Getting weird in Austin


“Life’s heaviest burden is to have nothing to carry.  The impact of any person is determined by the cause for which he lives and the price he is willing to pay.  What you set your heart on will determine how you spend your life. “

-John Mason, author of Believe You Can; The Power of a Positive Attitude

After learning this evening that my race packet had been mailed to me on Monday, yet has not found its way into my mailbox, and that it in fact has been “returned to sender” due to the claim that the address is “undeliverable”, I am enjoying a rare glass of red wine and trying not to mope about having to walk instead of run on Sunday thanks to a mysterious ankle ailment.

Tomorrow I’m heading to Austin for the Austin 10/20 run, through which I have been raising money for Without Regrets Foundation.    I will be meeting up with the rest of the participants in the Running Without Regrets program for a celebratory carb-loading pasta dinner tomorrow night and then lacing up my running…er…walking shoes Sunday morning.  Should be another beautiful Texas 80-something day!

Here is some more entertainment I found while enjoying that glass of wine.  The first one is inspiring (to me, anyway) and the others are just funny.

This gives a great overall feeling of what it is like to run a marathon:

A big OOOOPS….

Maybe the Japanese express it better….

Why didn’t anyone tell me this is how you are supposed to run the hurdles when I ran track?!?!!??  I might have actually PLACED if I had known!!!!!

I hope I wasn’t THAT GUY…

Did that just happen??…

My Inspiration


I thought I would pass along a little motivation.  Really, I’m just trying to avoid grading papers but they are great videos.

This first video I was shown for the first time back when I was considering where I would complete my student teaching.  I went to an informational meeting about Aldine ISD and the speaker showed us this video.  Apparently the video and subsequent presentation achieved the desired effect considering I am now and Aldine employee.  It is a scene from the movie Facing The Giants, also the makers of the most recent movie, Courageous.

This clip I thought was great, aside from the overly emotional music and pop-up video editing job.   As a  British runner, he embodied the spirit of determination and perseverance in this melodramatically edited video.  I love the Olympics and cannot wait to see the U.S. team rock it in London this summer.  Seeing them compete at the trials in Houston made me even more of a fan.  Go team USA!

And now, a little taste of my marathon training…

Uh…now what?


How does one deal with the aftermath of working toward a goal for so long, sacrificing so much along the way, accomplishing that goal, and then suddenly having all that time and freedom returned to you?

Eat ice creamLots of it.

Chocoholic.  Mint chocolate chip.  Raspberry sorbet.  Teramisu.  Mocha Lover’s Dream.  Chocoholic.

I've been known to like a little ice cream now and then. My birthday at Hard Rock in Barcelona.

Uh...this cup was full a minute ago...

When in Rome....or Florence....

Can't let it drip.

The greatest dessert known to mankind, found only in Tsu, Japan. Is there anywhere that I haven't buried my face in a pile of ice cream???

After spending six months in training (part for the half marathon, then the rest for the full marathon), I was growing tired of being so strict with myself.  I tend to be a rule follower, so if a training schedule tells me to eat a handful of sand every day during training, I make sure that I eat that handful of sand every day out of fear that eating only half a handful, or God forbid-NO sand at all, might completely sabotage my running ability and I will never be able to run again.  So, after following every rule and suggestion during my training, I was ready to be done.   And I was pretty sure I would never want to see pasta within 20 feet of me as long as I lived.

I spent the first several weeks enjoying NOT thinking about miles, times, or carbs.  I practically skipped my way back to the gym to rejoin my favorite Body Pump class, and found my upper body was just as weak as ever.  “C’MON LADIES!!!  BIKINI SEASON IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!!!!!!”  This quickly replaced the running mantras that had been ingrained into my psyche for so long.  Apparently now my biggest concern is getting those glutes and abs in shape for a swimsuit.   Or perhaps my bigger concern should be my ARMS.  As I was pointing something out on the board to my students the other day, I was interrupted with, “EEEEW!!! Gross Miss!!  Your arms be jigglin’!!!”  And as the whole class chimed in with their disgust at my jiggling arms, another one pointed out, “Miss, you must be gettin’ old cuz only old people arms jiggle like dat!!”  Yes, they had extra homework that night.

