Blogging from A-Z – Very fast and very high

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “V.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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That's my honey, Bruce. He's fast, but he's not high.
That’s my honey, Bruce. He’s fast, but he’s not high.

Confession: I’ve made it all the way to V, posting a letter of the alphabet every day except Sunday since April 1, and I feel as though I’m cheating.

“Very” is such an easy word, a copout, no?

BUT … I’m writing a post late at night while out of state at a convention, just so I can stay on schedule and not miss a day, so I’m cutting myself a little slack. I’ve been thinking about it for more than a week and haven’t come up with a V word I like, so the event I attended this evening gets the honors. Or, more to the point, the fastness and highness of those crazy kids participating in the event are the ones I want to honor.

Bruce? He’s just in the photo because I like him. 🙂 Plus, he qualifies for the very fast part. He’s 55 and is chasing the 5-minute mile he ran when he was 14. (Well, back then he ran a 4.54 mile; I don’t think he’s going to go sub-5 nowadays, and he doesn’t, too. But he’s fast.)

DrakeRelaysTickets2015He and I are in Des Moines for the Road Runners Club of America convention. We sat in on some really great sessions today (with more to come tomorrow), got to hear from some great speakers (including some elite track stars – ever heard of Leo Manzano, 2012 Olympic silver medalist?) and, this evening, got to attend the renowned Drake Relays with the other RRCA attendees.

The Drake Relays are pretty famous. It’s where all the fast and talented and coordinated kids get to show off. These are the folks who are on the track running and jumping and hurdling while kids like me are in the library with their noses in books.

So, while kids like me look on, they do crazy things like jump 7-feet-7.25 inches in the high jump while breaking meet records. And run relays so fast my head spins and my heart pumps and I can’t believe my eyes. I can’t even imagine running with as much power and determination and focus and intensity as I watched those dudes and dudettes display tonight.

It was a beautiful sight – every single event. We even sat there in the rain because it was fascinating and awe inspiring to watch these high school and college students (and a few older ones in showcase events) show what they’re made of.

I was Tweeting and snapping and stopping to watch and cheering and clapping and marveling. We didn’t get a program and I don’t keep up with these kids regularly, so I don’t know their names, but I wanted to share a few photos with you. My team (the Arkansas Razorbacks) and Bruce’s alma mater (the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame) did us proud. The Razorback men and the Irish women won their 4×200-meter relays. (Apparently I failed to get a single photo of a women’s event. Silly me.)

Here’s a Hog. He was too far away to hear me say, “Hey, Razorback!” so I just had to zoom in on his unsuspecting soul.

DrakeRelaysHog2015

And here’s an Irish. I hollered, “Hey, Irish guy!” and he looked up at me and smiled (well, he smiled right after I took his picture).

DrakeRelaysIrish2015

I was trying to include a video of the relay where the Irish chased the victorious Hogs – just a little friendly competition between the Oakleys – but I couldn’t get the file size reduced small enough to import (just some technical stuff I’m too tired to keep messing with tonight). But it was good stuff, and I’ll try later to upload it.

I hope they heard us cheering. They were too busy to smile, I think. But we smiled. And cheered. The Razorback fan and her Irish-loving husband.

V is also for victory.

Woo, pig sooie!

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Monday: W is for Wes and the MorningSide Coffee House gang.

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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It’s all in how you CHOOSE to look at it

“I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I could’ve gotten – because it made everything else possible.”

– Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton

By the time Saturday morning arrived, I was beyond ready for my pity party. My teammates – fellow fundraisers for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge program – were about to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon without me.

In fact, by the time I got up at 6 a.m., most of them were probably more than half-finished – it was 7 a.m. in Florida, and the race started at 5:30.

I had signed up for the race in the spring, and this was going to be my second half-marathon, after having withdrawn from a similar event in 2013 because of health problems.

I had been oh-so-excited to receive this note from my team manager a few weeks later:

TeamChallengeMickeyWelcome_croppedIt accompanied my training shirt – the one that was going to see me through weeks and weeks of long runs as I prepared for the Disney half.

TeamChallengeTrainingShirtI hadn’t planned to “do another Team Challenge race in 2014.” The previous year had been so challenging – healthwise, financially and emotionally – that Bruce and I decided I needed the break from long-distance training and the pressure of fundraising.

The fundraising is the hard part. The running, not so much. (I love the running part!)

But when the Disney half opportunity came up in late spring, the email made it so tempting:

“Our alumni are the first to know – Team Challenge has a BRAND NEW event. We’re headed to the happiest place on earth on January 10, 2015 for the SOLD OUT Walt Disney World Half Marathon! As an alum, you have the opportunity to get one of the TC entries before they’re open to the general public!”

This hit me on so many levels: “first to know” (I’m special); “alum” (I’m part of a select group); “SOLD OUT” (an opportunity too great to pass up!); Disney (a hugely popular race series, not to mention family destination).

So I signed up.

I began training and fundraising, and soon my shirt and the special note from Mickey arrived. 🙂

But this was about the same time that I also decided it was time to tell my doc about my increasingly worrisome blood pressure problems. Before my heart surgery in September 2013 (the reason I withdrew from the previous Team Challenge half-marathon), my BP had always been slightly below normal. Since the surgery, it had been high – the opposite of what one would expect after the surgery.

