The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Woolley Trail Half Marathon

When the winter has been long and February's only color is grey, what is a girl to do?  You convince your friends running a half marathon in the next county over is a great idea; teetering on brilliance actually.

They didn't buy the brilliance descriptor either.  However, they did agree to run it once the weather forecast promised it wouldn't be 20 mph winds with torrential rains.

We parked at the little church across from the starting line.  It was chilly and none of us really wanted to leave the warmth of the car.  Kathy points out the guy in the car next to us is eating a fast food cheeseburger.   The three of us giggle.  Surely he wasn't going to be running the race and if he was, he'd regret his Breakfast of Champions about mile 4.

The line was short to pick up our race bibs and timing chips.  People were milling about and we watched as the early start marathoners began to line up.  I caught the eye of Heidi, a fellow Marathon Maniac, and ran up to give her a hug and give her well wishes on her race.  8 a.m. sharp they were off and we cheered and clapped as they headed down the trail; then quickly went back to the car where it was warm.

Our bibs in place and timing chips securely fastened to our shoes, we made our way to the porta potty line.  Standing in line, we hear things as "crossing the creek" and "change shoes" and "how many times do we cross it?".  Karen asks someone what they are talking about and we quickly realize we did not get the last email and up until that point had been blissfully unaware we would have to run through a creek.  Twice.

At this point there is nothing we can do about it.  Onward and upward.  We'll just cross that bridge creek when we get to it.  (HA!  See what I did there?!?)

9 am and we were off and running.  Kathy, Karen and I made our way down Centennial Trail.  My plan was to run 3 easy, 3 faster, 3 easy and finish faster. It has been months since I ran any speed and I was looking to reintroduce myself to some faster miles without killing myself in the process.

As with all our runs, the three of us talk about everything and nothing.  We were enjoying getting out from our routine.  Unintentionally I found myself pulling ahead after mile 2.  They wished me a great race and I ran at a pace that felt comfortable.  Mile 4 came and I picked up the pace according to my plan.

The pace felt great.  I felt greatThe scenery was great.  Everything was great.  Mile 5 came and so did the water.  For a quarter of a mile we weren't crossing a creek, we were running down a creek.  The winter rains helped the creek change it's direction and it decided the trail was it's new course. 

A quick glance to the left I spotted where I could get to the high side of the trail by getting very little of my shoes wet.  I leapt to the side and inadvertently cut off another runner.  Apologizing, I moved to the side and Runner Man assured me I was fine and to continue on.  We managed to navigate our way; well, that is until we came up behind a woman tip-toeing in an effort to stay dry.  She would have no part in letting us go by.

We tried to stay in line, but she was making it painfully slow.  Hearing a "SPLASH" behind me, I see Runner Man taking off down the middle of the creek.  It took about 2 nano seconds for me to follow suit.  Once you're wet, you're wet. 

The water was ankle deep and soon gave way to some dry land.  Happy the wet part was over, I fell back into a good pace.  Then I turn the bend and SURPRISE! the creek was back.  This section was much deeper and much murkier than the other.  Following Runner Man, we made our way right down the middle of the creek.  It was calf deep in some spots and where-did-my-shoes-go deep in others.

And it was awesome.

Into mile 6 my feet no longer felt soaking wet and I had gained my pace again.  I noticed the leaders of the half marathon were coming toward me.  The lead man and woman were in perfect unison.  I wondered if they trained together.

Reaching the turn around, I had to remind myself my plan was to run miles 7, 8, and 9 at an easy pace.  I tried to slow to a 9 min pace but felt so good going faster that I found it difficult to reel it in.  Since it was an out and back course I knew the creek running was fast approaching and my pace would slow again. 
I decided to do what felt good for as long as I could. 

It was here I realized I had not seen many women runners hit the turn around before me.  How many had gone by?  6? 7? 8?  Could I place in the top 6 female over all?  I laugh as it becomes clear I am not a competitor.  A competitor would have definitely known how many women were ahead of her.  Not me.  I'm still feeling good.

Armed with this little nugget of wonder, I start to focus on women ahead of me.  There's one.  I reel her in, and pass her.  "Good job" I say as I go by.  She smiles and says, "Go get em!".

Coming toward me are the very recognizable forms of Karen and Kathy.  They too enjoyed running through the creek and we give each other high fives.  Karen snapped a picture of me and I gave her a thumbs up. 

The creek is ahead and this time I plow my way right through the middle.  When it gets to be calf deep I try and make my way to the side.  Big mistake.  I sink into 8 inches of muck which apparently fell in love with my shoe as it reeeaaallllyyy didn't want to let it go.  I wonder if I can finish a race with one shoe.