And I recently tried my first spinning class, something that I feared almost as much as running a marathon.  And for good reason.  I hadn’t sweat that much since I started training in August in 105 degrees.  I felt like I was in a Gatorade commercial.  You know…the one in black and white and everyone is soaked in sweat and at the brink of dying from working out, but then they reach for that brightly colored, glowing bottle of Gatorade to drink in sweet satisfaction as the sweat pours down.  That was me.  Minus the Gatorade.  And I couldn’t help but enjoy the antics of the trainer who kept yelling “INCREASE!!!!!  INCREASE!!!!!!!” with such ferocity to signal it was time to tighten up the resistance on our bikes that you frantically fumbled about with the control even just to fake that you were INCREASING out of fear that she would jump off her bike and come after you.  And who wouldn’t be motivated to kick it into gear hearing the trainer shout above the pounding music, whirring bikes and grunting bikers,  “C’MON LONG LEGS- LET’S GO!!!”    Fear has its place.

However, it didn’t take long for me to start to crave a run again.  I only got to squeeze in about 3 before I woke up one Saturday morning with a little achiness behind my left ankle.  It was so minor that I didn’t give it much of a thought.  The next day the soreness had spread around  the whole outside of my ankle as well as a little of the inner ankle.  I thought this was odd, but it still didn’t inhibit anything so I brushed it off.  Then Monday arrived.  By the end of the day on Monday, my ankle had blown up so big it looked like I had a raging case of elephantitis. No accident.  No tripping and falling.  No idea how this happened.

I attempted to capture it on camera, but for some reason my feet came out looking like they belonged on ET’s sister.  So don’t be grossed out.  You may want to wait and eat until later.  I am not claiming to have cute feet, but I swear the camera brought out every ugly thing imaginable to make me look like swampfoot. With elephantitis.

$100 goes to the first person to figure out which ankle has elephantitis.


Did you survive???

I finally went to urgent care to get it checked out when, after 2 weeks, I still could not flex my foot and it was still swelling up throughout the day, though on a more humane level.  The doctor determined it was a soft tissue ankle sprain that could have been developing over time, or it could be an Achilles tendon problem that may require an MRI.  I’m hoping for the sprain.

Anyway, my Austin run is in a little over a week.  I’ve run 3 times since the middle of February, and probably won’t be running again in the next two weeks while this ankle heals.  I am pretty bummed.  This race in Austin is the official one that I have been raising funds for Without Regrets Foundation.  Hopefully my ankle will be strong enough to at least walk the 10 miles with a few of the other fundraisers.    Either way, I want to be there but I am so disappointed to not be running!!

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.  Have a blessed Easter!  I’m off to find some ice cream…

Careful with those ankles.

Port-A-Potties, Oranges and Jesus: Breakin’ It Down


Journal entry

Saturday, February 18, 2012:

“I run tomorrow!  One whole marathon!  I’ve been working for this for so long I can’t believe it’s finally here!  Be with me Lord.”



Well, this has been a long time coming!  My time immediately after returning from the marathon was filled with catching up on work days missed, preparing to miss more work a few weeks later, and spending every waking moment trying to complete job applications and prepare for a day-long group interview that I had coming up in San Francisco.  In that time I didn’t lift a finger, or rather a leg, to run once.  Mostly because there was just no time, but also out of direct rebellion to my last 6 months of training.  However I did get in a short 3 miler on a very nice treadmill with its own TV in the hotel that I stayed in for free due to an over booked flight on my way to San Francisco.  I have to admit, it felt gooooooooood.

Anyway, here is my long-winded attempt at trying to relate my ROCKY-like triumph at the marathon. I had a very hard time putting my experience into concrete words, hence the nonsensical poem that came out those first few days afterwards.   To the average person when they hear about a marathon they tend to think, “Man, that’s a lotta miles.  What nutcase would ever choose to do that???”  In fact, that was exactly my thought anytime I heard the word ‘marathon’ mentioned.  I never once had a desire to do it.  I loved to run, but I wasn’t interested in the idea of self-torture by running for hours on end, suffering through bouts of nausea, diarrhea, light-headedness, and unbelievably painful muscles in areas I didn’t know existed.  I was very happy to stick to my sporadic 4-5 mile runs when conditions were just to my liking, thank you very much.