So we began the task of regulating it with medicine. I was hoping the doc would suggest something else, but that’s what we tried. We tweaked the medication all summer, with me monitoring and logging the BP readings taken at home (and continuing to train for the half), until one day, at a follow-up appointment in November, my doctor issued this plea:

“I wish you wouldn’t run any long distances until we get it stabilized.”

(Not her first time to admonish me about distance races.)

If Bruce hadn’t been at that appointment with me, and agreed with the doctor, I might have balked. But he is NOT AT ALL conservative about running. Annoyingly not.

So I agreed.

I withdrew from another Team Challenge event.

Fast forward to yesterday. (Although I had stopped participating in the weekly conference calls, I had remained on the team’s Facebook group – wisely or unwisely – and I continued to get team updates, travel info and training tips.) By the end of the week, the Facebook updates were at a fever pitch. Teammates were EXCITED, as expected. They posted travel plans, arrivals, where-to-meet plans, race expo updates, pasta party pics, post-race meet-ups, and on and on. Photos like this:

TeamChallengeNationalTeamWDW_01102015If I’d been there I would have done the same thing. I would have been ALL up in it, complete with tweets, posts, text messages to friends, calls to Mom – the works. But I wasn’t.

So by Saturday I had worked myself up to a sad mess.

I am happy – truly happy – for my teammates (most of whom I’ve never even met, except in video conference calls and on social media). They had a great time and – let’s not forget: They (we) raised $150,000 toward curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. With this ONE event, two-dozen people raised $150,000. (My part of that, before I withdrew, was about $3,600.) I helped bring us $150,000 closer to curing my husband’s disease. (That doesn’t count the other Team Challenge teams that raised money during Disney; I don’t know their totals.)

Sometimes I forget the big picture when I’m feeling left out.

But, finally, I remembered to do what I’m supposed to do at all times (even when life isn’t an immediate mess):

PRAY

The pithy bumper sticker says: “When in doubt, pray.”

The Bible says: “Pray without ceasing.”

Putting my pity party on hold to pray helped me remember some things from my reading plan earlier in the day:

Those who are inclined toward God – who love him and want to do his will – will hear the voice of wisdom and respond. Those who have little depth and no desire for God – who can’t see beyond themselves and the present moment – will hear the voice of folly and respond. Two voices, two kinds of hearts; as a result, two drastically different journeys. (From Once a Day 31 Days of Wisdom.)

I want to have a heart that inclines itself to God, not to folly. Not to self-pity, or resenting the success or happiness of others. A HEART FOR GOD.

By the time I ran across this 10-minute video, my attitude was starting to shape up. Please take the time to watch it, even if you don’t remember Scott Hamilton from his glory days, even if you’re not into figure skating. Scott was an athletic superstar when testicular cancer sidelined him. Then, later, a brain tumor. And he lost his mom to cancer.

“I think I’m probably more known for my health problems now than for anything I ever did on skates,” he said. Scott could have let cancer stop him dead in his tracks.

BUT HE SAW THE BIGGER PICTURE.

Watching this video, just 10 minutes and 27 seconds of someone else’s journey, put my “problem” in perspective.

Now that you’ve watched it, and considered your own journey, what attitude will you choose? What will your life be about? It’s all a choice.

“She died of cancer, and I survived. What’s my purpose now?”

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How to buy a sports bra

Several months ago, I updated my blog-hosting software and lost a BUNCH of posts. Starting with this one (written in the summer of 2011), I’m going to republish my favorites. Keep in mind that this one was funnier when I originally posted it because I do a lot of editing between the time I write my posts in Word and finally hit Publish on the tweaked version. But I’m not going to go back and edit this one. Much.

If you’re the type of woman who takes sports bras with spaghetti straps seriously, stop reading this now and race to the nearest stick-thin-supermodel website (I have no clue what site that might be).

I mean it! Stop reading now! You obviously do not need a sports bra, because you are flat chested and will not be able to relate to the rest of this post.

Go ahead; move along.

Okay, now that they’re gone, I can talk to the rest of you ladies, who know what it’s like to stuff your girls into a real undergarment:

In November [2010] I took up the “sport” (some might call it “exercise in self-torture”) of running. I hadn’t run in a few years, and I had exactly three leftover athletic bras in the bottom of a spare dresser drawer: two black, from 10 years ago – the first time I tried to be a “serious” runner – and a white one from a few years later. All three have shrunk over the years of bouncing, sweating and washing (but hanging to dry), and my body has gone the other direction. (I now refer to myself as full figured, with homage to the recently departed Jane Russell.)

I had been complaining about the old, uncomfortable bras for weeks, so when Bruce and I went to North Little Rock recently for my annual cardiologist checkup, we went on a quest for a sports bra or two (I had tried to find my old brand online and in local stores but couldn’t find my size in the style I need).

