Race Recap: Athens Half

Ath Half

Post-race bliss with two out of three of my loyal running buddies

This isn’t going to be a lengthy recap or review of Sunday’s Half. It’s more of an ode to my body for taking me across that finish line and allowing the strong spirit within me to give me a 1:44 finish time even when my injured leg/bum (dealing with piriformis syndrome and possible minor hamstring strain) was hollering at me to just please stop.

At mile 10, I knew for certain that my sciatica nerve is involved as the physical therapist and some other medical folks (and fellow runners) suspected. My entire left leg started to feel numb from right below my butt cheek (sorry, no other way to explain it) all the way down to my calf. The left side of my rear hurt, too, and was angry at me for most of the race. But I kept on going on and weirdly enough I couldn’t stop smiling.

There were four very specific moments when I found the strength to push harder. One was when I saw my husband, four kiddos, and my dad (my mom was on her way back from a pilgrimage to Medjugore; she said Mary would be running with me). They were cheering me on near mile 4. They were also at the finish line, but I missed them. I was too busy urging my heavy legs to keep moving. In my previous half and in most past races from my long-ago running life, I could count on a strong finish. But not yesterday. I definitely felt depleted at the end, but that’s okay. About three weeks ago I thought I’d have to sit out the entire racing season. And I can still walk today. Sitting is another story. Ouch! It hurts.

Later around mile 7 or so, I saw a young man cheering us on from a wheelchair. I don’t mean to go all banal on you, but I thought to myself, “He can’t even walk and here I am running. I am so stinkin’ blessed. I’ll run for him.”

Then at that mile 10 marker when the weird tingly, numbness started and my leg felt like it might just give out under my weight, I thought of two very important people in my life. First, my mom with her buttery blond hair and her infections, slightly off-kilter smile popped in to my mind. Yes, she’s had horrible sciatica, too, where it hurt to sit all of the time (mine is fortunately caused by muscle inflammation rather than a back problem). An invasive back surgery helped, but it’s returning again. Then there’s the atypical trigeminal neuralgia (AKA the suicide disease). Every single day her face feels like it’s on fire, but she keeps smiling, hoping, and looking beyond herself to minister to others – so much so that you forget that she lives with chronic pain.

Next, I thought of my little brother, who has constantly teased me in my life for not being much of an athlete in a very affectionate way (he got all the natural talent; I just have the grit). For the record, he did text me a congratulatory, post-race note that referred to me as his “athlete sister,” and I felt like I’d finally arrived. Well, he’s had a medical ailment that’s required two surgeries, one of them recently. Two days after his surgery he landed himself in the ER because a blood vessel had broken. He lost a pint of blood. I called him and as soon as he answered, I started to cry. I know, I know – not too cool to be calling to offer support and to just start losing it. He immediately began to comfort me and said he was going to be just fine. He is so strong. Ironically, his injury also renders his bum painful, so we’ve been making a lot of pain in the you-know-what jokes lately. In fact, the Athens race’s slogan is “Run Your Ath Off.” Well, I was worried there for a minute that I might literally do just that!

The final moment I urged my body on was when I saw a great, past professor of mine near the end of the race. I’d been contemplating walking, fearful that I might trip because I was losing feeling in my left leg. Well, she called me out by name, and I knew I had what it takes to go all the way. Later she said I didn’t look like I was hurting and that I had a big smile on my face.

There was a lot of smiling today. (There were plenty of grimaces, too. Trust me.)

And I was most definitely not smiling so much after the race when I plunged into an ice bath per medical advice. This has been shown to reduce inflammation and help with recovery. It’s also been shown to turn your lips a nice shade of Smurf blue and be more painful than actually running a whole lot of miles in a row.

ice bath


But there were two reasons I subjected myself to this form of torture (next up was foam rolling with this, which definitely falls in to the hurts-so-good category).

#1 I want to show my body a little TLC. I get frustrated that I’ve been more injury-prone lately, or I can’t go as quickly as I want and believe I have the potential to do, but I refuse to fall in to the trap I once did of punishing my body or using racing as another thing to control or to serve as a measure of my worth. Crazy lady that I am I’m tempted to lace up my running shoes tomorrow and hit the pavement, but I’m going to take it easy and see what the PT says on Wednesday. I’m going to stretch and ice a whole lot and work on my core. I’m going to focus on being kind to my body. I do have lofty goals for myself. I’ve never really engaged in smart, purposeful training. I just run a decent amount of miles at a conversational pace but after today, I have this drive to marble in some speed workouts and more challenging runs into my workout when my body is ready. Technically, with this injury I’m supposed to run slowly and avoid hills. Today was a fairly hilly course, so I need to see how I feel in a few days. I’m not going to get all futuristic (or fatalistic, for that matter) like I frequently do. First things first. I need to heal. I need to pamper this tired, aching leg and bum of mine.