But, alas, life found a way to catch up to me.  I somehow found myself in a job that I hated with no clear idea of what else to do, dying to scratch my ever festering travel itch, and growing very frustrated with the common apathy of so many people around me.  While most everyone around me was perfectly content to frequent bars for their sole entertainment, I wanted to experience life….travel, go kayaking, do something crazy.  Like run a marathon.  So I did.  Running became my therapy…a place for me to relieve stress from a mentally and emotionally draining job, a way for me to keep a positive outlook on my future by giving me goals to work toward, and it served as a reminder to me that I am capable of anything that I have the will and determination to do.  Not to mention it gave me some nice calves.  And diarrhea.  But that’s another story.

My poor little lunch box that kept my precious electrolyte water bottles cold until I arrived there around mile 13 on my long runs. It often was forgotten at the park until about 9 or 10 pm that night when I would be frantically hunting all over the apartment for it wondering how I could have misplaced it again, then suddenly realize that I never went to pick it up at the park.

So, my point is (yes, I do have a point) that a marathon is much more than just an absurd 26.2 mile run.  So much more.  It’s the culmination of months of sacrifice, discipline, tears, aches and pains, nerves, fears and hope.  It involves facing a giant with just a slingshot in your hand….doing the thing you knew you could never do.  It involves facing your insecurities, learning to think positive and to keep pushing forward when you just want to throw in your pretty new running tights and crawl back into bed.  When you run the marathon, you are celebrating everything you went through over the last 3-4 months to get there…most of which went unseen by others.  You are celebrating the internal struggle of willpower vs. weakness in which willpower won with the knockout punch.  You are celebrating the fact that you did it all on your own, that you are stronger than you ever knew, and that you will never again be one of those people who says, “I can’t.”

The morning of the marathon I woke up at 2:20am, worried that both my watch alarm and my phone alarm were planning a mutiny that day.  But, alas, they did go off at 4:40am as planned and I rushed to get in a hot shower, a good shave (I was going to be wearing shorts, for crying out loud!), a hearty bowl of oatmeal and lots of water with electrolytes.  Luckily, a few weeks before heading to Arizona, I was found on Facebook by a good friend who was also my big sister in my sorority days at Iowa State.  (GO CLONES!!!)  Wouldn’t you know it…she lived just a few blocks from the starting line of the marathon!  So a few weeks later I found myself in her kitchen, after not having seen her in over 10 years, trying not to wake her little girls who were still asleep in the room next to mine while debating how guilty I should feel over stashing my running belt full of their leftover valentine candy.  Life is funny.

The night before the marathon, we were treated to a feast of homemade pasta and meatballs, thanks to my aunt Sue who wanted to make sure I had adequate carbs while visiting.  My mom had packed up the cooler before my parents hauled me to the expo to pick up my bib number, then to my friend’s house over an hour away.  Thanks to their new TomTom (which mom held with a death grip in the same position the entire ride for fear that moving it might make it blow up or at least confuse the computer and cause us to end up in Kentucky), we were able to zoom all over Phoenix without a hitch.  Thanks mom.  So after my power breakfast, Meaghan piled me up in her mom-mobile and we drove the few blocks to the starting line (it was only in the 40s!!!…remember I live in Texas now).  She was kind enough to keep me company in a coffee shop until about 10 minutes before the start of the race, when she had to rush home and rouse the troupes to get them out on the curb to wave at me when I passed by.  So off I went to the starting line, where the music was pumping and fashionably dressed runners were paying their last respects to the wall of port-a-potties, myself included.

At the starting line just before the national anthem

A few minutes before the start, the announcer got on the mic and introduced the girl who sang a wobbly and off-key, yet 100% heartfelt, version of the national anthem while the first rays of orange and pink lit up the sky behind the mountains.  It was a moving moment there in the dark with a few hundred other anxious and excited runners, many who were first-timers like myself.  Off to my left I noticed a pacer standing there holding a sign with a time of 4:30 on it.  I had always assumed you had to sign up ahead of time to run with a pace group, so I resigned myself to run behind the group inconspicuously so they wouldn’t suspect that I was trying to pull a fast one on them.  But I soon came to realize that anyone could join up at any time so, since my estimated finish time was right around the 4:30 pace time, I decided to try it out, hoping that I would be able to keep up with the others, who I naturally assumed were professional marathoners.

