Nov 25, 2016

Haunted Half Part 2: Provo (race report)


With all the rush of the holidays hitting full stride, I forgot to write about the Provo Haunted Half! Black Friday seemed to me to be a great time to write Part 2 of my Haunted Half race report (for part 1, click here).

Not gonna lie, I was nervous about this race. I was nervous that I was running the half marathon. If my friend Tobi hadn't signed up specifically to run this race with me, I may have backed out and done the 5K like I did the week before with the Salt Lake City Haunted Half. Part of me secretly hoped that Tobi would want to switch to the shorter distance anyway.

I was so nervous because of how sick I've been. Not only had I been battling a cold, but I also have been dealing with a flare up of my autoimmune disease which has made me all sorts of broken. I had a near-constant headache, I was incredibly tired to the point of exhaustion, I was nauseated, I have been struggling with insomnia, and I had lost a great deal of strength and endurance due to this disease. So, I was nervous. I worried that I wouldn't be able to finish the race in the time allocated.  But if I never did anything while I was sick, then I would never do anything! I don't want to live my life just waiting for days when I feel well. I'm going to live life now, no matter how bad I feel. I decided I would take this race nice and easy and run according to how my body felt. If I had to walk a lot, so be it. If I was running slowly, that's fine too. I knew I would finish, no matter what.

So I showed up to the starting area because I knew Tobi would be there, and when we met up I felt so much better about the race. It's really incredible how much running buddies can lift one's spirits and motivation. The excitement I initially had at running this fun, Halloween-themed race started to come back as we filed into the buses that would take us to the starting line and I saw all sorts of awesome costumes. Tobi was dressed as a Conehead, which was amazing!


I was dressed in my Star Trek dress with my Skirt Sports Free Flow long sleeve shirt and Toasty Tights on underneath. It was chilly and I wanted to not get hypothermia during a race again (see my experience with this on my Race Report for the Armed Forced Day half marathon). I loved running in these tights. They kept my legs and rear end warm, and the pockets were exactly what I needed to hold my phone, keys, and energy gels. But really, the best part is that they matched my Star Trek costume without covering it up and kept me warm.

Since it was so cold in the morning and the half marathon started up in the mountains of Provo Canyon, they had fire pits going and passed out emergency blankets, so we kept warm waiting for the start of the race. The DJ was great, and there was even a costume contest for all the runners which was fun to watch.

The race started as dawn was breaking over Mount Timpanogos and the sight was amazing. Most of the run was downhill, which really felt awesome. During this part, I could hold a decent-enough pace for how I was feeling. Each mile was marked with a flag and a skeleton holding a silly sign. I tried to take pictures of them all. What can I say, I love passing mile markers. (And here are a few of them!)

 

 

Tobi is seriously awesome, and ran with me the whole way--even though she is far faster than I am! Up until mile 7, I was maintaining a decent 12 minutes per mile pace. But then I started to falter and ended up having to walk just about the rest of the 6.1 miles of the race. And Tobi stayed by me the entire time. She made the time pass by pleasantly, and was so encouraging of me. She really is a true friend.



My amazing husband and my sweet daughter were at all of the six spectator stops, cheering us on with signs also dressed in Star Trek outfits.  It was one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me. They even had new signs for each point. I love how much Alex supports me. He is truly incredible. Even the runners around us soon came to expect them, and commented on how he should be named husband of the year. I agree with that completely.

My family was at every single spectator point with new signs each time.
My daughter wanted to run a mile with us, and we were glad to have her join. She ended up run/walking the nearly two miles to the next spectator point where Alex was waiting with another awesome sign. She did such a good job, and got a lot of race kudos from passing runners. From there, we were in the final stretch of the race.


I was exhausted, but once I saw that finish line, I was able to run the last bit. I gave it my all without pushing myself to the point of injury or further illness. It was great to be able to even complete this race, even though it was my slowest-ever half marathon. Although I was disappointed in my time, I was also grateful that I could even do it at all. I'm thankful that my body can still do hard things, even when I'm fighting off a hard disease. However, I think this will be my last race of this distance until I overcome this autoimmune flare-up.


