking.

With the temptation to stop looming, there is comes, the light ahead, the blessed finish line.  Turning the final corner, I see the balloons in the distance…only .2 miles to go. The crowds cheer with words of encouragement, “Only two more blocks!” I can do this!

My mind wanders back to the start of the race.  The place I was only 3 hours ago, with a long and an arduous 26 miles to go, now with only 2 blocks to go. I can do this!

The pace group I have joined finishes.  Countless others have too.

And now it is my turn.  I cross the finish line. Not only can I do this...I just did (and shattered my previous time by over 5 minutes) coming in at 3:25:27.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Success is One Who Decides to Succeed...and Works

If you want to run a marathon you can.  All you need to do is run... a lot.  In reality, if you want to accomplish anything in life, all you have to do is decide and then try...a lot. This morning, my father handed me a newsletter from the company he works for, written by one of the "big-wigs," Dennis Parks.

He said,

A Success is one who decides to succeed...and WORKS.
A Failure is one who decides to succeed...and WISHES.
A Decided Failure is one who failed to Decide and failed to Work.

Not everyone wants to run a marathon or become a doctor.  You may want to master knitting, become proficient at scrapbooking, golfing, skiing, or teaching. You may want to serve a neighbor, learn to play the guitar, get that raise!

But first you must decide and then you MUST WORK!

My first marathon took place 9 years ago, only 9 months after my fourth son was born.  My goal at the time was to follow the workouts outlined by my brother. My hope was to simply to lose "the baby weight" and finish.

But after following the plan religiously, I began to get faster and more fit.  My brother was thrilled and began to send me more challenging workouts.  Before I knew it, the goal to lose weight was met and a new goal was not simply finish the race but to finish under four hours.

After months of training, I completed my first marathon. Not only was I back to my pre-baby weight, I finished with a thrilling time of 3:53.

Not long after that race, I decided to train for another marathon. This time, I set a new goal. I wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon.  This training plan required more work. I had to run more often and add speed workouts.  After months of pounding the pavement, I accomplished by goal and ran a 3:42, qualifying for the Boston Marathon by 3 minutes.

With my fourth marathon, a new goal was set, to run a 3:30.  An entirely new training plan was needed and I committed to even more miles per week, tempo runs, and speed workouts.  After 18 weeks of serious work (and not one mile missed), I ran a 3:30:40 (which in my book counts).

Other marathons were run the next few years.  Most, simply for fun, brought me closer to friends as we trained together, ran the races together and traveled to various places sharing the joy of our accomplishments.

This year has been difficult in many ways.  I decided in the late spring to set a new marathon goal, with the hope of finding an outlet and a focus for myself.  I decided I wanted to run a sub 3:30 marathon.  This meant I would need to run my marathon under a 8 minute mile pace.  I knew once I set the goal, I would be setting myself up for miles upon miles of running in the heat and humidity of Virginia.  I knew I would be required to not only run a ton of miles but I would need to run a ton of them fast.

I made my decision to succeed and then came the work.

Just shy of 900 miles, many of which were run alone, with intense heat that couldn't be avoided, humidity that enveloped me with every step, I stood confident at the start of the St. George Marathon on this past Saturday.

I stood at the start of my race in the early darkness of the morning with the knowledge I would succeed.  I had worked (run) and worked (run even more) countless hours to reach my ultimate goal.  I knew I had the strength, both in body and mind to run a steady pace that would carry me to the finish I had so desired and worked for through the summer.

The announcer counted down, the starting gun went off and thousands of runners began their individual journey 26.2 miles away...a finish that held different meanings for each person.  And it wasn't just wishing to run fast that made me fast that day, it was the just working to run fast I did each and every day for 16 weeks that made my race a success.

Working for success rather than wishing for it...I did just that, and because of my work, ran even faster than I could have imagined, 3:25:27, taking 5 minutes off my fastest time!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Training Plan

Earlier this summer, in the midst of my challenging marathon training, a conversation between me and my older children began as I lamented about an upcoming long run.

"Mom, if you are getting sick of running, why not just stop running so much."

This led me to share a wonderful analogy with them that flowed perfectly with the challenges they face as teen-agers.

I said, "I know I have the choice at anytime to skip a run, forgo a speed workout, or to even stop my training. But if I do, I immediately give up opportunities I may have had to reach my goal. If I quit or decide to do less than is expected, I may no longer have the ability to run my fastest marathon.  By giving up or making choices that are not in "my plan," can make my "potential" in this race unreachable or even impossible.

I want to have the confidence as I stand at the start of my race, armed with the knowledge that although there will be challenges that lie ahead, hills that will be necessary to climb, vales that will require strength to descend, heat that will be beat upon me and long miles to be passed...I have done everything required of me to conquer and reach my goal.

Because I will spend hours training for this very race, I will know I have the potential to reach my goal.  I will have the confidence to withstand the challenges I will face and the ability to not only finish strong, but to finish even stronger."

I proceeded to explain to them, "Here you are in the throws of your teenage life. In these few short years, you will face serious challenges and temptations at every corner.  You will have the choice to keep with your challenging "training program" or to follow the crowd that tends to lead one down the easier path...a path that does not prepare and can destroy.

If you chose to work hard in your schooling, stay far away from the filth of the world and do your best to "never miss a workout" by participating in wholesome activities, attending church with an open heart and mind and spending time on your knees developing your relationship with your loving Heavenly will have the ability to conquer all and finish your race.

Sometimes we think the training plan we have been given restricts us, takes away our freedoms and even our choices.  But in reality it does the opposite.  A training plan strengthens us, teaches us and allows us to have the ability to finish strong.  It isn't always easy and it may even seem unfair...until race day.  You will be standing at the start of your race, surrounded by thousands of other runners, nervous but completely confident that you can accomplish your goal, because of that very plan.

And because of it, you can.