The gun sounded and the madness began.  My group was a bunch of chatty runners with 2 other guys originally from Iowa.  We all started out chatting about our nerves, who was a first time marathoner, and why we were running.  After a few minutes of winding through the neighborhood I passed by my friend, her husband, their two little girls and their dogs out on the curb waiving and yelling as I went by.  Glad they saw me at mile 2 rather than mile 22.

I understand that it is hard to get a clear picture when I am flying by at the speed of light...

It was amazing how fast the first 4-5 miles went.  The first time I remember checking the mileage was at mile 5.  Of course at that time I thought, “Hey, just do that 4.5 more times and you’ll be done!!!  Piece of cake!”  But then it was time for potty break #1.  Every 2 miles port-a-potties were stationed so I checked into my first one, which meant I had to do a little catching up to the group upon my exit.  Knowing that all marathon advice warns against any sprinting or hard running early on, I had to make a gradual catch up that only took a mile or so.  But soon enough, all that electrolyte water plus the several cups of complementary Gatorade right before the race began decided that it was time to start working through the system.

Port-a-potty stop #2.  This time, I was second in line behind a guy who took what I believed to be an obscene amount of time for a port-a-potty stop in the middle of a marathon.  Anyway,  it put me a little farther behind then the first time, and as I was gradually catching up I noticed I was approaching one of the guys from my group who was from Iowa.  Naturally, I had to slow down to do a little Iowa bonding.  Found out he was from Waterloo and went to Columbus High School!  And for those that are familiar with the connections, it gets better:  Fr. Brunken was the priest who married him and his wife!  It was pretty entertaining to compare stories from home.  That helped knock out a couple of miles before I decided to continue on my quest to catch up.

Sorry, I just had to add this one for fun.

But soon enough, it was time for potty break #3.  This time I was lucky enough to be passing a country club which had nice non-port-a-potty bathrooms with a sink and even a mirror right by the road.  I may have dawdled a little longer in that restroom than the other two port-a-potties simply because I could actually see what I looked like at mile 9 and may have taken the opportunity to do a quick self-affirmation in the mirror, congratulating myself on making it that far.  Plus I was elated that I finally had the opportunity to finally blow my nose.  And I may have marveled a little at how spacious and clean it was…it didn’t even stink!  What a luxury!  This time I was determined that it would be my last potty break no matter what.  I had to have gotten it all out by now, right?!?!?!?  How much more could there be????  Anyway, It took me until mile 12 to reach my running group again, who, upon noticing my sudden presence looming behind them, greeted me with excited cheers of “Hey, Iowa!”  and “Iowa’s back! Alright!”  I picked a good group.  ;-)  But in those 3 miles of catch up, I ran along side a lady who, at a minimum, was in her 70s.  She told me she was trying to run a marathon in all 50 states.  She had completed 26 marathons in 19 states already.  Her husband, of course, had just finished the 50th state last year.  Good motivation.  Later on I ran along side the other guy from Iowa and had a little more Iowa bonding.  It was fun just enjoying the scenery and taking in the moment, and I was having a blast talking to the interesting people along the route and even listening in on some good conversations while I was alone trying to play catch-up.

One of the interesting people I met along the way included Jeff,” the Jesus Man” (that is my reference, not his).  I saw Jeff running with a sheet of paper in his hand at one point early on and asked him about it.  He told us that he had written down 26 different bible verses, a different one to focus on for every mile of the run.  Everyone thought that was pretty cool and asked him to read them to us at each mile.  People who were passing us or who were not part of the group but at that time were running behind us would hear and ask him to repeat it before they continued on their way.  It was fun how it seemed to suddenly connect so many strangers along the way.  One of the times that I had caught up to the group after a port-a-potty stop and had been running a while with the group, I realized that we hadn’t heard a verse in a while.  Concerned that Jeff had just forgotten, I said, “Hey Jeff, what’s the verse this mile?”  I got a groan, and a sweaty, miserable looking Jeff dug into his pocket with what seemed like an unusual amount of effort and took a deep breath before reading the verse and then struggled to put the paper back in its place.  I found out a little later that Jeff had begun to suffer from some stomach discomfort along the run.  Ooops.  I decided I would let Jeff the Jesus Man read to us when he felt like it.

Around mile first sighting of dad!!!!

It was at mile 13 that I saw my fan club for the first time.  It was hard to miss my dad’s signature canary yellow baseball cap and cargo shorts.  Plus he was standing all alone along the side of the road, my mom and aunt a ways back on the corner.  It was so much fun!

