Wearing real clothes.
Feeling like a grown up.
Being challenged intellectually.
Having adult conversations.
Looking forward to holiday vacations.
Getting back into the routine.
A fresh, new start.
A time for reevaluation.
Cycling is hard. It hurts. I can’t make myself go fast and my legs throb on my rides. I’m nervous leaning into turns, stopping at red lights, and riding in a pack. I look at the speed with which most cyclists ride and I fear I will never come anywhere close to achieving that kind of speed. In short, right now I’m bad at cycling.
I’m new to the cycling world and I’m at the point where I’m noticing how it is a pretty funny sport.
1. It requires a helmet.
2. I have to wear funny shoes that make me feel like I’m ice skating if I need to walk in them, and when I ride in them I’m attached to the bike … attached to the damn bike!
3. The spandex shorts have a padded ass.
It’s all just very funny to me.
But the riding, the riding is wonderful. It’s very much like distance running and swimming. It’s the meditative cadence to the breaths and strides/strokes/turns that I yearn for. It’s wonderful and freeing and gives me that childlike sensation for which I’m always searching. Cycling is a wonderful adventure; that is until it hurts and it’s horrible and I feel like quitting.
I have read, and heard from countless triathletes, that cycling can improve my running. By cycling, I’m using my body differently and building up complementary muscles. Instead of simply running and building up the same muscles all the time, cycling will build up neighboring muscles that will aid in my running. Cadence is to cycling what turnover is to running. Improving my cadence in cycling enforces a quick turnover in my running. So, if I can get faster on the bike, I believe I can become a faster runner.
Cycling uphill is no joke. Not only do I have to propel my body up a hill, I must propel a bike, with a tendency to roll backwards, up a hill in a seated position. I’ll tell you, riding a bike up a hill has really made me appreciate running up a hill forever on out. I can see how hill training in cycling would make me a much stronger runner.
Embarking on this cycling journey has made me a beginner again. It’s hard to be a newbie. Newbies are vulnerable and inexperienced, but they are also blank slates open to any and all advice and guidance. I am being molded right now by countless people and resources. I am a sponge and I am soaking it all up and always keeping my running in the background of all of the cycling gains I make.
So all of this has me thinking about how cycling and running are similar. Both cycling and running use my large lower body muscles in a sustained, rhythmic manner. Both are cardio, aerobic activities that require high lung capacity and a smooth cadence. Both running and cycling require mental strength and stamina. Both are difficult. I struggle at both. Both present me with challenges. I realized all of this on my last ride as my heart pounded and my breath quickened. I saw the straight line to the horizon and I felt that familiar blurred line that exists between discomfort and pain. I entered into that dark place where I think I can’t go on, and I realized that this is what I need. For, there is no quick answer, that’s the very nature of endurance. Endurance = the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina.
I say I’m bad at biking right now, because I know I can change this. I will improve. All I have to do is keep mounting that bike and riding.
So, anyone who knows me knows that I am now a full-fledged runner. The running is in my blood and I have no plans of stopping. In order to support my running, I started lifting weights, practicing yoga, and lap swimming. All of these things are done in an effort to improve my strength and recovery and ultimately make me a better runner. I find that the swimming helps flesh out the junk in my muscles from all of the running and it has the added bonus of making me feel like a mermaid, and what girl doesn’t love that feeling? So, over several months, my Instagram account has begun sharing a little of its focus on swimming in addition to my running. I have been fortunate enough to forge connections with triathletes in my area and all around the world. I am always open about the admiration I have for them. The notion of doing three sports in a row in a race setting is mind blowing to me. Because of my swimming and running many have asked me the question, “are you considering a triathlon?” I always reply, “well, I am always kind of flirting with the idea of trying one, but no, I don’t think I’ll be doing one any time soon.” Well, I just completed my first sprint triathlon and I am kind of freaking out over here!