Runtastic events are such fun races! They are well organized, as I've said in previous race reports, and the swag is great! The medals were a coffin that actually opens and has a skeleton inside it! The shirts are super-soft long sleeve shirts with thumb holes (my favorite type of long sleeve!). They had all sorts of photo opportunities consisting of back drops and photo booths. And the final mile had a black light tunnel we got to run through, and a whole Halloween inflatable display we ran by. It was such a festive event! I hope to be able to do this one again.

Haunted row

The best part of this race was the outpouring of love and support I received from my friend Tobi, my daughter, and my husband. It meant the world to me that they all were there to encourage me and help me to reach my goal of finishing.

Finishers! No matter what obstacles we came across.

Oct 31, 2016

Haunted Half Part 1: Salt Lake City 5K (Race Report)



The Haunted Halfs were the races I was most looking forward to all year--the Haunted Half series. Combining Halloween, costumes, and running is just like mixing my favorite things together in one awesome event. And these races delivered! They were well organized, had great race swag and shirts, spooky music, decorations galore, and some pretty nice finisher bling. I signed up for both halfs, Salt Lake City and Provo, back in April.


But, come race week for the first race, Salt Lake, I came down with a pretty nasty cold. Couple that with going six months before finally seeing my endocrinologist for my autoimmune disease, and I just couldn't physically do the race distance. So, I emailed the race director and they switched me to the 5K. I can always go at least 3 miles, so that was perfect. And that was a load off my back.

The Pumpkin Arch
The entrance to the race expo for packet pick-up was a giant inflatable pumpkin arch. All the expo booths (at both expos) had Halloween candy, so my daughter enjoyed going from booth to booth saying "trick-or-treat." There were plenty of photo booth opportunities, perfect for social media. My swag bag was filled with coupons to local businesses; free samples of soap, KT tape, and even shower wipes; Halloween temporary tattoos, Haunted Half gloves, and a super soft long sleeve Haunted Half shirt. I may actually still be wearing the shirt now.

We were up bright and early for the SLC race, since we had about an hour drive to get there. With the stress of trying to run a half marathon when I was feeling so sick now put at ease, I was feeling ready and pretty excited for this race. That excitement skyrocketed once we drove up to event parking and I saw all the decorations set up along the final mile of the race course. What can I say--Halloween decorations and Halloween music really puts me in the mood for a Halloween event.


As a family, we all dressed up. I was super-woman, my husband was super-man, and our daughter was super-girl. Which made us the super-family, as many race runners and spectators pointed out. It was chilly that morning, so I layered with my Skirt Sports redemption knicks. They worked great for this run, since I was still able to comfortably wear my super-girl socks (complete with cape) and I could stow my keys and phone in the pockets. I didn't want to layer with a long sleeve shirt since it was supposed to warm up, so I threw on my cape and hoped it would do the trick (it did!). I was a bit nervous about running in a cape, but it actually worked out alright. It stayed over my shoulders the entire time, keeping me warm as I ran through the shadows.

The starting line of the race was the exact inflatable pumpkin arch from the expo. By accident, we ended up waiting at the finish line, thinking it was the starting line. Once it got close to race time, I realized my mistake and had to book it about a quarter mile up a steep hill to the real starting line! What a warm-up, but at least I wasn't the only runner to make that mistake. I made it with two minutes to spare!

Barely made it to the starting line in time!

The race started to the tunes of traditional and modern Halloween music, and we were off. I ran in the midst of superheroes, monsters, ghosts, pirates, princesses, ninjas, and even a person dressed as a banana. This is one of my favorite things about costume races--seeing all the costumes! It was like being in a parade.

The 5K course ran through a park and neighborhoods all decorated with tombstones, spiderwebs, skeletons, and ghosts. It was like all these houses were participating in the spirit of the race. There was a lot of uphill (which I'm definitely not used to being from the high plains of West Texas), but luckily it was on the way out, so the whole way back was a nice slope downward. As this was a fun run in my mind, I kept an easy pace and walked when I felt like I needed to. I still worked hard and pushed myself, but being ill, I didn't want to push myself too hard. Especially with a half marathon coming up the next weekend!