Let me tell you, there are gazillions of sports bras out there, but, for one reason or another, most of them do not work for full-figured women. Let me count the ways:

1. Most of them nowadays go over your head rather than hooking in the back or the front. I wish you could have seen me in the first dressing room, trying to pull one slightly stretchy (not too stretchy or it won’t support) contraption over my head and down into place without causing major tissue damage (or under-my-breath swearing).

On second thought, I don’t wish you could have seen (or heard) me. It wasn’t pretty. At all.

I didn’t even get the thing all the way on before I knew (with that sick feeling a small furry creature gets right before the snake eats it for lunch) that it just wasn’t going to work. It would have been stupid to continue trying.

But you know what was even stupider? In another store, I tried another over-the-head contraption. Same result: Back over my head before it was fully in place.

(Why do they think pullover bras should even exist, anyway? The only thing I can think of is, they’re a fashion statement. For the women who are no longer reading this post.)

2. Most sports bras are too stretchy and not supportive enough. You know, for full-figured gals. The entire point (no pun intended) of a sports bra is to smash you flat so as to prevent bouncing – or so I thought, until I met the sports-bra saleswoman of my dreams (more on that later).

Don’t the sports-bra designers know that the women who really and truly need sports bras are those of us who weigh more than 80 pounds soaking wet? Last time I weighed 80 pounds, I hadn’t hit puberty and running hadn’t even been invented.

3. Sports bras for full-figured women come in exactly two colors: White and black. You could bust me (no pun intended, really) right here for being a hypocrite because of the whole spaghetti-strap thing, but we full-figured gals do like a little variety  in our fabric choices every now and then. While I do not believe in wearing your underwear on the outside – as a fashion statement or, poor you, because it’s just so darned hot you have to take your tiny little shirt off when you run – it is nice to have more than two colors to choose from. I personally think white underwear is boring, and I like to have a rainbow of colors to choose from. (And, as far as the lack of variety in big-girl-sports-bra colors goes, thin women do not even realize this is an issue.)

(Apologies to those who think the preceding paragraph was TMI [Mom, that means “too much information”].)

So, by the second pullover-bra fiasco, I had learned my lesson, meaning I had exhausted all hope of finding an appropriate bra in my new hometown and would have to go to my old, larger hometown to shop. (Do you know how much I hate to shop? Probably not, but that’s a topic for another day.)

So off to central Arkansas we went.

Bruce and I, intrepid explorers that we were (on that particular day, at least), went to two big-chain sports superstores and two locally owned running stores (we like the latter better, but the two big multipurpose stores were closer – plus we were also looking for bowling balls – so we went there first).

At the first store created exclusively for runners, a new place in the Heights called Go! Running, we found not only a brand I had never heard of (Moving Comfort) but some of the best customer service you could ask for. The owner, Erin, won me over with her knowledge, friendliness and willingness to serve, even though I left the store without making a purchase. She did order a bra for me, after I had tried on one that was close to my size. She explained that a sports bra shouldn’t just mash you flat and that this particular bra had features that made running more comfortable (I’m trying to spare you the details). She also told me I had several colors to choose from!

She had to take a phone call, so she told an employee what bra should be ordered for me (in a nice bluish-purple) and sent me to the front of the store to leave my contact information. (That evening when I got home, the employee called to say she was about to order the bra but that I would need to pick another color. My size comes only in two colors – you guessed it: black and white.)

After we left Go! Running, we went to Easy Runner, an older, more established store well known to Arkansas runners. (It has moved to the upscale Pleasant Ridge Town Center on west Cantrell Road.) There, they had the Moving Comfort brand in my size (but not the same model), so at least I know that this particular brand runs true to my size. I did not buy anything there but left convinced that the bra I ordered at Go! Running would work for me.

Afterward I wrote a thank-you note to Erin for her outstanding customer service. When she received it, she left a message on my answering machine to thank me for the thank-you note and said it was going up in her office.

I may not be rich, but I am willing to pay a few dollars more for an item (especially an item that is as much sought-after as this bra was to me) when I am treated with the respect, courtesy and friendly service that Erin showed me that day. (I got good service at Easy Runner, too.)

Tomorrow we go back to North Little Rock to finish painting the house and to plant some spring flowers, and I’ll go pick up my black Moving Comfort bra at Go! Running. I hope Erin is there so I can thank her again, in person, for treating this full-figured gal as though I were as fit and thin as a triathlete.

Ladies, that is how to buy a sports bra.

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Can’t do the Gu, and other lessons from running

I learned a few things during my 8-mile run this morning:

Gu is nasty. Gu is not for people, like me, who have a strong gag reflex.

Several running friends had told me about the taste/texture of Gu (an energy gel) when I inquired on Facebook a few weeks ago. Colyn summed it up when he said: “Gu makes me want to hurl.” (Or something like that.)

Now I get it. One swallow, one reaction: Yuck. (No, I didn’t hurl, but I had a psychedelic flashback to a 2008 medical procedure in which I had to swallow a thick, numbing gel so they could stick a scope down my throat. As I said in a previous post, there’s a reason they don’t want you to eat before these procedures.)

For sale: 1½ packets of Gu (one slightly used). Call me if you’re interested.

Watching Olympians isn’t just fun – it inspires you to do more, and better.