So, I’ll back up. I was able to meet three local triathletes through social media. One of them I met in person for the fist time recently as we volunteered at the Texas Ironman race. He and I have had several poignant online conversations regarding juggling our spouses, family, work, and pursuing our passions. it truly is a juggling act, and it’s nice to have a friend that can relate. The other two social media friends I had met in person prior to our volunteering at the Texas Ironman race. Bryan serves as a Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador with me, and Rachel serves as a Nuun Hydration team member with me. I met Bryan in person for the first time at last year’s Chevron Houston Marathon, and then again at our 2017 ambassador meeting. Rachel and I were both selected to run for Team Nuun at the Ragnar Trail Atlanta Relay Race, so we actually got to spend a weekend together. All four of us volunteered at Ironman Texas and it was decided that I needed to participate in a local sprint triathlon. It was settled. I would borrow Rachel’s extra road bike. I would tackle the race. Yikes! I don’t have any real biking experience! I had never been swimming in open water with a bunch of other people in a race situation. How was I going to pull this off? Could I really do it? I told them I’d think it over. I told them to let me go do some lap swimming right before a spin class at my gym and see how well it would go for me. I told them I wasn’t sure I could do it.
Over the course of a few days I tried to visualize myself completing the triathlon, but I still had so much worry about it. The truth is, I was scared about falling flat on my face. I was scared that I would be really bad at this triathlon. Doing something different is uncomfortable, but along with that fear of the unknown, comes the undeniable thrill of taking a risk. So, I vowed to give this the old college try. I went to my gym and swam a 500, then attended an hour long spin class. The swim was nice, short, and felt great. The spin class was challenging, but I felt in control the whole time. I realized that I am fit. I am capable of doing so many athletic things since I am fit. This feeling is so empowering for me.
The next step was to borrow the bike and trainer from Rachel, lower the seat (Rachel is a little leg-gier than me, much to my chagrin 😉), purchase clip-in shoes, and a helmet. My next course of action was to put the bike on the trainer, don my shoes, and practice clipping in and out of the pedals a million times. Next, my aforementioned friend Bryan hooked me up with a group in my area I could ride with. I rode with them one Saturday morning and I was keenly aware that two of the six guys were sacrificing their rides by hanging back with me. I felt pretty bad about that and told them so a half dozen times. They assured me that they had a race the following day and weren’t interested in a super hard ride, so that made me feel much better. I was so very nervous as we pulled out of the driveway, that I fell and skinned my knee right there on the driveway. It was quite embarrassing, but also quite expected, so I shook it off and we set out on our ride.
I learned a lot on that ride. I learned how to ride in a pack and how to clip and unclip from my pedals with much more ease than I had while practicing on the trainer. I was intensely aware of how vulnerable I was there riding along that feeder of a major freeway. I was honked at while riding under an overpass with my group, and the horns echoed so loud there under that overpass. I realized that if every driver were to brave that very road by bike they would behave differently when driving. Riding a bike amongst drivers makes a person incredibly vulnerable. Once you’ve experienced that kind of vulnerability, you are much more sensitive to others in that same situation. I thought a lot about this on my twenty something mile ride averaging 15-17 miles per hour.
Next, I needed to practice the open water swim. I’ve swam laps in a swimming pool countless times, but I had never swam in open water with a pack of people. My newfound biker friends hooked me up with a ladies group that rides and swims in open water together. So, I met up with the ladies group for a bike, swim, bike. This was a great experiment leading up to my first sprint triathlon. The bike to the lake was 20 miles, and while I certainly was riding in the back, I wasn’t hurting too terribly bad. Next it was time to swim. I had never tried to swim in open water, so this was a first, for sure. The first thing I noticed was that the stairs leading into the water were slimy and this creeped me out just a little. Once I started swimming, I felt pretty good. I wouldn’t say I’m a fast swimmer, but I am definitely a strong swimmer. Needless to say, I swam back to the steps faster than I’d gone out and got the heck out of that lake! At this point I had to ride the bike for 20 miles to get back to my car. The bike back was very difficult for me. I learned that I hadn’t taken in enough calories and I spent that afternoon a little sick once I was back home.
So, I’d practiced everything, and now it was time to prepare for the race. I had never felt as unprepared for a race as I did for that triathlon. The bike portion is what mostly worried me. Before I knew it, it was the night before the race. I packed all of my gear and I went to bed, waking every couple of hours nervous with anticipation. On race morning I arrived early, got my bike in its slip, and met up with my biker friends. Everyone was so lovely. They offered me well wishes and tons of advice and I could tell that they genuinely meant it. I always say that runners are the most positive, encouraging people, but I learned on race day that triathletes are just as positive and encouraging. I guess all athletes are positive and encouraging.