The final mile was full of Halloween decorations! Halloween inflatables lined a portion of the course. A lot of them! Photographers were strategically placed in this area to capture the runners emerging from the dark forest. Then, there was a tunnel we needed to get through with black-light designs pained all along the sides. Spectators were lining the course from here-on-out and I easily spotted my super-family cheering for me as I turned the corner to the finish line pumpkin. I love how my husband is so supportive of my running. Not only supportive, but encouraging. He makes everything I love about races even more wonderful. And seeing them at the finish line is the best part of any race I run.

I crossed the finish line with a not-too-shabby time of 36:56 and received my 5K finishers medal. And I felt great! The nice thing about 5K's is that they don't leave you super sore or stiff afterward, like the longer distance runs do. I was even feeling good enough to walk all around the zoo after we had lunch. Yes, still in costume. Like I said before, the 5K was a good choice for this first race of the Haunted Half series.

Having fun at the expo

Runtastic events are some of the most fun, most well-organized races I've done...and I've done a lot! I'm sold on the series, and completing this race and Huntsville (another runtastic event), have left me excited to run the full Haunted Half in Provo.

Oct 15, 2016

Race Report: Gardner Village Witch Run


Saturday October 1st was the first official day of Halloween season. And what better way to ring in the socially accepted day to do Halloween activities than by running a witch themed 5K? Since my daughter wanted to run the race as well, we both signed up.

The race was being held and put on by Gardner Village. Around this time of year, Gardner Village has a witch fest, where they decorate the entire place with life-sized witches doing all manner of activities. Along with the race, anyone can go down there during October and try to complete a witch scavenger hunt that will reward you with a free cookie.  My friend Tobi and her kids joined us for this part. We walked all over Gardner Village and found ten witches! The kids loved running around to find the witches from the scavenger hunt list and matching them to the clues provided. We about had it done, but the Witch Run was about to start, so we decided we are going to try the scavenger hunt another time.
All witched-up for the race!
June and I dressed up in running-friendly witch costumes. She picked out a plain black dress with her black and silver tights. I wore my Skirt Sports black cabana dress with witch socks. Our race registration, along with T-shirt and finisher medal, also included witch hats, which we wore with our get up. June wanted the black and silver hat to match her tights, so I wore a purple one with black spider webs. 

This is an evening run, starting at 8pm. The opening ceremonies consisted of a lighting of the cauldron where three witches completed a short run passing a “lit” caldron to each other until they reached the starting line. The starting area was decorated with green, blue, and purple lights…and a big castle!
Embarking on our witch hunt
I told June that she didn’t need to worry about winning or passing people. Instead, I wanted her to do her best, try her hardest, and have fun. I told her that the only way you win a race is by finishing it. So, to the tune of Monster Mash, we started the race.

The website warned that it would be dark and to bring lights, but I thought there would be at least street lights, so all I brought was my phone. Well, it was dark. Dark enough where I tripped and fell, so I started being extra vigilant. I ran with June the whole way, and she was having such a blast! She wore a glow necklace and light-up shoes which lit up with every stride. She did a great job running! She ran most of the whole race. I let her set the pace, and made sure to point out cracks and dips and rocks and other tripping hazards. We took walking breaks when needed, but we ran quite a bit.
Post-race cotton candy treats
This being a fun run, everyone seemed to be having a good time. There were a lot of kids on the course as well. Our hats kept blowing off in the wind, and with the speed of our running, so I ended up holding them for most of the race. I had June put her hat back on for the finish line though. We did end up passing quite a bit of people, since June was running at a decent pace. She picked up the speed when we saw the finish line, and crossed it victoriously with a time of 48:05, not bad for a five-year-old! The race witches even ran in with her and gave her high-fives.

The finish line refreshments included Gatorade and water, as usual, but also a huge selection of Halloween candies, freshly brewed Root Beer, and even cotton candy! We stayed for the award ceremony, especially since they kept playing June’s favorite Halloween jams. They announced the age group winners, and June won first place for the five to nine year olds! She was so happy and so excited, and I was so proud of her!
Her first first place finish! The Gardner Village witches put her up on the podium. It was dark, so the picture isn't so great.
The medals weren’t shipped out in time by the medal company, so we still need to pick them up. But, the race is giving us a discount of a future race by Gardner Village. This race was so much fun that I will for sure be using that discount!

