Lessons of a PR

23 10 2013

I finally did it. After nine years of running, I finally broke a 30-minute official 5K (official results), and actually wound up winning my division (female 40-44 years old). I can check another item off my 40 Things list, and I’m getting closer to checking off item #14 on my life-long bucket list, running an 8-minute mile for an entire 5K.

So how did this happen? I would love to say it was the result of hard work, determination, and endurance. While those attributes played into this accomplishment, the other factors that helped were:
1. This was an inaugural 5K supporting our local YMCA. For you runners out there, you know what “inaugural” means: low turn-out. There were only 21 ladies in my age group, and 188 total participants. I finished 45th overall.
2. The course was ridiculously flat. Flat = good.

My official time was 29:12.6, but my running time was 28:22. I had a “wardrobe malfunction” at mile two which involved me trying to take my jacket off while running. I’ve done this numerous times so I know how to do it efficiently. However, I forgot that I put my GPS watch on TOP of my jacket. In trying to figure out why my sleeve wouldn’t come off, I got my jacket tangled up around me and had to stop. Completely stop. When you are trying to PR, stopping completely is not a good thing. That little snafu cost me about 50 seconds. But, really, who cares? (besides me) I still PRed and won! (PR stands for Personal Record, and in running it can be used as a noun or verb.)

On the podium (I promise you, there were more than two us in the division!)

On the podium (I promise you, there were more than two us in the division!)

Matthew on the podium

Matthew on the podium

My husband also ran and placed second in his division (male 40-44), missing first by about four seconds. His time was 23:18.9. He can run that fast without training. Ever.

Oh my word!  I cry from laughing every time I look at this photo.

Oh my word! I cry from laughing every time I look at this photo.

There are so many things wrong with this picture. It might have made it on to our Christmas cards this year if we were doing Christmas cards. (Why are we not doing Christmas cards?) My mom looks like she saw a ghost, and Jason is . . . missing. If you look carefully, you can barely see the top of his head where the “professional” photographers cut him off. I look sunburned despite the 50° temps. Thank goodness Matthew and Caleb look normal.

Caleb and Jason also did the kid’s one-mile race. Caleb walked, but Jason had it in his head he was going to WIN! He took off like lightning . . . at least as fast as his little legs could carry him. He wanted to hold Matthew’s hand the whole way, but once other kids began passing him, he stopped completely, threw his hands up in frustration, and sat down. In the middle of the path. I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did. He eventually got up and started walking, pouting the whole way. Only a balloon sword at the finish line could bring about a smile again.

Jason and Matthew on the kid's mile

Jason and Matthew on the kid’s mile

Jason and mommy pre-race

Jason and mommy pre-race

I love this photo, taken by a random staff member at the Y. I love that 1) Jason is so stinking cute, 2) I can still lift him for a snuggle hug, and 3) you can see my hair is long enough to put in a ponytail. I’ve waited 15 years for that!

Whenever I run alone, I always have an amazing time visiting my thoughts unencumbered—no kids asking questions, no phone ringing, no doorbell dinging. Just me and whatever is flittering around in my head. On race day, this is what was on my mind.

•I’m so thankful. Thankful I have two legs that work well together to be able to run. Thankful that my asthma has much improved and my cardiovascular system is in great shape after three decades of getting winded walking up a flight of stairs. Thankful that I have the leisure time to be able to run. Thankful that I have the finances to be able to participate in races/fundraisers like this. Most of the world does not have the money, time, or health that I enjoy.

•God’s creation is breathtaking. Leaves changing colors in autumn. Green grass against a blue sky. Sunlight filtering through a forest. When I’m running I get to escape the iPads and iPhones, the fluorescent lights and artificial heat, and I am transported to God’s creation in its purest form.

•I need to push myself A LOT harder when I train. I usually train 3-5 miles, 3-4x a week. My first mile is usually just over a 10-minute mile, mile 2 is a 10-minute mile, and for mile 3 I increase the speed 0.1 mph every tenth of a mile until I’ve only got a ¼ mile left. Then I up the speed to 7-8 miles per hour. I do like pushing myself hard at the end, but I definitely need to start at a faster pace. I just proved I could run a sub 9-minute mile for an entire 5K. I should not be such a wimp (most days).


This Is Why You’re Not Getting a Christmas Card From Us This Year (or maybe ever again)

6 12 2012

No More Christmas Cards explains how we came to our decision to NOT send Christmas cards this year.

So, the winner of what would have been our Christmas money was Safe Haven Family Shelter, by almost a 3-1 vote.  I was introduced to Safe Haven almost two years ago, and since then, both Caleb and Jason have joined me on various occasions to help provide dinner for the residents.

Besides the money issue, the other reason you are not getting a Christmas card from us is because this is it!  SURPRISE dear readers!  We’re going all-digital this year.

Many of you keep up with us via Facebook anyway, so you already know our year in review.  For those who don’t, here you go:

The Huddleston 2012 Year in Review

Matthew continues to teach physics and launch high altitude balloons at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He loves his job, and even took on the challenge of hosting a national high altitude balloon conference at TNU in June.