As for the actual race. I did well in the swim, getting eighth place out of 23. The run was amazing and I got fourth out of 23. The bike, well, let’s just say I wasn’t last place. I was 22nd out of 23. Clearly, I need to work on the bike. But I also learned that the world is a truly beautiful place filled with beautiful people. Every time an athlete signs up for a race, trains, and shows up to toe the line, they are better. They are inspiring. Athletes build each other up with good vibes because they are paying forward what some athlete did for them once upon a time. We genuinely want others to succeed because it’s an amazing thing to see others going after their goals and it inspires us to continue to do the same.
Let’s all go out there and crush our goals! Who’s with me?
I have gotten into the habit of posting my total running miles to social media each month. I don’t pay any attention to my monthly mileage as the month goes on, but I do like to sit down with my running app and view my total monthly miles on the last day of each month. It’s nice to reflect on each month of running. The months leading up to my yearly marathon contain more miles than non marathon training months, and rightly so. I know many people can run tons of miles all year long, but I’m certain I’m not one of those people. I tend to start suffering from overuse injuries once I get really high in mileage, despite my best efforts to keep them at bay. Additionally, I don’t feel that I am a born athlete. I have to work hard at maintaining what I’ve already got going, and I always feel like I’m on the verge of potentially burning out, and the idea of not having running in my life scares me. I bet that must sound kind of weird to the casual acquaintance, but I know my running buddies out there understand this completely. For, preparing for each run is a struggle. More often than not, as I lace up my running shoes and prepare for my run, I contemplate skipping it. My brain starts to tell me that it won’t matter much if I skip my run. My brain tells me things like, “Hey lady, you’re no olympian, here. You’re not qualifying for the Boston Marathon any time soon. You’re a wife, mother, and librarian. Nobody really cares whether you go on this run. Just skip it.” But, I tell that brain to shut up and I push myself out of the door, and I run. Sometimes I instantly feel better and I think, “I love this. I love running” but sometimes I think to myself, “This sucks. My legs hurt. The air is thick. Why am I doing this?” The point is, no matter the outcome of my run, I stick to my plan and I run. I allow myself pre determined rest days, but other than that, I’m running. Every mile I run is a success and I want to celebrate it.
So, I keep on running each month, despite the fact that many days I really want to skip my workouts. I know that this is a struggle for many others besides myself. This is why many out of shape individuals fall prey to the “get fit quick” programs that inundate the marketplace. The promise of an easy, quick fitness solution? Yes, sign me up. But I digress, the point is that I know I must persevere, even when I lack motivation, and so I soldier on. I am disciplined with my running. Many months I hover between 80 and 100 miles. In peak marathon training season, I will average a bit more, between 100 and 140 miles. For the month of May, I ran 97 miles. That’s a good solid non marathon training month for me. After noticing my May monthly mileage total, I created my little graphic that I always make that lists my total miles for the month. As I went to post it on Instagram, I thought to myself “I bet you that total of 97 miles would really drive a lot of people crazy. I bet you they’d go out and run three more miles so that they’d have a nice round 100 miles for the month.” So, in my Instagram post I posed the question to my IG friends, “Do you make sure you end your month on a nice rounded number?” Most of my responses were resounding yeses, and it was a fun question to discuss with my running friends. I mean, ultimately, if we’re running every month, than that’s a good month, right? If I’d skipped my three mile run that morning my May miles would have been 94. If I’d skipped that three mile run and the four mile run the day before, my total would have been 90 miles for the month. 90 miles would have been a nice rounded number, but is it better than 97? No, because I would have skipped three good runs and it might very well have led to skipping a fourth good run, which could have led to me quitting running, and that would be a travesty.