I watched the last 8 miles of the Women’s Olympic Marathon yesterday morning. I tell ya, those skinny chicks can run! And, no matter how many hills they encounter, they don’t slow down to a walk. Only in my wildest dreams can I imagine not walking a step during a 26.2-mile race. But today I can imagine jogging 13.1 miles without walking. (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?)

Here’s what watching 8 miles of Olympic women did for me:

Last week had turned out to be kind of an off week in my half-marathon training. Because of some unanticipated circumstances (and a dash of poor planning), I didn’t get in a long run Saturday or Sunday – both days I usually go long – so I was feeling kind of lazy.

I’m taking a vacation day today, so I had talked my night-owl husband and our young friend Sam into doing their early-Monday workout even earlier – with me – and then I kinda flaked out on them. We were going to meet at the high school at 6:30, and Sam wanted to do speed work on the trail instead of the track. Well, I can’t do speed work with Bruce and Sam (they’re much faster than I am), so I decided to do my long run by jogging to BHS instead of driving there with Bruce. It’s about 8 miles round trip, so I left at 6 a.m. (I figured Bruce would be late, anyway.)

The only time I saw either of them is when Bruce passed me in the car on his way to meet Sam. He slowed down to ask if I needed anything and then drove on.

I was going uphill when he saw me, and I was jogging, not walking. Score!

In fact, I jogged more uphills than I have in a really long time, and it was easier this time. I had gotten quite lazy in my workouts since adding distance. I told myself it was the distance or the time out there that mattered – not the actual miles per hour. So I hadn’t been increasing my speed much.

I had gotten really lazy.

The difference this morning? Determination. Inspiration. Low humidity.

I had been thinking about those Olympic chicks for 24 hours. Their perseverance really stuck with me. And then there was this Nike commercial last night during the Olympics. Did you see it?

There’s a voice-over that’s talking about “finding your greatness.” In the distance you see a jogger. As he gets closer and closer and as the voice-over continues, you realize this jogger is an overweight kid. He’s huffing and puffing, sweaty and red-faced, but he never slows down.

No, he’s not fast. But he’s not walking, either. He’s persevering. (His name is Nathan. Read about him here.)

I didn’t consciously think about that overweight boy while I ran this morning, but he must have been in the back of my mind. And I definitely thought a lot about the Olympic women. I told myself, “If they can run 26.2 miles without walking, surely I can jog up some of these little ol’ hills of Batesville.”

So I did. I jogged up several of the hills, including the Golden Overpass and the Baja. (If you don’t live in or near Batesville, Ark., let me just tell you, there’s a reason the back of our women’s running clinic shirt says “Got Hills?” We have our fair share of hills, thank you very much.)

And here’s the crazy thing: Around Mile 7, I started realizing that it was getting easier, not harder. I felt as though I could go another 3-4 miles. (I didn’t.) And in those last couple of miles before home, I kept jogging up the hills.

I was actually having fun. (Well, sort of. It is running, after all.)

Funny what an attitude adjustment can do for a person.

Having one off-week doesn’t have to derail an entire training program. I already knew that, but because the half-marathon is only seven weeks away, I got a little scared. It made me afraid I wouldn’t be able to build up to my really long run before the event. I want to do a 13.1-mile workout before I get to Nashville, and it needs to be a couple of weeks before the race. (You’re supposed to ease off on the mileage as you get close to race day.) So I’ll be cutting it close, but I’ll get there. And if I don’t get in a 13.1-mile run before race day, it’ll be okay. I know I’ll be able to finish strong, even if I don’t finish fast.

I love that my coach is also my sweetheart. Bruce has been so encouraging as I’ve journeyed through weight loss and learning to love running. Today when he got home from his workout, he said I looked thin as he drove up behind me while I jogged. I’ve learned so much from him about running, but I also revel in the fact that he loved me even before I loved running. He’s a keeper.

Running isn’t everything, but it has taught me many lessons about life. An important lesson I’ve learned, and that I will continue to learn, is that I am capable of things I never thought possible just a couple of years ago. Just look at me – I’m training for a half-marathon! I’ve always known that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13), but never had I related that to physical activity before now.

I serve a big God, and He is continually teaching me. It’s neat that He chooses to use things like running to teach me life lessons. The trick is to open my ears, eyes and heart and pay attention. There are many lessons to be learned.

My fundraising deadline for the Nashville Women’s Half Marathon, which supports the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, is only 30 days away. Please consider supporting my efforts to wipe out Crohn’s disease in Bruce’s lifetime. Click here to donate. That page also provides a link to Team Challenge – just in case you’d like to join me in my next half-marathon for CCFA. 🙂

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Things I’m thankful for

These are things I’m thankful for this morning:

  • The glorious weather. I know it’s hot, but that’s why I like to do my workout (walk/jog) at sunrise; the weather is actually cool for about an hour, until the sun rises high over the houses. Today there were just enough wispy clouds to create a soft pastel scene just above the horizon for a few minutes. So peaceful. We’ve had no rain lately, either, meaning I have to remember to water my own tomatoes and herbs (small sacrifice), but that also means I don’t have to wear special gear to exercise outside. Another reason to be thankful.
  • City road crews. The dead ’possum I experienced yesterday morning on Hill Street was gone this morning. It was a fresh kill yesterday, so I’m really glad I won’t have to look at it every day for two weeks like we did the armadillo carcass. Not sure who picked it up, but I’m grateful to that person. For the record, any time the subject of “jobs I would never want to have” comes up, No. 1 on my list has always been “the person who cleans up road kill.”
  • New friends, Part 1. At the moment I’m thinking about my new running/walking friends. Since I joined the women’s running clinic in late February (and recruited Coach Bruce a few weeks into it), I have made some lifelong friends. The group is amazing in its enthusiasm and support of one another. Many of us had been couch potatoes for far too long, and we’re now spurring each other on in many ways. This particular group is a hybrid of the women’s clinic, the Run for God Bible study and the White River Road Runners group.
  • New friends, Part 2. Bruce and I have been Batesville residents for 13 months now, and we have felt so embraced by our community. We have friends at church, at work, through volunteering and because of family connections. There’s not enough space here to explain it all or to express our gratitude and sense of belonging.
  • Old friends. I’m thinking of Lynn in particular right now. It’s been so nice reconnecting with her over the past couple of years, and now we live closer to each other and are able to have face-to-face meetings every now and then. She has been an encouragement to me, as well as an encourager. We’re on similar journeys to physical fitness although our personal circumstances are quite different.
  • Family. We moved here because of family. I haven’t seen as much of my brother and his brood as much as I would like these past few months, but my mother and I talk nearly every day by phone or in person. We share rides to work sometimes (she lets us borrow her car when Bruce and I both need to drive somewhere), she feeds our dogs when we need to go out of town and she lets us come over and watch sports on her big-screen TV – very important things! We live less than a mile from my brother, J.T., and Mom’s house is a stone’s throw from his. We love being so close to them.
  • Good health. I have minor physical ailments, but they aren’t enough to keep me from continuing my fitness journey. I have finally embraced the idea of moving every day in a way that’s making my heart stronger, both physically and spiritually. I can’t say when I will breathe my last breath, and I try to remind myself to savor each day as it comes (some days that’s easier said than done, but I still try).
  • The little deck on the back of our house. Yesterday after my wog (our Run for God leader’s word for walk/jog), I took my Bible outside to the deck to read the first five Psalms (next in our through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan). It was perfect that Psalms fell on the day I was able to spend time outdoors, not worrying about the clock.
  • Trees and birds. You notice them more when you walk the streets early or sit on the deck in the morning. The birds’ songs are melodious and soothing.
  • Good books. I’m reading one right now that I’ll review for BookSneeze when I’m finished, but I would be telling you about it even if I didn’t have to. It’s called “Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me” by Ian Morgan Cron. More later.
  • Chocolate. No explanation needed.
  • The dogs. I’ve talked enough about them in the past, so I won’t bore you with that this morning, but I’m grateful for them every day. They make me laugh.
  • Bruce. He’s my sweetie pie. I love him for so many reasons – too many to express here and now. I’ll just tell him to his face.
  • My job.
  • Home. My favorite place.
  • God. He bestows so many blessings on my life. I will never find enough words to express my gratefulness.

Beautiful weather tends to make me sentimental, hence the spontaneous gratefulness post. I think it’s important to stop and count my blessings every now and then, though. It helps me slow down from the busyness of life and remember the Source of all that’s good.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

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Welcome, race fans

What an eventful day.

It started with a 3:45 a.m. wakeup before even the sun was up (I was actually awake long before the alarm came on – not because I was excited about the race but because I wake up every morning between 3 and 4 – darn hormones!).

Today was the Women Run Arkansas clinic’s graduation event in Conway – our 5K race. It was the culmination of 10 weeks of training – in the rain, the cold, the heat, the sunshine, all kinds of weather, all kinds of fitness levels, all kinds of women. Women from a wide range of ages, professions, personalities and philosophies. Women who made me smile, laugh, work harder and push myself farther than I thought I could go in 10 weeks.

Out of the 1,925 women registered for today’s race, the Batesville contingent showed up in force – all 65 of us – our bright orange race shirts blazing a trail to the finish line. That 65 didn’t include the half-dozen men who came to support us – our coaches and spouses, all sporting bright orange shirts of their own.

When you get that many women together, the excitement is palpable (if you’ve done Race for the Cure you know what I’m talking about). It starts for the individual before she even arrives at the race site and doesn’t fade until, oh, maybe the next day. I’m exhausted but still pumped up about this day in my personal history.

I had done this clinic 10 years ago in Sherwood, but I don’t remember making friends with the other women as I’ve done this time. Nothing against Sherwood – we had awesome leaders and participants there, too – but there has just been something about this group of Batesville women that will leave a lifelong impression on me.

We have each other’s backs.

I need to check the official results once they’re posted, but Amber from our group was able to holler out my finish time when the results were printed and taped to the white van: 35:32. I think I had told Bruce I wanted to finish in “under 40” (I always have to ask him what I said – I can never remember, plus he’s my stats guy). I finished 402nd overall.