He finished his first (and possibly, probably, hopefully last) full marathon in April.  His goal was an ambitious 4:00, but he made it around 4:25.  This is incredibly impressive considering he only “trained” once each week . . . most of the time.

He has also completed several mud runs, the latest rage in running races around the country.  Now that he’s in a new age bracket, he will probably start placing and winning some nice prizes.

On a heavier note, Matthew’s dad, Mark, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.  He had surgery just a few days after.  The doctors thought they got all of the cancer, but subsequent tests showed a spot on a lymph node.  He is currently undergoing chemo therapy once every two weeks for six months.  His doctors remain very optimistic, but we’d still appreciate your prayers for complete healing and for strength and endurance for Mark and Martha during this time.

Kelly (me) continues to teach technology and journalism/graphic design at Franklin Road Academy.  I also love my job.  I did NOT do a ½ (or full) marathon this year, and I feel great!  Triathlons are my new thing (My First Triathlon).  Having successfully finished three of them, I can no longer qualify for placings in the Beginner category.  However, being really a really weak swimmer, mediocre bicyclist, and slow runner, I wouldn’t qualify for placings in any category anyway.  Maybe when I’m 80 and still doing triathlons will I win something.

Gourmet cupcakes are my newest indulgence so if you are ever looking for a gift . . .  (I also love chocolate and a good extra sharp cheddar cheese.)  However, I really need to be eating more fruit and vegetables, so a membership in some sort of fruit-of-the-month club would be a better gift.

Matthew and Kelly’s (our) international trip this year took us to Nicaragua in July.  We met another one of the kids we sponsor through Compassion International.  Always an eye-opening, life-changing event, you can read about it here:  Open My Eyes.  You can also read about the amazing amount of fun hell we had as we hiked a volcano on Ometepe Island.

Next year’s trip is another once-in-a-lifetime trip:  india!  For three weeks we will traverse a good chunk of the country in June.  The first 10 days or so will be spent in Chennai and traveling up the Indian Ocean coast of south eastern India, mainly to visit two more kids they sponsor through Compassion International (link) as well as spend some time with a friend who pastors a church in a small village there.  During the second half of the trip, we will get to play tourist:  visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants and camels in the dessert, visit Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, and take a boat tour along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the heart of the Hindu culture.  Expect great blog posts to come from this adventure.

Other big news for 2012 included placing membership in a new church, Priest Lake Christian Fellowship.  Our former home church group, the Gathering, fizzled out as families found new churches around the Nashville area, so we started looking, too.  Being less than a mile from our home was a great benefit, but the people were the main draw.  We have never been to a more humble church where the Holy Spirit is so alive and thriving among its members.  It’s inspiring and challenging and moving each week.

Caleb is in fourth grade at Franklin Road Academy and continues to love school and excel in his academics.  To brag on this child for a moment, he has yet to receive a B in any term grade since he started PK.  He’s got his Daddy’s brains and aptitude for math and building things.  Caleb continues to love all things Star Wars, but his Pokemon obsession (thank goodness!) has come to an end.  If you know of anyone interested in buying a 700+ card Pokemon collection, please let us know.

Caleb’s newest obsession is legos.  The kid lives and breathes legos, which we are fine with.  He actually builds some really cool things, like a working flashlight—complete with an on/off lever and working bulb.

Caleb is also learning to play the recorder and trumpet, and we (as in Kelly) are trying desperately (and futilely) to get him to sing “This Song is Just Six Words Long” by Weird Al Yankovic in the Fourth Grade Variety Show in January.  Weird Al is another recent obsession of Caleb’s, and being the cool parents we are, for his birthday we bought him tickets to see Weird Al in concert in April when he comes to Nashville.

Caleb is a Webelo scout this year, and is a popcorn selling machine!  He sold over $1500 to win first place again in his cub scout pack.  He won an archery set, 8% of his total sales in cash, a $50 Walmart gift card, an LED head lamp, a patch, Predators’ tickets, and a trophy.  (Don’t get me started on winning trophies for something like selling popcorn.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of the practice.)

Caleb’s most exciting adventure this year, though, was his ER trip that led to a hospital stay for a couple of days at the end of August for pneumonia.  Despite this bump in the road, we are still tremendously blessed.  His asthma and allergies have plagued him something fierce this fall, much worse than normal.  We have an appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist next week so we are praying for something to help manage this better.

Jason started preK at FRA this year, and is loving it.  Being the second child, we did not work with him on things like the alphabet, drawing, writing, or reading much (hardly at all) before he started school.  Thankfully, the kid has a mind like a sponge and is taking off in the writing and reading department.  He also loves to draw.

Jason, too, is obsessed with Star Wars and legos.  At three he could recite entire scenes from Star Wars.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by this.  Did I mention he was three at the time?  The kid can build lego creations with the best of them . . . well, maybe not a working flashlight yet, but he can build really cool spaceships, race cars, jails, mouse traps, and monsters.