#2 I am in this for the long haul. I want to be running for a really, really long time. I can’t tell you how much it’s lifted my mood and at a time when I wasn’t even aware that my spirits needed a little lift. It can be very spiritual, too. I didn’t have a profound “religious experience” today, but I did see a t-shirt that said “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me,” and that definitely became one of my mantras (so did: “You’ve given birth naturally four times, and this is easier than labor,” and “The faster you run, the sooner you’ll be finished.”). I did have some pretty moving moments during my first half last spring, and I definitely did during a marathon I ran way back when.

Running has also been a way to connect in a very meaningful way with other people. It has been so much better for me than just hanging out in Blogland. I want to be meeting new runners and, of course, gathering my peeps together for years to come. I’ve joked about making us over-the-hill running shirts one of these days, and I can just see us plodding along when our kids are all grown up. For today I want to inspire my kids to be healthy and to love and respect their bodies, and to also use them to give glory to God. Someday I want to inspire my grandchildren.

Although I would have loved to have been off having an alcoholic beverage or at least gorging on a big plate of delicious food with friends during one of the many post-race celebratory gatherings, for these two very important reasons I jumped in to ice cold water instead. And if I’m completely honest, I may have an inner sadist.

Before morphing into an ice cube, it was good to be with my family and to eat my husband’s delicious omelet that was studded with onion and jalapeño bits and filled with cheese. Usually, we have other veggies on hand like bell peppers and spinach, but our cupboards are bare right now. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted just with the spicy bits. Maybe I was just really hungry after burning roughly 1,300 calories.

My sweet 8-year-old Madeline is a very loyal fan and said encouraging things all day. Both she and 6-year-old Rachel picked flowers for me and offered them as gifts. They were worth more than any medal, although the medal for this race was gorgeous. We’re thinking of running a Thanksgiving fun run together. Rachel, in particular, seems to have caught Mommy’s running bug.

I know I started this blog as a mom blog or really just a writing outlet for me. Then it became a place to share my faith (or lack thereof), work out my mothering dilemmas, post only the most flattering pictures of my precious progeny, and hopefully along the way it served as a way to encourage other moms or at least to let them know they’re not the only ones who hide in the bathroom for some alone time. Eventually, I admit that it became a source of angst. I’ve found some balance now even if I’ve lost a big chunk of readership and am likely boring a lot of my readers with my reflections on running. But all along, I’ve always tried to offer an authentic glimpse into my life and into me. That hasn’t changed and never will. I’m not sure where I’m headed or what I’ll be writing about next week, two months from now, or three years from now. As one of my running peeps texted post-race, it’s great to share this one experience, but what’s greater is to share the everyday moments. She wrote, “It’s the journey, not an event…” Thanks for coming along on this zigzagging journey with me.

I thanked my past professor for her awesome encouragement and how it made a big difference for me and that the spectators really made the event. This is so true. It’s the people who support us along our journey who really deserve the medals. The husband who makes me an omelet on my long run days to refuel me. It’s the kids who scream, “Go, Mommy!” and brave the cold, fall morning for me. It’s the grandparents and the little brother who listen to my whining when I’ve had a setback. It’s the friends who send me encouraging texts, emails, or messages via this blog. It’s all of you who have read through this long-winded, meandering post that I claimed in the very first sentence was not going to be long (ha!). Thanks for cheering me on and sticking with me.

I feel very, very blessed right about now.

Oh, and I just have to give a shout out to my running peeps. One was MIA because she had a wedding, but the other two rocked the half! R (on the far right in the picture above) had a finish time of 1:39 and placed 9th in her age group. L (in the middle) was shooting to come in under two hours. She ran the half last time and has said it was a very difficult experience, but she came back and she was amazing! She finished smiling today with a time of 1:53. You go, girls!!!

Next up, the Kiawah Half! I’m very excited about this because my family is sharing a house with one of my besties and her family for the whole weekend.

I’ll end with a random shot of my littles that just makes me smile because it captures one of those candid, unplanned moments where my kids are just being kids, and Thomas is in his superhero stance ready to take on the world.


(We went to the fair on Saturday night, and I had the worst possible pre-race meal ever – funnel cake and some popcorn – so I’m thinking aside from more mindful training, I may need to work on my sports nutrition!)


7 Quick Takes: The Chores, Snake Stew, & More Edition

— 1 —

So I witnessed something strange the other day. I was unloading groceries from our minivan when a pickup truck came roaring down the street. Three large flags – including a rebel flag – were proudly pitched int the truck bed and were flailing in the wind. The tricked-out truck screeched to a stop in front of our neighbor’s house. I watched a young man in a t-shirt with its sleeves torn off step out of his vehicle and amble over to our neighbor’s yard. He crouched down and when he straightened back up, he had a huge, black snake in his hand. I figured he was going to toss it somewhere away from the road since it was likely a king snake or some other harmless species. But, no, he walked over to his truck, held it up, examined it, and then climbed into the cabin along with his new friend.