I have to give a shout-out to Maggie, who helped me finish the last 10th of a mile or so, UPHILL (if you don’t think .1 miles is a big deal, even on a flat surface, get out of your car and jog it sometime – when you’re already out of breath). And, by the way, I have a long list of Things that Should be Illegal, and making the last part of a race – of any distance – UPHILL has moved to No. 1 on the list.

Thursday night at our Batesville pasta party we saw a video featuring a young woman who ran a marathon, smiling all the way (she must have been insane). Her mantra was “I love hills …  I love hills.” And that crazy chick was still smiling when she got to the finish line! Do you know how long a marathon is? It’s 26.2 miles, honey. And this woman smiled the whole way!

But back to me.

When Maggie jogged back to take me in to the finish line, I breathlessly told her, “Tell me I love hills.”

“You love hills,” she said.

Now, I don’t remember this next part, but Jessica told me about it later, because she apparently was nearby when it happened, and it amused her.

After Maggie said to me, “You love hills,” I screamed, with my second-to-last ounce of strength: “KEEP SAYING IT!”

Jessica said it cracked her up. I don’t remember it, but it sounds like me.

As I’ve said to many people in the past couple of weeks, most of the trick with running is above the shoulders. Attitude is 99 percent of it (and a good bra helps, too). I have to tell my brain things it doesn’t really believe, such as “I love hills.” And when I don’t have enough oxygen to speak it myself (because it has to be said out loud), I have the Maggies and Janies and Jessicas and Jennifers and Ambers and Suzannes and Phyllises and Lisas and Theresas and Catinas to say it to me. What cheerleaders we have in this group!

I am happy to say that a bunch of us are going to continue our routine – to keep the fitness mojo going. Bruce is going to coach us, and we start Tuesday night at the cemetery (!), just as though the clinic had not ended.

I say “we,” but that leads me to the next part of the story. Here’s me tonight, a few hours after hobbling off the racecourse (note the concern in Salsa’s wagging tail):

This evening my mom talked me into going to the ER (after I called to ask if she still had my Papa’s crutches).

Apparently it’s not a stress fracture but merely a severe case of plantar fasciitis. I had been feeling the pain in both feet all week, but especially the left one and especially right before the race. I managed to run the race, but as soon as I crossed the finish line I started limping (kinda makes ya wonder how I could even finish the race, doesn’t it?).

By the time we got out of the car in Searcy to have lunch, I was hobbling to the sandwich shop. Which kinda hints at plantar fasciitis, because that condition is worse after you’ve been off the foot for a while (many people have their worst pain first thing in the morning).

This is a recurrence of a problem I had 10 years ago (last time I did the clinic), but never did it get this severe.

When the ER nurse asked me my pain level on a scale of 1-10 and I had to stop and think, Bruce said, “Remember you crawled down the hallway on your hands and knees this afternoon.” Good point. Pain level: 10.5.

So the ER doc put me in a walking boot and sent me home with crutches and a prescription for ibuprofen. I’ll be in the boot for 7-10 days, and I hope to be back on the running circuit in a couple of weeks. (I’m going to play it by ear.)

So, ladies of the Batesville clinic, if you’re reading this, know that you may see me Tuesday night, but instead of having my running shoes and my sports watch, I’ll be sporting an ugly boot and carrying a book. I may sit by the duck pond and read while you guys sweat along with Coach Bruce. And know this: Because I, too, am insane, I will wish I were taking every step with you.

I love you guys!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, LADIES!

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How to buy a sports bra

If you’re the type of woman who takes sports bras with spaghetti straps seriously, stop reading this now and race to the nearest stick-thin-supermodel website (I have no clue what site that might be).

I mean it! Stop reading now! You obviously do not need a sports bra, because you are flat chested and will not be able to relate to the rest of this post.

Go ahead; move along.

Okay, now that they’re gone, I can talk to the rest of you ladies, who know what it’s like to stuff your girls into a serious, industrial-strength undergarment:

In November I took up the “sport” (some might call it “exercise in self-torture”) of running. I hadn’t run in a few years, and I had exactly three leftover athletic bras in the bottom of a spare dresser drawer: two black, from 10 years ago – the first time I tried to be a “serious” runner – and a white one from a few years later. All three have shrunk over the years of bouncing, sweating and washing (but hanging to dry), and my body has gone the other direction. (I now refer to myself as full figured, with homage to the recently departed Jane Russell.)

I had been complaining about the old, uncomfortable bras for weeks, so when Bruce and I went to North Little Rock recently for my annual cardiologist checkup, we went on a quest for a sports bra or two (I had tried to find my old brand online and in local stores but couldn’t find my size in the style I need).

Let me tell you, there are gazillions of sports bras out there, but, for one reason or another, most of them do not work for full-figured women. Let me count the ways:

1. Most of them nowadays go over your head rather than hooking in the back or the front. I wish you could have seen me in the first dressing room, trying to pull one slightly stretchy (not too stretchy or it won’t support) contraption over my head and down into place without causing irreparable tissue damage (or under-my-breath swearing).

On second thought, I don’t wish you could have seen (or heard) me. It wasn’t pretty. At all.

I didn’t even get the thing all the way on before I knew (with that sick feeling a small furry creature gets right before the snake swallows it whole) that it just wasn’t going to work. It would have been stupid to continue trying.