Jason and Caleb took their first official swimming lessons this summer.  Lesson 1 involved Jason crying and screaming for the full 45 minute session.  He had snot running out of both nostrils to his belly button when I picked him up.  He only cried for about 15 minutes of lesson 2, and by lesson 3 he was actually excited to go.  Now, of course, the kid is terrified to put his head in the water, which reminds Kelly of herself as a child forced to take swimming lessons.

Packer, our dog, continues to love to eat anything that falls on the floor including baby spit-up (true story) as well as grass to later make herself throw-up said baby spit-up.  She loves to sleep during the day and wake us up around 4:00 a.m. to pee and play.

Finley Bubbles the VIII, our beta fish, didn’t last the year.  At this time, we are uncertain if we will buy Finley Bubbles the IX.

Hopes and prayers for 2013:

  • Good health for everyone
  • A safe and amazing trip to India
  • Jobs we love
  • Caleb and Jason would continue to grow and mature in their faith, following Christ
  • Matthew and Kelly possibly beginning a new Marriage Builders home church group
  • Kelly hopes to begin working on her MBA at Trevecca in the fall

As we reflect back and look forward, may we always remember WHY we celebrate.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14

Love and prayers to all,
the Huddleston Family

PS.  If any of you find yourselves in Nashville and need a place to stay, we’ve got plenty of room and love house guests.

Counting My Blessings Amidst Illness

27 08 2012

(This was written on Friday, August 24.)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. -Psalm 46:1

The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind, and I am running on fumes as I write this.  Caleb, my 9-year-old son, is going on night #2 in the hospital with pneumonia.  And yet, I have been filled with extreme thankfulness all day as I ponder my blessings.

In less than 24 hours, Caleb went from his normal health to “he needs help NOW!”  I am always amazed at how quickly our health can turn on us.  He went to bed on Wednesday night complaining of a sore throat.  He woke up Thursday morning, and his throat no longer bothered him, but he had a very runny nose.  He was sneezing a lot, and he had a lot of nasal drainage.  His breathing wasn’t terrible, or so we thought.  Nothing a breathing treatment at school and maybe a few puffs of his inhaler couldn’t fix.

When I went to pick him up after school, his skin looked gray.  If there were a Crayola crayon to describe his skin it would be named “Brain Matter Gray.”  My sweet child needed help.

My husband, Matthew, took Caleb to a minute clinic.  The closest one to us had already closed, but I found another one not too much farther away that was open late. (Blessing #1!)  I thought Caleb might have bronchitis and would need antibiotics.  At the minute clinic, Matthew was told Caleb would need a steroid shot, but they didn’t administer those at that location.  They were sent to another clinic across the street where they were told the same thing.  Only this time, they checked Caleb’s O2 level and it was in the 80s.  Normal/healthy levels are above 95.  Levels in the low 90s are common for people with respiratory illnesses, sleep apnea, and smokers.  Anything in the 80s is usually cause for concern.

Caleb in the ER

Caleb in the ER

With this news, Matthew and Caleb were headed to the nearest ER, only two miles away.  (Blessing #2!)  Caleb was immediately given an oxygen mask and a breathing treatment.  His O2 levels improved, but whenever his mask was removed, his levels dropped back into the 80s.  His chest x-ray also showed a spot.  Pneumonia.  He would be spending the night.I was at home with Jason, our 4-year-old as well as my dad and a motorcycle buddy of his.  The two were en route from Florida back home to Wisconsin, and our house was approximately the half-way point.  (Blessing #3!)  God’s providence in the timing of all this actually makes me smile.  If this had to happen, timing it so that my dad would be in town—and we weren’t planning on seeing him for another three months—all I can say is, thank you, God!

As Matthew and I were discussing what needed to be done, Matthew realized he had taken my car, but he also had our only working van key with him.  So I had a vehicle with no means to drive it to the hospital or to work the next day.  And it was after 10:00 p.m. by this point.  My dad had his motorcycle, and while I have my operator’s license, I am not at all comfortable driving his Honda Goldwing that cost more than our Nissan, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Suzuki cycle combined.  So I texted my neighbor.  (Blessing #4!)

I don’t know many people who can call/text a next-door neighbor late at night and ask to borrow their car.  I am one of the lucky few who have amazing neighbors like that.  Not only did they let me take their car, Linda offered to drive me if I needed the emotional support.  And she stayed up until I got home which was almost midnight.

Before my we moved into our current home in 2006, I had been praying for years that our next neighbors would be faithful Christians, and God answered that prayer abundantly with the Shepherds.

Back to Blessing #3, I didn’t have to worry about leaving Jason alone while I went to the hospital since my dad was in town.  Normally, taking care of Jason through all of this would have been a minor ordeal by itself.

I finally made it to the hospital, visited with Matthew and Caleb for a little, and got back home around midnight.  I was physically exhausted as well as mentally and emotionally drained, but I couldn’t sleep.  I drifted off at some point, but Jason popped in around 2:00 a.m. to visit and say hi.  (I call him my Midnight Snuggler.)  In my stupor, I told him to crawl into bed where daddy sleeps.