Ultimately my goal in recording my monthly mileage is to celebrate whatever running I’ve done that month. Whether it’s a big miles month or a smaller miles month, it’s really all good. I know that my friends weren’t suggesting that my monthly mileage wasn’t good or anything, they were just saying that ending the month so close to a nicely rounded number would trouble them enough to go run a second time that day to make it to 100. I can understand that, certainly. I have had many a run where I have pushed myself to stay under a certain pace simply to see those splits recorded on my running app. I have pushed myself at races to make qualifying times for the front corral at my beloved Chevron Houston Marathon. I can see the thought process there, I just for some reason don’t fret about my monthly mileage. I love to see how many monthly miles my fellow runners get in and I like to reflect on my own monthly miles. Just thinking about all of the problems that were solved, fights that were avoided, and logistical work puzzles that were worked through on those runs is magnificent. Posting my monthly mileage forces me to pay close attention to how very far I have come in these last four years of running. There was a time, not long ago, that I could not run one mile without stopping to rest. It is truly amazing what the human body and the human spirit can accomplish when we believe in ourselves and we don’t give up.
Keep running and recording your miles, friends.
There’s nothing quite like vacation running, is there? I’ve written about vacation running before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. I enjoy exploring new areas and when I’m on vacation, running makes me feel less like a tourist and more like a local. Last week my family and I enjoyed a beach vacation together in Destin, Florida. Destin, dubbed the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” is on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Choctawhatchee Bay in the Florida panhandle. The beach is white and the water is emerald green. It is truly a breathtaking place. We stayed in a very comfortable and spacious condo with a beautiful ocean view. It was the most relaxing vacation I have ever been on. We woke up each morning without alarms; I woke a few hours before the rest of my family each day. I’m not complaining about those hours alone, not at all; I rather enjoy rising early and preparing for my run. Often I’ve come back from my run and everyone is still asleep. This happened most mornings while we were in Destin. I enjoyed runs along the boardwalk and beach. I got to see and hear the crashing waves and seagulls. I could smell the salt and feel the sun kissing me. It was wonderful running at the beach. I highly recommend it to every runner. It is beautiful and peaceful and it made me extremely happy.
Each day I ran the boardwalk enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, and then as a post-run ritual, I removed my running shoes and jogged, frolicked, and took pictures along the edge of the water allowing myself the refreshing feeling of getting wet by the salt water. Some days, when I got to the beach early enough, I made the first footprints of the day. That’s a pretty cool feeling, I must admit. I learned many things from my time running on the beach. The first thing I learned is that beach running is challenging, and that running on soft sand creates an unpredictable terrain, providing excellent resistance work, much like trail running. Wet sand, while still difficult to run, is easier to run than soft sand because of the harder surface. I learned that a sunrise is even more beautiful near the beach, and that running on the beach before the sun is all the way up is much cooler than after the sun is up … that water will really reflect that sun! I learned that there is nothing quite like the sound of the ocean. I also felt both of my feet and the surface below me with every barefoot step, and this allowed me to feel more in tune with my running and my universe than ever before. This type of running really forced me to be present with my running and my surroundings. The beach run is a very zen experience, that is until you feel the exhaustion of exerting twice as much effort as you would road running. It was at the point of exhaustion that I would call my run over each day. For, there was fun to be had with my family! We went on a day cruise, saw dolphins, found seashells, ate amazing food, built sand castles, surfed the waves, swam in the ocean, rode bikes, went searching for crabs at night, went on walks on the beach, bought souvenirs, and laughed. It was an excellent vacation.
If I casually mention my running in Destin with friends many will say, “you didn’t take time off from running while on vacation?” At first, I found that question odd, but then after much thought, I realized that this whole running thing has become a large part of who I am, and for many others fitness is a chore. In many ways running now defines me to some extent. I am many things: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, librarian, and runner. Running is one of the very important things in my life. Running is not something that I have to do, it is something that I get to do. Yes, sometimes it is difficult and frustrating, but so are all of the other important things I listed. Running on vacation is a treat for me. I do not spend the miles fretting about my pace or distance. I spend my vacation miles looking around at my surroundings, smelling the smells, and learning about the place I am visiting. It’s an experience for me like no other.