But you know what was even stupider? In another store, I tried on another over-the-head contraption. Same result: Back over my head before it was fully in place.

(Why do they think pullover bras should even exist, anyway? The only thing I can think of is, they’re a fashion statement. For the women who are no longer reading this post.)

2. Most sports bras are too stretchy and not supportive enough. You know, for full-figured gals. The entire point (no pun intended) of a sports bra is to smash you flat so as to prevent bouncing – or so I thought, until I met the sports-bra saleswoman of my dreams (more on that later).

Don’t the sports-bra designers know that the women who really and truly need sports bras are those of us who weigh more than 80 pounds soaking wet? Last time I weighed 80 pounds, I hadn’t hit puberty and running hadn’t even been invented.

3. Sports bras for full-figured women come in exactly two colors: White and black. You could bust me (no pun intended, really) right here for being a hypocrite because of the whole spaghetti-strap thing, but we full-figured gals do like a little variety in our fabric choices every now and then. While I do not believe in wearing your underwear on the outside – as a fashion statement or, poor you, because it’s just so darned hot you have to take your tiny little shirt off when you run – it is nice to have more than two colors to choose from. I personally think white underwear is boring, and I like to have a rainbow of colors to choose from. (And, as far as the lack of variety in big-girl-sports-bra colors goes, thin women – and, apparently, designers – do not even realize this is an issue.)

(Apologies to those who think the preceding paragraph was TMI [Mom, that means “too much information”]. On the other hand, you may think this entire post is TMI!)

So, by the second pullover-bra fiasco, I had learned my lesson, meaning I had exhausted all hope of finding an appropriate bra in my new hometown and would have to go to my old, larger hometown to shop. (Do you know how much I hate to shop? Probably not, but that’s a topic for another day.)

So off to central Arkansas we went.

Bruce and I, intrepid explorers that we were (on that particular day, at least), went to two big-chain sports superstores and two locally owned running stores (we like the latter better, but the two big multipurpose stores were closer – plus we were also looking for bowling balls – so we went there first).

At the first store created exclusively for runners, a new place in the Heights called Go! Running, we found not only a brand I had never heard of (Moving Comfort) but some of the best customer service you could ask for. The owner, Erin Taylor (no relation to me), won me over with her knowledge, friendliness and willingness to serve, even though I left the store without making a purchase. She did order a bra for me, after I had tried on one that was close to my size. She explained that a sports bra shouldn’t just mash you flat and that this particular bra had features that made running more comfortable (I’m trying to spare you the details). She also told me I had several colors to choose from!

She had to take a phone call, so she told an employee what bra should be ordered for me (in a nice bluish-purple) and sent me to the front of the store to leave my contact information. (That evening when I got home, the employee called to say she was about to order the bra but that I would need to pick another color. My size comes in only two colors – you guessed it: white and black.)

After we left Go! Running, we went to Easy Runner, an older, more established store well known to Arkansas runners. (It has moved to the upscale Pleasant Ridge Town Center on west Cantrell Road.) There, they had the Moving Comfort brand in my size (but not the same model), so at least I know that this particular brand runs true to my size. I did not buy anything there but left convinced that the bra I ordered at Go! Running would work for me.

Afterward I wrote a thank-you note to Erin for her outstanding customer service. When she received it, she left a message on my answering machine to thank me for the thank-you note and said it was going up in her office.

I may not be rich, but I am willing to pay a few dollars more for an item (especially an item that is as much sought-after as this bra was to me) when I am treated with the respect, courtesy and friendly service that Erin showed me that day. (I got good service at Easy Runner, too.)

Tomorrow we go back to North Little Rock to finish painting the house and to plant some spring flowers, and I’ll go pick up my black Moving Comfort bra at Go! Running. I hope Erin is there so I can thank her again, in person, for treating this full-figured gal as though I were as fit and beautifully sculpted as a triathlete. And I will probably order a Moving Comfort bra in white and have it shipped to my house.

That, ladies, is how to buy a sports bra.

For another helpful  how-to, visit my New Year’s Day post, How to win a race without really trying.

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How to win a race without really trying

This post was supposed to be titled “Fun run – an oxymoron,” but by the time I had wrestled the computer from Bruce, I had written it on paper and the story had evolved. Bottom line, though – 2011 has started off great!

Here’s the scenario: Someone in my household had signed up (without his housemate’s permission) to run the New Year’s Day Resolution/Prediction Less Than 4 Mile Fun Run/Walk (whew!) in downtown Batesville. After finding out, I eventually made my peace with it, because that someone just itches to run (he itches because he runs, too, but that’s a story for a Crohn’s-related post).

I went to take that someone to his less-than-4-mile race this morning, ran into some friends and, at their urging, ended up registering at the last minute. And I won the women’s division, as you can see by the above photo of the first running trophy I’ve ever won (and probably ever will)! John “The Penguin” Bingham, author of the two most recent books I’ve read (No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running and Training for Mortals: A Runner’s Logbook and Source of Inspiration) would be so proud!