Deciding I loved my shoe more than the muck possibly could, I yank my foot up and keep my shoe.  Back to the creek I go.  Splashing through the creek is destroying my pace but I am having too much fun to care.

Done with the creek, I look up ahead and see another woman.  Slowly and surely I gain on her.  As I come along side her, she decides she has another gear.  It's ok, so do I.  After a mile, she realizes I am not going anywhere and she slows. I go by.  I turn and tell her "Great job".  She says nothing.

Am I 5th?  Am I going to finish in the top 5??  The thought is enough to keep my pace strong.  Finishing top 5 female is something I never thought I could accomplish and I surely did not want anyone passing me in the last mile.

With this section of the trail flat as flat could be, I see the finisher's chute ahead.  No matter how many steps I run, IT IS NOT GETTING ANY CLOSER.  This has got to be the longest quarter mile ever. 

An eternity later, I cross the finish line in 1:57:28.  A man with long hair and beard congratulates me, places a medal around my neck and hands me a statue. 

"What's this?
" I ask.

"You won 3rd female overall.

The heavens part.  Angels sing. 

"What?  I've never done that before."  I begin to cry and he hugs me.  The volunteers at the finish clap and cheer and hug me.

A short time later, Kathy and Karen cross and we find ourselves warming by the heaters, eating some of the best soup ever known to mankind and talking with those around us.  The man to my right had come in second, missing first to the girl I had witnessed him running with at the turn around.  Although he did not take first, he did manage to score a huge personal best.

"I'm curious," I ask, "Do the two of you know each other?  I saw you after you hit the turn around and you were in complete unison with your running."

With a big smile and  laughter in his voice he says, "No.  We don't know each other.  I just did not want to get beat by a girl." 

"So.  What you are telling me is - not only did you get beat by a girl but you owe the undeniable strength of Girl Power for your PR today."  We laugh and trade high fives and eat more soup.

The runners around the heaters are trading stories, eating great food and laughing with each other. 

 Mr. Cheese Burger For Breakfast Boy?  He ended up sitting on my left by the heater after the race.  I asked him how he felt after eating such a stellar breakfast.

"I regretted my choice about mile 3.  I'm never doing that again."

We also learn he drove 3 hours to run this race. Which is proof positive one simply can not beat the great atmosphere of a local race.  The Woolley Run is one of those races.  Terry Sentilla and his crew do a fantastic job with this race and making each runner feel spoiled.

Once I got home, my husband promptly put my trophy in the bookcase in our living room. 

Ok.  I'll admit it.  That silly little bobble head trophy makes me smile.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Running Steps of 2015

As soon as my watch hit 9.77 miles, I stop my run and give myself a high five.  It's possible - just ask the 2 sheriffs sitting in their parked cars watching this anomaly happen.  Normally I would not stop a run this short of a gloriously round number like 10 (I may have OCD tendencies) yet I do today.  9.77 miles pushed me to 1,420 miles for the year.

1,420 healing and life giving miles.  This number I celebrate.  Today's run - the last one in 2015 - was a reflective one.  Each one of those miles taught me about myself.

Today the sun shines bright in the cold December sky.  The northerly wind puts the air at a brisk 28°; all reminiscent of the start of the year.  Those were some incredibly difficult miles.  Losing both my parents within a year of each other and both at Christmas brought a darkness and a sadness I have never known.  January and February's running steps held many, many tears, brokenness, peace and comfort.  

Running steps didn't happen much in those first months.  Some days it was a good day by getting out of bed.  Some days it was a really good day by getting out of bed and getting pants on.  The rest of the world appreciated that too.

March came ushering in spring.  Sunnier days with birds singing and warmer temps made running steps easier.  My running friends always making it a point to push me forward.  We got a summer marathon on the calendar and with it came a training plan.  On the days when I felt I had no energy to tie my shoes, I did.  After all, my friends were waiting.  

Those running steps brought me strength.

The trees around me clear and I am passing a farmer's field.  Mount Baker stands regal in it's beauty.  Psalm 46 comes to mind, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore I will not fear, though the earth should change and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea."  I wonder what it would take to make something as strong and sturdy as Mount Baker slip into the heart of the sea. 

I think about God as my strength.  I think about who He surrounded me with during this difficult year.  Many people come to mind, and I am overwhelmed when I think of each of them.  One of those strengths He gave me is a fabulous woman who is the most outgoing introvert you will ever meet.  And she gets me.  Oh, does she get me.  