I like to think that I have the best of both worlds with my job as a high school librarian. Yes, I start work very early in the morning, but I get to be home to greet my daughters’ school buses in the afternoon and to prepare dinner for my family. I get to help my girls with their homework and hear about their days at school before I rush them off to their extracurricular practices. I get to spend Spring Break, Summer Break, Thanksgiving Break, and Christmas Break with them. I get to spend my day doing a job that I love with fantastic people and I don’t have to jeopardize time with my family. It’s really been great for me as a mother. When I selected my career as a high school teacher I was in my early twenties, unmarried and childless, and had no notion of which direction my life would take. I feel fortunate to have picked a career that is both rewarding and affords me time with my family.
My flexible work schedule also allows me time to pursue my passion of running. Who knew four years ago I would call myself a runner? Not me, certainly. The running bug got me and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve written many times about why I run. I think the most succinct answer to the question, “why do I run?” is to feel free. I feel nothing but free when I’m running. My husband and daughters support my running, but I need to be careful not to ask too much from them. Yes, I should be able to pursue my running dreams, but not at the expense of them. I simply can’t ask them to allow me to throw myself completely into my running where there’s not much left of me for them.
The month of April was a spectacular running month for me. I was able to participate in two out of town running relays. The first was the Texas Independence Relay which took me away from my family from April 1st through April 3rd. The second was the Ragnar Trail Atlanta Relay which took me away from my family from April 14th through April 17th. These were both wonderful running experiences and both were on my bucket list, but they occurred two weeks apart. This was really asking a lot from my family. My poor husband was left alone to cart my daughters to their soccer games and other activities. He was solely responsible for homework, dinner, laundry, dishes, etc. It would be unreasonable for me not to expect my family to feel a little taken advantage of by my blowing and going. These events weren’t work-related, they weren’t religious missions, they were both all about me pursuing my dreams as a runner. I better be careful here, I try very hard to not put my running above my family, but for the month of April my running came first.
There have been countless times when my daughters had soccer games an hour’s drive from our home and they needed to be at their warm up by 8:15. On those days I’d force myself to wake at 2:30 in the morning to allow enough time to eat, dress, do my long run, shower, eat, and help my daughters and husband prepare to leave. I woke at this ungodly hour so that I would not have to forsake either my long run or watching my daughters’ sports that weekend. Additionally, I squeeze my track speed workouts in most times after work but before my daughters get home from school. This way I can still help with homework and prepare dinner before it’s time for me to take them to practice. Because I must leave for work by 6:00 each workday, this means I arise at 3:40 so that I can fit in my run and some short strength training before I shower and get ready to leave for work. I do these things because I enjoy working outside of the home, but I also enjoy being around to do things for my family. I want to pursue my passion, but not at the cost of my family.
So, really, what this rant is all about is just the age-old conundrum: how do I focus on my passion without forsaking my family and friends? This post is all about the juggling act we must maintain on a regular basis to enrich ourselves and to be present for our loved ones. There are only so many hours in the day and when we spend time on one thing, we are neglecting something else. That’s just the nature of life. We cannot possibly focus all of our energy on one thing and expect all of the other things to be nurtured as well. During the month of April I mainly focused on my running. My running took me out of town not once, but twice. I was not around for days at a time and I left all of the work up to my husband. I know that he is resentful of my running at times, I mean how can he not be? I also know that my husband admires my drive and passion. He appreciates the way that I am serving as a good role model for our girls. He is supportive, but even I realize I was a bit absent last month.
So, I will resolve to work extra hard to be present and engaged when I am with my family. For, running is a wonderful addition to my life, but my family is the most important thing to me. What good is success if you don’t have loved ones with which to share it? My family drives me to be better. They are the reason I am fulfilled.
How do you balance your running and your family life? Do you feel torn at times trying to juggle everything? What have you found to help negotiate the balancing act?