Sep 28, 2016

How I Became a Runner




I haven’t always been a runner. Heck, I haven’t always had this passion for fitness. Quite the contrary, I hated all things that required my heart rate to be raised. And of all these active activities, the one I hated the most was running. As I’ve talked with other recreational runners, I found that this is a common beginning scenario.

When I was an elementary school aged kid, I didn’t mind running or fitness. PE (Physical Education) wasn’t my favorite class, but I didn’t dread it yet. At this age, I was a fairly decent athlete. I even won the President’s Physical Fitness award and placed fourth in my age group at my school’s Turkey Trot. I still have scars from all the times I fell down during the many, many games I played of tag and kickball—and I was proud of those scars!

But as I grew older, I grew more insecure in myself and my athletic abilities. I had some coaches that just took all the fun out of sports and fitness, instead making them way overly competitive for my young age group. I got teased for having big legs (which I look back and see that I was just a muscular little girl). I was shy and I lacked self confidence in my athletic abilities, so it was hard for me to play sports where I could possibly draw negative attention to myself by making a mistake. My parents couldn’t afford to put any of us kids into formal sports programs. But one of the biggest contributors to my dislike of fitness was that my interests just developed in other areas completely unrelated to sports or being active. So, as I got older, I started spending my recesses inside instead of venturing back outdoors.

I started dreading PE classes. I was terrified of the required mile run, so much so that I would end up walking all four laps since I didn’t believe I could actually run any of it. I avoided physical activities at church as much as I could, even though when I went I usually had a good time. And this continued clear up through college. I was even in Air Force ROTC, but still I had a hard time with physical training, just doing the minimum and barely passing my physical fitness test. Then, I attended my Air Force Tech School and met my now best friend Jenna.

Jenna and I were roommates at tech school, and we stuck together during that time. We were the odd ducks out of our whole class, which is totally fine by me. Jenna was a personal trainer and fitness instructor, and since the town we lived in didn’t seem to offer too much in the way of entertainment, unless you are into the club scene, we started hitting the gym.

Jenna wrote me up many different workout plans. They were geared toward developing my overall fitness and helping me to improve on the Air Force fitness test. At first, I had a hard time getting myself to the gym to complete these, but Jenna held me accountable and made sure I would actually do them. Soon enough, after consistent training, I started improving on my fitness test—by quite a bit! But that wasn’t the biggest, or the most important change.

I found that I actually enjoyed fitness! I was shocked to discover that I wanted to workout! I looked forward to my time at the gym, to the point where I started to do my own thing:  trying out the workout classes, learning new ways to be active, and—this is the biggest part—running on my own! It was a huge development in my life. No kidding, as I posted about some of my workouts on social media for accountability, people from my past were shocked that I actually liked running/working out and that I was actually doing well at it. I’m serious, they sent me messages about it, like, “Who are you and what have you done with Rachel?”

With this new passion for fitness now blossoming in my heart, I wanted to continue to push myself and find out just what I was capable of. One of my deepest desires as an adolescent and young adult was to be an athlete. I never imagined that I would ever get to that point, but I always secretly hoped. When I was honest with myself, I wasn’t content with sitting on the sidelines. I wanted to be part of the action. So, Jenna recommended I register for a local race.

My first race was just the base’s free monthly 5K, but hey, it came with a free shirt and I got out of unit PT by doing it. Completing that race, my first race, did something to me. It showed me that I could compete in an athletic event and finish! The feeling of crossing the finish line to the cheers of spectators and volunteers—even though I wasn’t anywhere close to winning—was empowering and elating! I felt like I had won that race, and in a way I did. I put my all out there, I pushed myself farther in running than I ever had before, and I completed an athletic event. I experienced my first taste of what it means to be an athlete; a recreational athlete, but an athlete nonetheless. I had been bitten by the race bug and I was hooked. 

My birthday bash at the Dirty Girl mud run with Jenna and my amazing lady friends
Needless to say, I’ve ran dozens and dozens of races of all distances from the mile to the marathon, from obstacle courses to ruck marches to road races. I’ve raced on the east coast to the west coast and many places in between. I have a rack so full of medals that I have to get creative when it comes to hanging them. I have even right out won a race, placed many times in my age group, and finished dead last at a race. As long as I try my best, put my all out there, and finish, I feel like a winner.