In those wee hours of the morning, I was reminded to be thankful for our overall good health. (Blessing #5!)  Despite this temporary setback, we really are blessed with good health.  And though both Caleb and I have asthma and allergies that act up occasionally, I know far too many people who deal with chronic pain, MS, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases on a daily basis.  There is no reprieve for them.  Physical and emotional struggle are a part of their daily lives.

My dad and his friend were going to get up around 5:00 a.m. and hit the road to avoid the morning rush hour traffic today.  However, when I got up at 5:30 they were sitting in the living room, talking quietly.  My dad said he would be glad to stay the day if it would help.  He would sit with Caleb at the hospital so Matthew and I could go to work.  (Blessing #6!)

Missing out on visiting with his Papa was the one thing that Caleb got really emotional about in the ER.  He adores his Papa.  Being able to surprise Caleb with an all-day visit with Papa was priceless.  (Blessing #7!)

Day two began, and Caleb’s O2 levels continued to slip whenever he removed his oxygen mask throughout the day.  He was feeling better and desperately wanted to go home, but the doctor wanted him to spend another night.

My day at work was actually amazing. (Blessing #8)  Despite my physical exhaustion and overwhelmed emotions, the prayers and support I received from my co-workers, students and their parents still amazes me.  (Blessings #9-245!)  I think I spent half my day saying thank you to hundreds of people who told me they were praying for Caleb.  I am also astonished that I accomplished anything at work, but I did.  I left in peace and not dreading what Monday would bring when I returned to my classroom. (Blessing #246!)

There were quite a few people; however, who questioned my decision to work today.  I had my reasons, but the most important was this:  Matthew was with Caleb, and Matthew is an amazing father.  (Blessing #247!)  He is more than capable of doing what needed to be done.  If the roles were reversed, I doubt many people would have questioned Matthew’s decision to work if I was at the hospital.  Do we really need this double-standard?  For our family, it made the most sense for Matthew to stay with Caleb and for me to work.  We traded places soon enough.

When Jason and I got to the hospital Friday afternoon, our dear neighbors (from Blessing #3) were already there.

The best part was definitely the bed.  His bed at home isn't nearly as exciting.  The hosptial bed even had TV and light controllers in the side panel.  We won't even let Caleb have a TV in his room.

The best part was definitely the bed. His bed at home isn’t nearly as exciting. The hosptial bed even had TV and light controllers in the side panel. We won’t even let Caleb have a TV in his room.

Our pastor also popped in for a visit and prayer. (Blessing #248!)

A tray of food was delivered for me along with Caleb’s dinner.  I had already eaten before arriving at the hospital so I was able to offer my meal to my dad who was hungry. (Blessing #249!)

I remembered to bring my phone and tablet chargers.  (Blessings #250-251!)  And socks.  (Blessing #252!) And Caleb’s DS. (Blessing #253!)

Caleb played his DS.  A lot.  He also read two complete books so I can't complain.

Caleb played his DS. A lot. He also read two complete books so I can’t complain.

Wireless service was available for free in Caleb’s room.  (Blessing #254!)

Jason commented that Caleb’s room was like a hotel room.  Yes, dear little innocent son.  A very, very, very expensive hotel room.  While my dad and I considered how much this little visit would cost, I was not worried about the final price tag.  We are financially disciplined and live a debt-free life.  We are able to save so that adventures like this one will not impact our finances negatively.  (Blessing #255!)  Matthew also just happened to get a significant bonus at work just a few days earlier which will hopefully cover the remainder of what we have to pay after insurance, our deductible, and HSA contribute.  (Blessing #256!)

We had never been to Stonecrest Hospital before.  Our usual health journeys bring us to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.  Everyone at Stonecrest was amazing. (Blessing #257!)

The Extended Care Director at FRA had the other fourth graders email get well notes to Caleb.  Watching him read them and some other cards made by his friends at school was such a sweet moment.  (Blessing #258!)  Seeing him realize his friends really cared about him and missed him . . . that warms a mother’s heart.

In the short time I have been with Caleb tonight, countless nurses and respiratory specialists have been in to administer breathing treatments or take his vitals.  He handled himself with such maturity and respect and no complaining, even while eating apple sauce laced with prednisone and amoxicillin. (Blessing #259!)  I can’t tell you how tasty it was, but I can confirm that it smelled like warm vomit.

Drug laced applesauce!  Can you say yuuummmm?

Drug laced apple sauce! Can you say yuuummmm?

I’m now watching my son sleep peacefully without difficulty breathing. (Blessing #260!)

Run Kelly Run (part 2)

10 01 2012

(A continuation from Run Kelly Run (part 1))

“So, why do you run?” 

I’ve been thinking about this question for several years now.  It was most recently posited to me by a friend after hearing me tell of how much I disliked running.  (Okay, I used the phrase “I hate running.”)

I have been a “serious” runner for about seven years now.  Though I’m not sure what exactly constitutes being a “serious” runner, that is how many friends and family describe me.  I run 2-3 times per week, 3-4 miles per time.  I’ve participated in three ½ marathons, two Ragnar Relays, and numerous 5/10/15 Ks over the past three years.  I currently have 13 races/triathlons on my calendar for 2012 and am looking for a few more.