Nuun is a product that I’ve used and loved for years. As I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with my running, I have also decided to put myself out there by applying to serve as an ambassador for my favorite products. I mean, why not? I recommend these products on a regular basis, so why not get even more involved in the running community by serving as an ambassador for my favorite brands? I was over the moon excited when Nuun selected me to serve on Team Nuun. Me?! As a Team Nuun member, I had the opportunity to apply to run a Ragnar Trail Relay in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia International Horse Park. I honestly never thought I’d be picked. Before I applied, I checked with my husband. I started the conversation like this, “Hey, I probably won’t be picked, but I’d like to apply to run for Team Nuun at a Ragnar Trail Relay in Atlanta, Georgia. What do you think?” His response was, “Sure. You know you’ll be picked, right?” I’m not sure how he knew, without a doubt, that I’d be picked when I, myself, thought that it was a long shot, but he was right. I was picked. This meant I’d be doing two 200 mile relay races within two weeks of each other out of town. Oops. Sort of bad timing. My poor husband would be stuck as Mr. Mom for two of the five weekends in April. Sorry, David. I owe him big time. Now that I knew I was going to Georgia, I contacted my friend Dyana who now lives in Sevierville, Tennessee. Her new home is about four hours from Atlanta. We hatched a plan for her to drive to Atlanta the day I arrived for a lunch date and a few hours of hanging out before I needed to check in with my team. My friend is caring for her mother with Parkinson’s Disease and, while she is thoroughly enjoying her time with her mother in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, she was happy to get away and take a short trip to Atlanta. Dyana is a friend like no other. I miss her dearly and it was so great to see her. Next it was time to meet my team at a restaurant for our team dinner. I met 14 other people all at once and it’s amazing how easily we were able to talk to each other within moments of meeting one another. This is yet again a testament to how powerful the bond is within the running community. Runners are connected through their love of the run and this never ceases to amaze me. After dinner we went to the campsite and I turned in early. It was a bit chilly for me in the tent, and that coupled with the boisterous group in the tent behind us, prevented me from getting a great night’s sleep, but I’d say I got a good night’s sleep. Friday morning I woke early and went on a short run around Ragnar Village. The village was quiet, as runners were just beginning to emerge from their tents and get ready for their run time start. Our teams wouldn’t start running until 4:30 p.m., so my day was spent cheering on other runners and getting to know my team. Friday evening and all of Saturday are quite a blur. Basically it entailed waiting at the starting line for the previous runners to pass the baton, cheering teammates on, keeping each other company, resting in the tent, and stuffing our faces. We were afforded little to no amounts of sleep, leaving us weary and light headed, but we had new friends and community by our sides. We enjoyed each other and worked together to do something epic. An overnight relay race is completely a team effort. The amount of support I received from my teammates is what kept me going. Really, an overnight relay race is a microcosm of the larger running community. Runners support other runners by cheering them on and letting them know that struggling is normal and expected. I am a big believer in making memories through physical activity. An overnight relay race is all about togetherness through activity. I find that overnight relay races offer a sense of community that no other race offers. Additionally, I guess I kind of like to temporarily deprive myself of sleep, hygiene, and some of my sanity.
When my beloved hometown marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon, advertised that they were accepting applications for marathon ambassadorship, I promptly began work on my application. Anyone who knows me knows that I love all things Houston, running, and the Chevron Houston Marathon. There is something so magical about the way the entire city of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., comes together on marathon weekend. I feel a part of something so much bigger than myself on marathon weekend. I feel connected to my city and to my fellow runners. It’s really an inexplicable feeling I have on race weekend. The best way I can describe it is that it’s magic.
So, I poured myself into the application process. I carefully considered each portion of the application and thoroughly enjoyed contemplating each question. The questions on the application reflected ideas that I often ponder and write about. Things like, what inspires me to run, what are my main running goals, what is it about the Chevron Marathon weekend that appeals to me, how important is the running community to me, etc. These questions are at the core of why we all run, aren’t they? For, the split times, form, breathing, foot strike, heart rate, etc. is the actual running and we pay close attention to those things in an effort to improve, certainly, but that’s not what keeps runners running, is it? No. It’s the community, It’s how we are inspired. It’s our desire to inspire others. It’s the overwhelming sense of togetherness we feel on race day. It’s our desire to improve ourselves. It’s the satisfaction we feel when we accomplish our goals. It’s the feeling of being fit, strong, and capable. It’s the mental toughness we gain from doing hard things. It’s the satisfaction of pushing past where we thought our limits were. It’s our desire to cheer others on, for we know how hard running is. It’s the way we tear up when we think about running. Excuse me for a moment, I need a tissue.