Passin' cars like they were standin' still...

They also showed up at mile 22, where my exhaustion was hitting me and I grabbed orange slices off one of the water/snack tables along the route for the first time to hopefully give me a little needed boost.  I had remembered how amazing the oranges were right after finishing the half marathon in San Antonio…a volunteer handed me a slice and I just stayed by the orange table and ate slice after slice after slice, often just standing there with my eyes closed and my mouth stuffed with an orange slice, enjoying the sweet euphoria of the sudden rush of sugar.  I was hoping for the same experience at mile 22.  I’m not sure that the one slice helped me any, but it sure tasted goooood!  There is something about oranges and running that are simply spectacular.  Is it the sweet, tangy juice contrasting with the sour, achy muscles?  Is it just the quick sugar rush?  I don’t know but I like it.  At that point I was too tired to waste any energy on chewing and it was becoming harder and harder to catch my breath when eating or drinking anything so I just squeezed the juice into my empty water cup and slammed my orange like a champ.  It was the best 5 seconds of the run.  After crossing the finish line, of course.

Orange slices and Gatorade. Yes, I am walking....POWER order to chug my Gatorade and eat my orange without things going up my nose or down my shirt.

Many people asked me when I hit “the wall”.  I don’t remember ever hitting a wall.  It was more like a fog.  A happy, delirious, painful fog. I do remember a slow, steady increase in achiness in my hips, butt and thighs that started to emerge around mile 15.  It didn’t become a significant obstacle until around mile 23 when the end was clearly in sight and yet the miles seemed to tick by slower and slower…and there were only three of us left in our running group, a group that started out with probably 8-10 at the beginning.  Jeff the Jesus Man was one of them who had dropped off.  Apparently there was a big wall there at mile 22.  My legs were having a hard time moving by that time and to continue maintaining the same pace through to the end required a periodic string of expletives in my head (where was the Jesus man when I needed him?!?!?) and every ounce of discipline and will power to keep myself from stopping at any point.

The 4:30 pack before right before "the wall"

Our group, or what was left of it, continued to encourage each other and tell each other how great we all were for getting this far and before we knew it, the final dreaded bridge, which was the only hill on the route, was before us.  If we could just get over the bridge to the other side, it would be only about a half mile left!  I had read a suggestion that when running up hill you should always look down at your feet, that way you don’t notice the incline and your mind is not focusing on how much more you have left.  I shared this with the group and soon we were all starting at our feet trudging up the hill.  About halfway up the hill we passed a very angry middle-aged women who was being coached by her friends to start running again by using the always motivating “C’mon!  Let’s go!  You can’t quit!”  She kept yelling back “I CAN’T RUN ANYMORE!!!” at them as she walked quite painfully uphill.  I felt bad for her and kind of wanted to trip her friends.  But I was on a mission so I didn’t.

It's the eye of the tiger...

Well, needless to say, we made it over the hill and soon rounded the last corner to come into the final .2 to cross the finish line.  The teenage cross-country runner that stayed with the group wanted to sprint to the finish so she and I gave every last ounce of energy we had to make it across.  It’s funny how my body felt like it was sprinting at world record pace but I somehow wasn’t moving much faster.  But that’s okay because as I crossed the finish line I was suddenly filled with energy and adrenaline (maybe from the orange juice??)…enough to start jumping up and down and shouting in my ROCKY-like delirium…before making a beeline for the orange slices. the finish line the first black strip...or the second one....or the third one???? We'll go with the fist one.

Excited?? Just a little.

Which is a better victory pose...hands open "jazz hands" style or power fists?

Power fists. Definitely.

My Iowa fan parents.

I did it!  I ran the marathon and I didn’t throw up, get diarrhea, or have a need to have any limbs amputated!!!  It was a perfectly wonderful day, shared with family that were kind enough to drive all over God’s green earth (thanks to mom and her death grip on the TomTom!!)  just to cheer me on and make me feel loved.   That’s what it’s all about anyway. 😉

“The choice is simple. You can either stand up and be counted, or lie down and be counted out.  Defeat never comes to people until they admit it.  Your success will be measured by your willingness to keep on trying.  Anyone can quit.  Have the courage to live.”   -John Mason, Believe You Can; The Power of a Positive Attitude

“May you live all the days of your life.”   -Johnathon Swift