Yet despite my discipline and sacrifice, I still don’t really enjoy running.  I never have, and I keep waiting for the day when I get really excited about going for a run.  Before most runs, it is a huge mental challenge to ready myself to run.  I often wait to the last minute to change into my running clothes.  Then I’ll stand on the treadmill staring at the Start button thinking, “Just push the button.  Push the —– button!  All you have to do is push the button.  Push the button, already!”  And on it goes in my mind till, minutes later, I muster a bit of resolve and push the button.

So, then, why do I continue to partake of this activity several times a week?

Simply stated, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

The health benefits, in particular, are numerous.

  1. My asthma is well-controlled.  The fact that I can even finish a ½ marathon with just a preventative puff of my inhaler before it starts is an amazing accomplishment in itself.  (I was the kid who couldn’t run one lap in PE without ending up in the nurse’s office.)  I remember having a series of pulmonary breathing tests done a few years ago by my allergist.  I had been running just a few years at that point.  My doctor was astonished by the increase in all the different results.  She commented that anyone looking at just those test numbers would have no idea I had asthma.
  2. My weight is a non-issue.  I don’t know too many women who can claim that they are just fine with their weight, but I really am.  I am not trying to lose weight.  I’m in maintenance mode.  In fact, if I were to lose only five more pounds, my BMI would drop to an unhealthy level.
  3. Endorphin boost!
  4. I sleep really, really well.  Even though I run at night most of the time, usually ending within an hour of bedtime, I have no problems falling asleep.
  5. My body is more tone and fit.  There is more muscle definition in my legs, arms, and abs.  I look better, and I feel better.  Or do I feel better because I look better?
  6. Running helps me clear my mind and focus in ways other activities can’t.  I often have some of my best prayer times while running, and I can often hear God’s voice much easier on my runs.
  7. Every year I get a comprehensive wellness exam consisting of a blood panel, EKG, ultrasound of my heart and other major organs, chest x-ray, and a few other tests.  My cholesterol is lower, and my risk of developing heart disease is lower than it was before I started running.  How many people do you know can claim to be in better physical health with each passing year as they age?

The ROI (Return on Investment, to borrow a finance term) is also great.  For the time it takes and the amount of energy exerted, I burn twice as many calories running for 30 minutes than biking and about four times as many calories as I would swimming.

I can’t leave out the practical nature of running either.  This is a sport I can literally do anywhere in the world, at any time of day, in almost any kind of weather without much hassle or cost.  I run at home.  I run on vacation.  I run in the rain.  I run when it’s 95° outside, and I run when it is 30° outside.  I run with friends.  I run alone.  I run on the treadmill at home.  I run in my neighborhood.  I run at the state park that is two miles from my house.  I run at dawn.  I run when the stars are out.

I don’t have to drive to a gym to run.  I don’t have to wait till the park opens or be done before the gym closes.  I am not limited to a certain time on a certain day.  I don’t have to rely on a partner or team.  I don’t have to tote around a huge gym bag full of clothing or a van-full of equipment.  I don’t have to memorize a play book or adhere to a set of game rules.  I am not judged, nor do I have to worry about a referee.

I just have to place one foot in front of the other.

Running has helped me to develop discipline in how I treat my body.  Running has helped me learn to sacrifice for the greater good.  Running has taught me to push the darn button to do something that I know will bless me in the end, despite how I feel at the start.

So no, I do not need to find another form of exercise as my friend suggested.  I will continue to run, and I will continue to be blessed by it.

“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.”
Hebrews 12:1 

My First Triathlon

30 08 2011
Cedars of Lebanon Traithlon 2011

Cedars of Lebanon Traithlon 2011

I was the kid who begged my parents (as a teenager) to drive to the next door neighbor’s house for dinner.  Their house was literally 20 feet from ours.

I was the kid who was diagnosed with asthma at age three and was on a regimen of pills, inhalers, shots, and blood tests throughout my school years.

I was the kid who screamed at the swim instructor that she couldn’t make me get in the pool (at age 5), and I made sure she really couldn’t.

I was the high school kid who couldn’t run one lap around the track without having to be taken to the nurse’s office after having a severe asthma attack.

I am now the woman, wife, and mother of two, who just completed her first triathlon at age 38.

One friend competed in her first sprint triathlon in May and planted the seed that maybe I could do this. . . next year.  Another friend, in the meantime, learned about the Cedars of Lebanon Triathlon in June and decided to start training.  Within a couple of weeks, six of us ladies committed to doing it together, and our training began.

I trained throughout the summer, though not as intensely as I probably should have.  Come race day, our little group made its way to the end of the swimming line.  I was #450 out of 491 triathletes competing that day.  Our numbers were based on our estimated swim speed and overall estimated coarse finish.  As I looked at the hundreds of athletes ahead of me, I quickly realized I was way out of my league.

Once I got in the pool, my assumption was quickly proven true.  I actually finished the 300 yard swim in less than 12 minutes, which for me, is about three minutes faster than my training time all summer. However, I had one of the top 10 slowest swim times, and I’m pretty sure I looked like I was drunk the entire time.  I kept bumping into people, and I could not go straight to save my life.  As I swerved from rope-to-rope in each lane, I’m sure I gave the onlookers a good laugh.  But you know what, I really don’t care.  I’m proud I surpassed my goal.  I exited the pool smiling and grateful.