As a fellow  introvert she wasn't afraid when I would retreat away from the world.  She let me be in the scary lonely places in my heart, but would always be there with a nudge when she thought it best for me to come back out into the world.

"Let's meet for dinner after church." 

"It's time to plan a date night, what night works best?"  
"How 'bout we eat some Russian perogies Saturday night?"

She prayed with me in the ICU when my dad was given a 10% chance to live.  She prayed for me more times than I will ever know.  She also makes me laugh until I snort.  Countless times while I ran I thanked God for putting her in my life.

Those running steps taught me gratitude.

The summer marathon came.  So did the hot summer sun.  I do not run well in the heat.  This marathon crumbled beneath me and I let it.  At times I was dizzy on the course, and I knew full well what that meant, but knowing the fight both my parents showed in their last days I would not quit.  With 2 friends at my side, we walked and ran and talked about many things.  The emotional highs and lows of the previous months had taken it's toll on me physically.  Everyone (but me) could recognize that; I finally accepted it.

Those running steps taught me the importance of health.

A runner passes me on a quiet country road.  Where did he come from?  He startled me and I karate chopped him.  Or maybe I screamed and said, "You scared me!"

The months of 2015 began peeling away.  Focusing on my emotional and physical health, I gave myself permission to "just run".  I signed up for a fall marathon and the entire goal was to enjoy every single step.  My BRSs (Best Running Sisters) signed up with me and each week's long run we worked on falling in love with running again.  No speed work, no tempo runs, no "have-to-do-this".  We simply ran.

It worked.  This marathon we laughed and took our time.  If we felt like walking we did, if we wanted to run, we did.  We enjoyed every single step.  We ran by multi-million dollar homes in Seattle and made up stories about the people who owned them.  

The finisher medals double as beer bottle openers (score!) and the race director made sure there was plenty of hot soup waiting as it was a cold 32° when we finished. 

Those running steps taught me that to love running is a choice.

I'm closing in on the 9.77 miles.  Once again Mount Baker comes into view and this time faint oranges and yellows kiss the snow.  The sun will set soon on this last day of 2015. 

1,420 miles and I close out my running year.    There have been higher mileage years, faster mileage years but none near as important.   I'm hard pressed to recount a running year that has meant more to me than this one.  

This running year showed me that my running friends are not people I'm just sharing Saturday morning runs with; they are family.  They uphold me, cry with me, laugh with  me, and push me out the door to run.  They make me a better me.

I look forward to sharing many miles with them in 2016.

Happiest of New Years my friends.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Feast of Joy

Winter rains are approaching.  Canadian geese flying south look stark white against the dark storm clouds.  From the comfort of my chair, I sip my coffee and watch the world outside my window.  I reach for my book.

My  mom loved daily devotionals.  Often she would gift us girls her latest treasured find.  Max Lucado was always one of our favorites.   While going through my parent's things, we would find Mom's devotionals tucked away into different spaces; lending proof Mom always had one of her books close at hand.

It's hard to recall exactly where I found it, but somewhere in their home I stumbled upon Safe In The Shepherd's Arms.  As it was written by Max, I pick it up.  It is a small little book not much bigger than my hand.  The subtitle reads "Hope & Encouragement from Psalm 23"; Max has written short sections on each one of the Psalm's 6 verses.  My siblings gave me their approval and I took the book home.

With Christmas time approaching, I decide it would be a good time for some Hope & Encouragement.  Every day before work, as I eat my breakfast, I open the book and read one of the sections.  Today I do the same.

I have the day off work and everyone has left for the day.  Our home is quiet sans the soft tick tock coming from the clock my dad made.   The rains have begun to fall.  I open the book and begin to read.

I am at the book's last chapter focusing on verse 6.  "I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever".  

My parents are in God's house now, I thought.

Max writes reminding us our home is not here.  Life is hard, sickness comes, death happens, there are lasting hurts from deep pain.  He finishes by saying:

"Remember this: God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.  He may not do what you want, but He will do what is right...and best.  He's the Father of forward motion.  Trust Him.  He will get you home.  And the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys of the feast."

My hand reaches to turn the page and I discover Mom's bookmark.  My eyes well with tears at the thought of Mom's last words read from this book pointedly acknowledge her difficult battle and promise a great reward.

Then God nudged me and said, "Read that last line again."

And the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys of the feast.

The words were no longer about Mom, the words were about me.  God reminded me the difficult journey the last two years would be lost in the joy of the feast.  From the comforts of my chair, it is hard to imagine joy so great it can erase pain this deep.  

Yet, I will believe it. God is known to do great things.

May we all find some joy in the feast this Christmas.