I’ve been wondering ever since if this hapless reptile was about to be his new pet or his dinner’s main dish.

— 2 —

I need some advice. I really don’t know how to do the whole chore thing with my children. I’ve been struggling in this department for some time now and have been wondering if I need charts or something to get all of us more organized and in more of a routine when it comes to keeping home.

My kids (other than my hippie 3-year-old and the baby, of course) are fairly good at cleaning up their toys, but they constantly forget to make their beds and I haven’t been terribly good at establishing other habits like sweeping after meals, etc. I honestly don’t know where to start, and sometimes it’s just easier to do it myself. However, each child is a part of this family and needs to have an age-appropriate way to contribute to the household. I don’t stand by this belief simply because “many hands make light work,” but because giving children responsibilities as well as imparting the confidence in them to uphold these responsibilities helps build character.

Long story not-so-short, I want mandatory chores to be a routine element in our days, but I don’t know if we need charts or what a realistic expectation for a 7-year-old might be. My husband thinks my oldest should be responsible for vacuuming the entire main level of the house every day. That seems a little much to me, but sweeping the kitchen after each meal, making her bed, and helping to set and clear the table seems reasonable. Your thoughts? How do you make daily chores become more habitual? Do you use chore charts with your younger children – or even your older children just to keep them on track and organized?

— 3 —

A Wicker version of QTs would not be replete without me sharing something funny one of my kids said. We were discussing the seven corporal works of mercy – that is, seven ways to minister to the bodily needs of our fellow human beings like clothe the naked and feed the hungry. My 7-year-old and 4-year-old both wanted to recite them by memory. After they did so, Mary Elizabeth, 3, said she wanted to do it, too.

“Okay, baby, go ahead,” I said.

“Um,” she said, her green eyes glinting with confidence. “Marry the dead.”

All of us cracked up.

“You mean BURY the dead,” her sisters corrected.

My sweet, girly-girl Mary Elizabeth, always the romantic.


— 4 —

I’ve said before I sometimes feel like a movie star. My oldest is the paparazzi, taking random photos of me when I’m engaged in ordinary tasks. And everyone wants to sleep with me – including our dog. Oh, and I’ve got my little entourage that follows me everywhere I go. Sometimes I just want to be alone. But other times, like the other day when I was primping and had two fawning admirers, I feel glamorous, adored, and grateful for my very loyal fan club.


— 5 —

I want to thank everyone for their support of my posts – especially this one – following the outrageous Time cover. I had no idea that what I wrote would go viral. Although I was very grateful something I wrote resonated with so many people and was equally grateful for some of the charitable discussions the post encouraged, it did become difficult for me to not be distracted by the hubbub – to remain unattached to it all and attached to my family.  That said, I love my readers – new and old alike – and I cherish every word you write to me even when I’m unable to respond. So thank you for being here. Thank you for encouraging me. And thank you for sharing and letting me know when something I’ve written has touched you. And thank you for understanding when I don’t personally respond to a note or comment you’ve gifted me with.

— 6 —

So long as I’m thanking folks for things,  I want to tell you how much I appreciate you looking past the innumerable typos and blunders I seem to make in every single post these days. Sheesh. Sometimes I wonder if I this tired mush of a brain of mine has any business at all participating in weekly word slinging. If I can’t put perfect, typo-free posts out there, then maybe I shouldn’t write at all. I really have had these thoughts. And not just about blogging. But if my aim is perfection, then I might as well just stay in bed.

Which reminded me of what a friend of mine recently told me. She said God isn’t waiting around to watch our fall. No, He doesn’t scrutinize the falling at all. What He pays attention to is the rising.

Isn’t that beautiful?

What are you going to do with your messy self? What do you do after you do what you promised you wouldn’t do ever again or when you commit the same sin you’ve confessed repeatedly? Do you stay down? Do you stop trying? Or do you rise and try again and believe in God’s goodness as well as your own?

— 7 —

Please join me in congratulating Bonnie of Learning to Be a Newlywed on the birth of her daughter, Teresa Marie. And while you’re at it give this mama some major kudos. Her baby girl weighed in at 11 pounds 9.5 ounces and was delivered completely naturally. As Dwija Borobia proclaimed over on Twitter, Bonnie is the natural birth MASTAH!

Have a wonderful holiday weekend! Be safe.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Joy Personified

The images below are new, but some of the words are from an old Easter post from two years ago. That’s the thing about Truth. It’s always timely. Children grow and change. Babies become toddlers. Toddlers turn into preschoolers.