My transition time from the swim to bike was quite pitiful at a little over five minutes.  I took my time, walking to my bike instead of running. But again, I didn’t care what others thought.

The 16.5 mile bike course was more difficult than I anticipated.  At each new hill, and there were many, I focused on the few feet directly ahead of me.  When I lifted my head and looked into the distance, I got discouraged seeing how much was left.  So I focused on the next peddle:  praying for strength and endurance, just one more deep breath, encouragement and stamina.  Once at the top, I thanked God for helping me to get there, for the beauty of my surroundings, for the glorious weather, for the breeze, for the downhill ride I now got to enjoy.

My bike time was a little over what I was hoping for, 93 minutes, but I met up with two friends walking the final ½ mile due to a wipeout one had.  I walked with them and once again thought, I’m in this to finish, my time doesn’t matter today.  Walking with my friend was more important than shaving a few minutes off my time.

The final 2.9 mile run was the most difficult stage for me.  I have raced in many 5Ks, 10Ks, 15Ks, half-marathons and even one relay team race from Chattanooga to Nashville, but this 2.9 mile stretch kicked my butt.  It was my worst time for such a short run that I’ve ever had, at almost 37 minutes.  I was physically exhausted and completely out of energy, and the sun was now beating down on us.  I figure I walked at least half the course.

Crossing the finish line with my family and friends cheering me on was overwhelming.  I was flooded with thoughts and prayers and praises:  “THANK YOU, GOD!  I am a triathlete!  I’m glad it’s done!  I wonder what my time was?  Who cares about my time, I just finished a triathlon!  PRAISE GOD!”

In the 2:29:41 it took me to complete this triathlon (my goal was under 2:30:00), God reminded me of several important things I had lost sight of recently.

  • I’ve learned that keeping my focus on short-term attainable goals (like the next two feet instead of the next two miles) is key to achieving long-term goals.  “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.” –Hebrews 12:1
  • I’ve learned the importance of prayer along every step of the way.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
  • I’ve learned to be thankful for the trials that lead to growth and the hills that lead to mountaintop experiences.  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all situations, for this is God’s will for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • I’ve learned to be ever grateful to God for giving me a body that is healthy and able to complete a triathlon.  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” –Psalm 139:14
  • I’ve learned that finishing the race is more important than winning the race.  “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. “ –Acts 20:24
  • I’ve learned not to be content with a life of comfort and ease, but to purposely be disciplined and seek challenges that will help me grow spiritually, physically and mentally.  “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” –Hebrews 12:11

I can’t wait for what’s next!

Ragnar Relay 2010 – Running in Honor of a Norse King

9 11 2010
Ragnar logo195.5 miles + 10 runners + rain, snow, sleet + total sleep deprivation + temperatures between 20-40 degrees + 31:15:01 hours of non-stop running from Chattanooga to Nashville = Ragnar Relay = one of the most amazing, brutal and rewarding physical feats I’ve ever accomplished.

I first heard about the Ragnar in late April, right after I finished my second ½ marathon.  Ragnar is a 9th Century Norse King:  a pirate, an explorer, a raider, a conqueror, a wild man.  The Ragnar Relay embodies all these qualities and is definitely not for the faint of heart, mentally or physically.  Teams consist of 12 runners (or six runners if they do the ultra) who each run 3 legs ranging from 2.7 to 8.9 miles, non-stop from Chattanooga to Nashville, 195.5 miles total.  (Or in our case, 198 miles due to a missed turn on leg 34.)

Ragnar TN 2010 course

Ragnar TN 2010 course

Several friends and I talked about getting a team together, and by the end of July, we were registered as Team 109:  Smells Like Team Spirit.  By September, our roster was finalized with 10 runners instead of the usual 12.  Two of our runners would be “ultras,” meaning they would run 2 legs back-to-back, three times.  Once we got our order worked out, I was responsible for legs 11, 23, and 35 of the race.

The first five runners (Carrie, Josh, Michelle, Andrew, and Chassi) were in van 1 and had to be at the start line in Chattanooga by 9:30 a.m. which meant a very early start to their day.  I was in van 2 so we didn’t leave Nashville until noon to meet up with Van 1 at exchange 6.  (Each point where runners pass the “baton” is called an exchange.)

Van 1

Van 1 and their "inspirational" message. (Carrie, Chassi, Michelle, Josh, Andrew)

Van 2

Van 2 at exchange 6 (Echo, Lee, Kelly, Meg, Matthew was MIA)

Van 2

Van 2's inspirational message

Van 2

Van 2 - The TN RagMag did a feature story on me overcoming my asthma through running (page 1).

Our excitement was palpable on the drive down, although I was a little sad Matthew, who was the runner right before me, was not with us.  He had a work engagement to attend to, but he met up with us right before his first leg.  The runners in van 2 were Lee, Echo, Meg, Matthew and myself.  Sky, Meg’s husband, drove for us.  We all knew each other pretty well, except for Lee who was a new-comer to our group, but what an amazing blessing he turned out to be!