So, I submitted my application, and I waited. And waited. And waited. In reality I only had to wait about a month, but it certainly felt like an eternity. The website informed me that I’d be notified one way or the other on April 11th. Good. I had an explicit endpoint to my waiting. I marked the date on my calendar and I tried not to fixate on it. Until the 11th, however. On the 11th I checked my email a record amount of times. I just couldn’t stop myself. I busied myself with my work and I pushed the application out of my mind whenever it entered that space. Then, lo and behold, the email came. I nervously opened it and was thrilled to learn that I had been selected to serve as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador. Me! They picked me! Words cannot express how excited I am. It is also worth mentioning here that I applied last year and was rejected. The rejection letter was very well written, I must say, and it urged me to try again the following year. Which is what I did. I also took a careful look at what makes a good ambassador. I saw, very quickly, that I simply wasn’t ready to serve as an ambassador for the 2016 season. I hadn’t immersed myself into the running community yet. So, I set out to do just that. I put all of my thoughts into writing and started this blog. I followed other runners’ journeys through social media and immediately gained inspiration and motivation from them. I became a part of the running community and words cannot express how fortunate I am to have found the running community. Had I not been rejected ambassadorship in 2016 would I be this connected with my running community? I think not.
As an ambassador, I am most excited about becoming even more involved in the Houston running community. I get so much inspiration and motivation from my running connections on social media. The local Houston runners that I am connected with through social media are particularly special to me, as we take part in many of the same races and we feel privileged to run our hometown Chevron Houston Marathon. I look forward to making even more running connections through my ambassador platform. The running connections I have made over the last year are truly what help motivate me during the training season and throughout the entire year. I have said it many times in the past, and I am certain I will continue to say it on a regular basis, but the running community is simply the best. Runners are the most positive, encouraging people on the planet. Runners help other runners up when they’ve fallen, for we know, all too well, what it feels like to fall.
So, it is with great enthusiasm that I wholeheartedly accept my position as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador.
This weekend I ran a 200 mile relay with wonderful people who started out as strangers and became friends. The Texas Independence Relay is a “200 mile journey [that] traces the route of Sam Houston and the Texian army, beginning in historic Gonzales (home of the Come & Take It skirmish) to the site of the storied final battle for Texas’ Independence at the San Jacinto Monument.” The race consists of 40 relay legs of various lengths, totaling 200 miles.
I found my team through my running club’s Facebook page. As I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with my running, I find myself wanting to stretch myself even more. The notion of a relay race across Texas really appealed to me. So, I joined the Texas Roadkill Search Team. Brothers John and Jack Barfoot are captains of Texas Roadkill Search Team I and Texas Roadkill Search Team II, respectively. Team I had 13 members and Team II had 11 members. I was on Team II. Each team split their members between two vans. I was in Team II’s van 1. This meant our van started the relay with legs 1-6.
Jack ran our first leg, passed off to Stuart, who passed off to me for the third leg. The third leg of the run was entirely on dirt, well more like a rocky, road. 5.35 miles of running to the middle of Nowhere, Texas … God’s country. At this point we were in Shiner, the cleanest city in Texas. Shiner is special to me not only because my husband and I love Shiner beer, but also because we participate in the Shiner Beer Run each year. This particular run is important to me because it marks my progress as a runner. The inagural 5k & Half Marathon in 2013 was one of my first 5K races. I went back in 2014 & 2015 for the Half Marathon and I plan on going each year to come. The race is a sort of “racecation” for us and we love it. We like to stay in Gonzales and then we spend race day in Shiner. Is there a better way to spend a weekend? I think not.
I started this 5.35 mile third leg at 9:11 a.m. The sun really started to come out during this leg and I was glad I had my sunglasses on. Everyone thought it was so funny that my sunglasses perfectly matched my running outfit. I told them it was honestly just a coincidence that I owned sunglasses the exact same shade of mint green as my running clothes, but I vowed to try to make this my “thing” from here on out. I mean, why not? It’s always fun to find something fun to relate to my running. This leg of the relay stands out to me because this is where a fellow Houston runner and instafriend cheered me on while he waited on his own teammate. This made me tear up and once again remember why I run. It’s that … it’s that instant connection that exists between runners. It’s the understanding that we need to build each other up and cheer each other on. We are all better when we support each other. The running community is the best.