Jenna came out to my first marathon to cheer me on. I love you Jenna!
Running has shown me just what I’m capable of. Running has helped me find my inner athlete and by doing so, has helped me find myself. Running keeps me fit and healthy. Running made me an ambassador for SkirtSports, an incredible fitness clothing company dedicated to helping women find their strength through activity. Running even saved my life when I was fighting a disease that nearly killed me. Running gave me the confidence I needed to get out of a bad situation and come back from it in spades. Running helped me find my testimony in the gospel and in Jesus Christ as I grew stronger and more confident in myself. Running helps me show my daughter that she can do hard things and be the best version of herself that she can be. Running changed my life for the better. And all this happened because a great friend cared enough about me to motivate me to find my strong.

Hydrating with some of my Skirt Sports sisters after the 13er
So that’s it, that’s how I became a runner. That’s how I found my passion for fitness. It was really just two things that led to an initial change of heart in regard to my attitude toward fitness: accountability and consistency. Having Jenna hold me accountable to do my workouts consistently was enough to get me to the point where I held myself accountable to do my workouts consistently. And that consistency developed within me a desire and a passion to be fit and active.



Through the years, so many of my good friends have started out as running buddies. These friends kept me motivated during times when I just didn’t feel like going for a run or doing anything in regards to being healthy. Some of my friends have cheered me on during training, cheered me on via social media, and cheered me on at the finish line. I want to give each one of them a shout out and a thank you for their love and support: Kathryn, Sandee, Erika, Molly, Ashley, Erica, Maria, Kelly, Kelli, Carol, Shelly, Cammie, Keri, Courtney, and all my Skirt Sports sisters. My Dad, Mom, daughter, brothers, and cousins have also been a great support. And, of course, my most incredible, wonderful husband Alex. He is always there for me, is always encouraging me, and is so supportive of me in everything that is good. I love all of you. 

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Sep 24, 2016

Called to Serve...in the Primary and Cub Scouts


My husband and I just received our first callings in our new ward. For those of you who don’t know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints has a lay ministry where the members volunteer and perform all the positions of the congregation to include leadership positions, teaching positions, etc. These are called callings, as we are called (or asked) to fulfill these duties. So, Alex and I were called as Primary teachers (the Primary is the organization for the children, and the largest organization in the church) and Cub Scout Wolf Den Leaders.  I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit intimidated by this calling and I’ll tell you why.

I am uncomfortable around children that aren’t my own. I’m okay around some kids that are close to me (kids of some good friends for example), but still, I have a hard time being comfortable around children. I tend to feel on edge, and I’m really not sure why. I’ve been around kids many times in my life, but I never really liked it when I was left alone with them. I had a lot of bad experiences baby-sitting some children that were far from well behaved, so maybe that’s it. But, it just comes down to the fact that I’m not that great with children. I like them just fine, I just don’t like being alone with them. Most women are blessed with this wonderful gift to love all children and be amazing nurturers. I was not. So when I agree to baby-sit for someone, it’s a really REALLY big deal. As in, I really must like you a lot to do this HUGE thing for you.

This is exactly how I feel about babysitting anyone.
So, that’s why I’m intimidated for this calling. But, I know that this is a way I can not only serve the wonderful people in my ward, but also serve the Lord and help to build His kingdom and further His work. And I am happy to do that.

I’m so thankful that Alex was called to do these callings with me. Not only does this help me with the aforementioned issues, but since I have health issues, it’s nice to have my husband with me to help me when I get sick (which is quite often). In fact, Alex being called with me shows to me God’s love and His awareness of my weaknesses. I know that I will learn a lot and grow from this calling, especially since it is in an area I’m weak in. And I also know that the Lord is mindful of my concerns, and has blessed me with the help and strength I need to magnify my calling.

Be prepared to hear more about what we do in our callings! I’m hoping that I will be blessed with the inspiration needed to help the children whom we have stewardship over have fun, develop friendships, and grow their testimonies of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Out of curiosity, have you ever received a calling or volunteered for a position that you've been nervous about?