There are hours worth of stories to tell from our discussions in the van about rotting bananas, body odor, Snickers, Motrin versus Tylenol, and the various digestive issues several runners were experiencing.  However, I’m going to focus the rest of this post on my own experience.

Kelly at leg 11

Waiting at leg 11 for my first leg to start. From 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. all runners were required to wear full protective gear: reflective vest, headlamp, and LCD light on the back.

My first leg was leg 11:  5.3 miles through the University of the South in Sewanee.  I began around 8:00 p.m., and the temperature was already in the 40s, the coldest weather I’ve ever run in.  I was nervous going into the race because cold weather has always been a trigger for an asthma attack, and I do not train in cold weather.  I was amazed that my breathing was fine; I had no issues with my asthma.  This was the first of several victories I had during the race.  Six years ago, I could not run for one minute at a very slow pace without wanting to collapse and needing a puff of my inhaler.  Three days ago, I was running a sub-10-minute mile in 40 degree weather.  Though this was the longest of my three legs, it was the easiest, flattest, and fastest.

Leg 11

Leg 11

Leg 23

Leg 23

My second leg was leg 23:  4.6 miles northwest of Shelbyville (middle of nowhere TN).  I started this one at 4:00 a.m., and the temperature had dropped another 20 degrees.  This was the loneliest of my runs.  In the 4.6 miles, I encountered one other runner.  I am so, so thankful for my teammates in van 2 and their incredible encouragement during this leg.  They would drive ahead a mile, wait for me on the side of the road, and cheer me on ridiculously until I passed.  Repeat four more times.  We did this for all our runners, but that little extreme burst of encouragement meant the world to me.

Physically I was tired, having been awake for almost 24 hours at this point.  Most of my thoughts during this leg were simply:  “You can do this.”  “This is what you’ve been training for.”  “You’re closer to the finish than you were a few minutes ago.”  “A few more steps.”   Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  I also had this horrible, horrible HP commercial jingle repeating in my head for many minutes at a time:  “I’ve got a pair of brand new roller skates, you’ve got a ??? in me. . .”  Only, for some reason I replaced roller skates with underpants thinking it was an ad for some new toddler pull-up training underwear.  I tried to compute Fibonacci series in my head, but that jingle would always sneak back.  I want to scream every time I hear that commercial now.

During this leg, more so than any other, I was struck by the realization that people were praying for me.  I don’t expect anyone was actually awake between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. praying for my running, but I felt those prayers in a very tangible way.

Once we all finished our second legs, we had about five hours of down time till our third legs began.  Lee’s house was only two miles from our last major exchange, so he invited us all to crash at his house.  He called his wife, and a van of six smelly strangers showed up at their door around 5:30 a.m.  Most immediately found space on the floor or couch and promptly fell asleep.  I opted for a hot shower first and crawled into their guest bed.  What a blessing those two hours of sleep were, in a real bed, with access to a real bathroom.  Port-a-potties get really old in below-freezing weather.

After that rest, some lunch at Chick-Fil-A and more driving and cheering, my final leg began around 4:00 p.m.  It was by far the toughest.  I had gotten about two hours of sleep total in the past 36 hours, and the course was incredibly hilly (for me anyway).  I was pretty psyched getting ready for it, but Matthew, who was the runner right before me, missed a turn and ran about two extra miles before finally making it to the exchange where I was to start.  Though I ran this one a lot slower than originally anticipated, I was proud that I ran the whole thing without walking.

Leg 35

Leg 35

This was the only leg I ran in the daylight, but it was still cold and windy.  My body temperature increased enough to make me sweat, but I never felt warm.  In fact, I kept shivering for almost two hours after I finished; I simply could not get warm.

Smells Like Team Spirit at the finish line

Team 109 Smells Like Team Spirit at the finish line, 31:15:01

Our team crossed the finish line together over 31 hours after Carrie started on leg 1.  Team 109 had finished in 109th place.  Though we were elated, amazed, and slightly crazy from sleep deprivation, I found the finish line festivities underwhelming.  Due to the cold, most teams left immediately after getting their medals so there were barely any people around.  We did take advantage of the boxes of free candy, granola bars, Wheaties, and fruit.

This race challenged me like none other.  It was cruel, brutal, and insane.

Sign me up for 2011!

Run Kelly Run (part 1)

22 09 2010
2010 Country Music 1/2 Marathon

Matthew and me after having completed our 2nd 1/2 marathon.

This is my story of how I went from being an asthmatic who couldn’t run one lap around a track without collapsing to completing ½ marathons.

I was diagnosed with asthma when I was three or four years old.  Until the last few years of my life, my asthma was pretty bad and hard to regulate.  Physical exertion such as climbing a set of stairs, laughing too hard, breathing in cold air or even eating ice cream could all trigger that familiar, unpleasant sensation of my airways swelling, my shoulders tightening, my neck straining, and my chin itching. 

(Side note:  My chin always itched.  Even to this day, my chin itches when I start wheezing.  I’ve never really researched why that is, but if anyone has an explanation, I’d love to hear it.)