Here’s how to do it:

1. Stay up hours past your bedtime the night before, not to watch the ball drop in Times Square but because A&E is showing a New Year’s Eve marathon of a TV show you’ve recently become obsessed with.

2. Eat two pieces of cold pizza for breakfast, washed down with diet Coke, about an hour after consuming a mammoth cup of coffee.

3. Wear clothing you normally would do your walking in, but not an athletically appropriate undergarment suitable for the type of bouncing a “full-figured” woman does while running.

4. Don’t take the race seriously because:

a) There’s no registration fee.

b) You weren’t planning to enter in the first place.

c) Success is based not on how quickly you can complete it but on how good you are at guessing ahead of time how quickly you can complete it. (You’re not allowed to wear a watch during the run, because the whole point is to make your prediction before the race and hope you know your own pace; in fact, the race director said he would have the cops beat you up if you wore a watch. He was kidding. I think.)

d) They call it a “fun run.” (The precise meaning of fun run is a story for another day.)

5. Drive your housemate to the race with the intention of either:

a) Reading the book you stashed in your purse “just in case there’s no one to talk to while I wait for him to finish” or

b) Walking/jogging around the block a few times to get your day’s exercise in, just in case there’s no one to talk to …

6. Let some  friends you run into before the race talk you into registering 10 minutes before the start time.

7. Hurriedly fill out the form and make a wild guess at your finishing time because, frankly, you haven’t been wearing your stopwatch during the get-back-in-shape walk/runs you’ve been doing the past six weeks. Or even really paying attention to the exact distance you’ve been walking/running because you weren’t planning to get serious about it until the new year.

8. Don’t stretch, warm up (unless you count going back inside the heated building) or do anything remotely racelike ahead of time.

9. Spend the entire 3.75 walking/jogging/bouncing miles writing the inevitable blog post in your head (isn’t everything in life a potential blog post?), telling yourself things like “Don’t forget to mention the two dead cats in the gutter on Water Street” and “Wouldn’t it be funny if I actually won this thing?” (the thought that occurs right after this one, as you’re struggling to make it up the course’s most heinous hill: “Hey, there’s Mom’s street. I bet she’s up by now. I could just cut across here, go into her warm house, use the bathroom and maybe have a cup of hot tea. Then I could cut back over to the race course and finish up”).

10. Tell yourself that you must make it clear in your blog that you would never seriously entertain the thought expressed in #9 – that it was just a fleeting lapse in judgment, something to joke about later. Yes, folks will get a chuckle out of that!

11. Run significantly faster and longer (more jogging than walking) than you have run these past six weeks because:

a) In your haste to register (and predict your time), you probably were a little too confident in your abilities. Fifty minutes for nearly 4 miles? At this early stage in your training? Are you kidding me?

b) You at least want to finish before those last two ladies bringing up the rear, one of whom foolishly passed you early on, before you got your head out of the clouds and got down to business.

12. When waiting for the winners to be announced, tell yourself you were only joking when you said it would be really funny to win (what you meant is that it would be really great to win), but, after all, this is just a “fun run” and at least you finished before those last two ladies.

13. And finally, in shock, go up and accept your trophy for predicting better than any of the other women how fast you could do this.

How fast? Not very. But my 50:17.3 was only 17.3 seconds off, much closer than the second-place woman’s prediction. And we don’t even remember her name, do we?

Sign up for your own race at White River Road Runners. See ya there!

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Thankfulness, Day 7

Yesterday was too busy and I was too tired when we got home at 9:30 last night to post my thankfulness (people, I spent 2 1/2 hours at Walmart yesterday!). In fact, I didn’t even think about posting until this morning. So the date on the post will be a day late, but this is for Saturday, Nov. 20.

And … I have pie crusts to make before church this morning, so this one will be short and sweet.

Yesterday I was thankful that all but one of my football teams won this weekend. The Batesville Pioneers whooped up on Monticello in Round 2 of the state playoffs; Notre Dame whooped up on Army at Yankee Stadium (cool!) and the Hogs beat Mississippi State in double overtime. Alas, my alma mater, Arkansas State, lost to Navy earlier in the evening on TV.

I love college football season, and I’ll be sad when it ends. But, hey, I guess we have a few weeks left, what with bowl games and all.

And I love my mama for letting us watch on her nice big HDTV.

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Thankfulness, Day 2

Today I’m thankful for runners who have gone before.

My Amazon books came today, along with my ski mask without the mouth hole (I’m prone to respiratory problems and have been looking for a ski cap that covers everything but the eyes – I finally had to order one). And since the masks were so cheap, I decided to order two, and since I wanted free shipping, I had to make the order total $25, so I ordered two books by John “The Penguin” Bingham, a columnist for Runner’s World magazine.

The books, which came highly recommended by other Amazon users, are “No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running” and “Training for Mortals,” which is mainly a logbook but includes little bits of inspiration and other nice features.

The package arrived while I was at work, so Trainer Bruce perused the books and gave me a report: They’ll be good for Lisa and me. (He was more specific than that, but I’ll save that for later.)

And because I’m eager to climb under the electric blanket (our heater’s still broken), this post is short and sweet.

Lisa and I did walk three miles tonight after I got out of class. Just so you know.

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