 Your first and second baby girls grow tall and lean, and you see beautiful glimpses of the lovely ladies they’re turning into. These are sweet girls who point out where Easter eggs are hidden to each other and make your younger brother laugh, “I was never that nice during our Easter egg hunts.”

Scrawny babies with chicken legs that are welcomed into the world after weeks of anxious bed rest turn into happy pudge balls. And my-oh-my how that baby face reminds you of your husband. Those eyes belong to him.

But Truth and God – these remain constant.

This was an emotional Easter. I hadn’t broken down in a long time and in the safety and security of my family, I cracked and a wellspring of  tears flowed freely. I felt silly at first. Guilty, too. Then I felt better.

Easter is always bittersweet for me if I’m honest. Reading my old post revealed I’d broken down on Holy Saturday and cried to my mama. She comforted me saying, “All will be fine.” Just like St. Julian of Norwich. “All will be well.” And it was. And it will be.

It’s just the luck of the draw, but my husband frequently has to work over Easter weekend, and I miss him. But I’m also missing something on a deeper level. People join the Church this time of year. I know of several wives whose husbands were welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass. I am overwhelmed with joy for them, but I’m selfishly sad, too. My own faith journey is solitary. Everyone’s journey is solitary, but I don’t have a spouse walking anywhere close to me, and I thought I would when I got married nearly a decade ago. My heart aches because of this. Yet, I remind myself that nothing is impossible with God. This marriage of mine is a great blessing; it is a part of His plan to teach a stubborn control freak child of His (um, me) to trust. So trust I will.

I was tired when I arrived home last night. Two out of the four kids fell asleep on the way home from my parents’. I was able to transport them to beds without waking them. My big girl helped me unload the van. I nursed a very tired baby boy to sleep.

I tidied up around the house, wishing to make it feel homey and uncluttered for when that husband  of mine (whom I really was missing) returned home from work late that night.

Then I decided to peruse the photos I’d snapped throughout the day. I hadn’t pulled out my real camera in a long time since I can capture quick shots with my phone, but this weekend I wanted to get some better closeups of the kids.  I don’t have a superb eye for photography, but I was fairly happy with the results of my weekend clicking.

As I looked through the photos, the theme that came to mind was joy. Pure joy. Joy personified in my children’s smiles and happiness. That joy replaced any feelings of guilt or bittersweetness and made me grateful.

Childhood, especially when there’s chocolate buried in baskets and Easter egg hunts, is a sermon on what it means to find joy. Big, silly dogs who are always licking your baby because they think he’s their puppy help to make you joyful, too.

No, my Lent wasn’t all that great. But with Easter Sunday, we get our own Groundhog Day, a glorious do-over, a fresh start, a chance to be made anew and to walk more closely with Jesus. And isn’t our God generous? We get 40 days of preparation and penance, but we get 50 days of feasting.

The Easter season is not an ordinary time, so be extraordinary.

As I mentioned during my morning radio interview this morning with Relevant Radio, let your kids jump in those spring mud puddles. What’s a little extra dirt? Pick flowers. Read books together in your backyard. Have a picnic. Throw a blanket on the floor if it’s raining. Enjoy your children instead if just managing them.

And remember this (these are the words from an older post):

We are an Easter people.

Hope abounds. It is not a hope based on a superficial optimism that is blind to the reality of suffering in the world. Rather, it is a deep trust in God and His love for us. This is not a season for despair or worry. Easter calls us to embrace the freedom from fear, and to hold onto the life, the peace, and the joy that Jesus died to give all of us.

We are an Easter people. With the hope of Easter so close to me, it’s easy to believe. But then I return to my life. I face my trials. I see the news headlines. And I’m tempted to give in to anger or doubt or even despair.

My heart has its ups and downs. My world is frequently a wobbly one, and it’s a challenge to find my balance. My faith isn’t as steady as I’d like it to be; yet, this Easter season is a good reminder that some things never change. The only one who can rob us from the joy that comes with being a Christian is ourselves. We are sure to lose much in life – jobs, loved ones, financial security, freedoms, good health, confidence in our future happiness and in the path of our life. Then there is God. He remains. He does not shift with the wind or with our woes. He is forever. Love is forever.  No one can take that away from us. I need to bury my doubt and let God and love live.

My kids are triumphant, glad to be able to proclaim, “Alleluia!” again.

That’s what Jesus gave us on that first Easter: A reason to say, “Alleluia!” again, a reason to hope, and joy that is ours for the taking even when life is downright hard.

This is what my children give me, too. A reason to hope. And joy. Lots of it.

Happy Easter!!!

*Stay tuned for an Easter giveaway!


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