Next up was Moulton, Flatonia, and Schulenburg for legs four through nine. Our sixth runner passed the baton off to the first runner of the second van for legs 7-10 and we went on to Schulenburg to grab a nice sit-down lunch at Frank’s Restaurant. I had a delicious chicken fried chicken steak, mashed potatoes, and salad. I was so hungry and it really hit the spot.
Next we took the baton back from van 2 for legs 11-16. My teammates ran through Weimar and Borden. Then it was time for another one of my legs. Leg 14 in Columbus. This 6.72 mile leg started at 5:46 p.m. I ran by the Pride of Columbus, Columbus High School, downtown residences, and ended my journey in the commercial district of Columbus. Nothing particularly stands out to me about this leg as I sit back and reflect on it. This was the halfway point for me. I had run two of my four legs. I was dreading how I’d manage to sleep in the van for our two hour sleep break. Would I be able to fall asleep? Stay asleep? What if I needed to pee in the middle of the night? Once I opened the van door all of the lights would come on. “Oh well,” I told myself as I finished my run. I’ll worry about all of that later.
Next we ran through Altair, Eagle Lake, Wallis and Orchard. This is the point where we passed the legs off to our second van of runners and we had the opportunity to grab a quick bite of fast food, park our van near our baton exchange station, and catch a couple of hours of shuteye before leg 23 in Simonton. It was hard to really sleep in the van, but it was nice to at least stretch out and rest our bodies. The alarm clock went off before we knew it, though, and it was time for our first runner to don his head lamp and safety vest. Oh, and if you’re curious, I didn’t have to pee in the middle of our sleep. I woke up, if what I was doing could actually be called sleeping, most happy about that, I must admit. But I digress. We would be running in the dark, in the wee hours of the morning, on little to no sleep. This was going to be a challenge. We got our acts together; however, and drove the van to leg 23 so our first runner could start. At this point we shared a lot of laughs. By this time in our journey we had gotten to know each other pretty well and that, coupled with the fact that we were sleep deprived, made for some hilarious conversations. Legs 23 and 24 went smoothly and then it was time for my leg, leg 25 in Fulshear. I began this 4.73 mile leg at 3:15 a.m. This is where I knew I was in suburbia moving towards Houston. This leg ran through a new subdivsion and finished at a newer elementary school there on the outskirts of Katy.
The next couple of legs took us through George Bush Park as the sun came up. After leg 27 we stopped for breakfast at a Panera Bread and I’m pretty sure the guys working there thought we were bums. Before we left the restaurant I was excited to use an actual toilet. It had been porta cans and bushes for me for two days, so an actual toilet was such a treat. I guess I was kind of bum-like at that point.
By 12:28 p.m. it was time for my 3.74 mile leg 36. My last leg. This took me through a Houston neighborhood and a pedestrian bridge over the busy I-45 interstate and finished at Chavez High School. I struggled in this leg. I was tired from lack of sleep and all of the running. During my leg I came upon a woman and ran beside her. I told her that she was doing a great job of pacing me. She told me to pass her, as I had worked hard to get there beside her. I told her that I wanted to run with her, not pass her, because I was struggling. She told me that she’s never been a leader in a run and I said, “well, you are right now.” We ran together for the last mile and I gave her a big hug once we’d passed off to our teammates. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the running community is simply the best.
Legs 37 through 39 flew by taking us closer to our finish line at the San Jacinto Monument. Our final runner completed leg 40 and we were there to greet her and run with her for the last half mile to the finish line. There we received our medals, took pictures, and glowed in the glory of our accomplishment.
200 glorious miles from Gonzales to Houston. What an adventure for a nearly 40 year old librarian, a man in his late 50s, a 19 year old college kid, a 25 year old newlywed teacher, a 22 year old graduate student, and a nearly 40 year old man. Our van held teammates of varied ages and stages of their lives. I had delightful conversations with each and every one of them and I am so happy I had this awesome experience.