I was a gymnast in high school.  (You can read about that experience on my post “My Score Was a 2.7.”)  I really did love the sport, but it was also one of the few sports where I didn’t have to worry about extreme cardiovascular exertion during practice or competition.  Even vault only required a sprint of 3-4 seconds.  My body could handle that.

Fast forward a couple of decades to after I had my first son, and I wanted to lose the last few pounds of baby weight.   At the time, the only way I’d ever really exercise was to pay a ridiculous amount of money for it, so I joined a gym.  I tried various aerobic classes, but they just didn’t work.  Then I focused my energy on the treadmill in the cardio cinema; not so much because I liked being on a treadmill, but I really enjoyed watching a movie while I worked out.  Over the next year, I slowly built up my endurance to being able to run for longer stretches of time without needing to walk, although I was very, very slow.

In 2006, I started running with a few friends, and we continued to work on how long we could run, not really worrying about our time.  We decided to sign up for a Fourth of July 5K together.  The race was miserably hot, even at 7:00 a.m., and my time was between 33-34 minutes.  Not bad for someone who—throughout her childhood and even into college—couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without wheezing.

I continued to run half-heartedly until I got pregnant with my second child in 2007.  I took a year off and didn’t run again until May of 2008.  That’s when it turned into something major.  I literally ran my butt off that summer trying to lose all my pregnancy weight before I had to go back to school in August.  I succeeded in that goal, and then a friend suggested I train for the Music City ½ Marathon in April 2009.  My small group of friends all signed up, and I joined them, unsure of what I was really getting myself into.

Training for a ½ marathon is a part-time job, but I endured.  I was amazed each week as my mileage increased.  Running three miles was standard, but then I hit the four-mile mark.  Then five miles.  Then I was running 10 miles at a stretch.  My asthma wasn’t bothering me anymore, either!

At the start line with my two friends, I got so emotional I actually started crying.  I was so overwhelmed thinking about where I had been just a few years earlier to what I was about to accomplish that day.  (Side note:  crying while running makes running really difficult.)  The three of us prayed together, and then we were off!  I developed some knee pain—which I never experienced before—and I had to walk the last three miles, but I did finish with a time of 2.51:14.  I had met my goals of simply finishing, on my feet, without puking or passing out.

2009 Country Music 1/2 and 1/1 Marathon start line  (30,000+ runners)

I'm in the last row on the left wearing a pink t-shirt.

2009 Country Music 1/2 and 1/1 Marathon start line  (30,000+ runners)

I'm still in the last row on the left wearing a pink t-shirt.

2009 Country Music 1/2 and 1/1 Marathon start line  (30,000+ runners)

I'm on the far bridge in the last row on the left wearing a pink t-shirt.

Matthew, Kelly, Phyllis, Echo

Finished! I'm in the front row second from left wearing a pink t-shirt and am surrounded by my running buddies: husband Matthew and dear friends Phyllis and Echo.

After that, I continued running regularly, doing an occasional 5K.  However, I started focusing on my time.  I had been running at an 11-minute mile, and I wanted to get that down.  Over the next year, I got my time down to a 9.5 minute mile, and I completed my second ½ marathon this April with a time of 2.27:55.  My goal next year is to finish under 2.11:00.

I am currently working toward a 9-minute mile for an extended run, and I’m competing in a relay race from Chattanooga to Nashville this November—the Ragnar Relay.  There are 10 members on our team, and we each run about three legs, running non-stop through the night.  I am super excited about this, but my training is about to change radically in October.  I’ll start running three times in a 24-hour period, building up my mileage each week.  The week before the race, I’ll be doing three five-mile runs:  one at about 9:00 p.m., one at 7:00 a.m., and another around 5:00 p.m.  I’m sure I’ll blog about that experience when it’s over.

The biggest blessing running has had on my life is that my asthma rarely bothers me.  As a young child, I was on 3-4 different medications that I had to take several times a day, and I still often wound up in the ER in the middle of the night on many occasions due to my asthma.  Even throughout college, I struggled with asthma and could not participate in activities that required a lot of physical exertion.  As a teen, I was also just plain lazy.  I once asked my parents if we could drive to our neighbor’s house for dinner.  Our back door and their front door were about 20 feet away from each other.  Today, I can run for a couple hours with nary a puff of my emergency inhaler, and I’m getting faster having shaved almost two minutes per mile off my pace in the last 18 months.  I like to joke that if I continue improving at that rate, I’ll be the fastest runner in the world in a few years.

Running has taught me that nothing is impossible.  For my first ½ marathon, I wore a t-shirt that had this saying on the back from Philippians 4:13.  “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Amen to that!

I’ve downplayed the role of my friends throughout this running adventure over the past four years.  I run mostly solo these days, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without their constant encouragement and prayers.  I also wouldn’t be where I am without the amazing support of my husband through all this training, considering the time it takes away from him and my children.

There’s a lot more to my story.  Someday soon, I’ll post about why, despite all the incredible ways I’ve been blessed through running, I still hate it.  Stay tuned. . .