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. 

The best-fitting workout clothing for women who are perfect just as we are. All shapes, all sizes, all ages, all levels welcome. Love yourself!  Click here to shop Skirt Sports and use code TRM20 for 20% off your order!

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?

Sep 21, 2016

Race Report: Huntsville Utah Half Marathon

Race Report on the Huntsville Marathon (Photo Credit huntsvilleutahmarathon.com)

About a year and a half ago, I relapsed into my Grave's Disease. This meant that I was incredibly sick all the time for an extended period. During this time, I lost muscle mass due to the disease, I lost strength, and I was unable to run for long periods of time. I was weak, ill, and in a lot of pain. Little by little with the help of my doctor, my Grave's Disease became more under control to the point where I could run again. But, I was no where near the level I was at before. I was far slower and had lost all my endurance. To keep from losing hope, I registered for a half marathon to force me to have to train, even in my new beginner state.

Every single run I did for training was slower than I had been running in the past 5 years. It almost became disheartening, my new inability to perform at a manner that not too long ago I could do easily. I had to reset my thinking. Instead of looking at this as another half marathon, I started looking at this as my new "first" half marathon. This race, and all the training for it, would be my new beginning and my new measuring point. No longer should I compare my times now to my times when I was healthy. I needed a new starting point, and I decided this race would be it.

It was finally cold enough to wear my Skirt Sports enchanted leggings, free me long sleeve, and toasty warm vest! I love vests, and I really love that I have a running vest that also works for any occasion. The pockets of the vest held my phone, gels, chapstick, and head phones. This is my new favorite outfit to run in, and I can't wait for even more cooler temperatures.

Last Saturday was that race, the Huntsville Half Marathon. I'm glad I reset my thinking to looking at this as my new first half marathon, since I experienced a slew of problems before the race even started. Still, the course was absolutely beautiful! It was up in the mountains covered in the fall colors of reds, oranges, and yellows. The weather was a nice cool 32 degrees heating up to 55 degrees. I already had my three favorite running things all together with this race: mountains, fall, and cool weather. Be still my heart! And, it was a downhill course. This is really good for me, as I'm used to running the flat plains of West Texas where inclines are few and far between. Oh, and since this also was at a far higher altitude than what I'm used to. Yes, I'm still getting acclimated to Utah, and it will probably take me another 5 months due to my Grave's Disease. Altitude will be a factor for a while.

Before I even began training, I made three goals for this race. Since I was essentially starting over with running in general, these goals may not seem lofty, but they were for me in my current situation.

- Goal #1: Beat 2:30. This was my normal half marathon expected goal. Back before I relapsed, I knew that I could always be 2:30, so that was my safe goal. This race however, it was my lofty time goal.

- Goal #2: Beat 3 hours. Although this would mean a slow pace, this was my expected time goal. I figured I could for sure beat 3 hours, as long as nothing too crazy happened.

- Goal #3: Finish the race. This was my safe goal. I knew for sure I would finish the race, no matter what. And I needed at least one goal that I for sure could make in a worst case situation.

I like to have three goals for each race. A more lofty goal, a realistic goal, and a worst case scenario goal. This ensures that shy of not finishing in general, I will feel some sense of accomplishment at the end of every race. Even if it was a bad run altogether. And this run was set up to be far more challenging than I anticipated.

For the past month, I've been struggling with my Grave's Disease and hyperthyroidism, trying to get it under control. I can tell that I'm still overly hyperthyroid which had been causing weakness, extreme fatigue, persistent nausea and pain. Let me tell you, training with all of that going on is already challenging! Then the week prior I got a bladder infection, which made running, and everything really, even more uncomfortable to accomplish. I had to be put on antibiotics, which just made me feel sicker. At least the infection was being treated. But even with the medicine, I still developed an ear infection and a head cold the night before the race. To top it all off, I spent that night in pain and unable to sleep. Ear infections are no joke! It still hurts as I write this! And it hurts a lot!

My attempt at jumping...I got the face all wrong
So, I arrived at the race grounds operating on no sleep, in a great deal of pain and discomfort, nauseated, and physically fatigued. Like I said, the makings of a tough run. But I was determined! I was going to finish this race, because I really needed a win for my body.

Initially, I started out faster than usual, but I felt alright considering. I love running in the cool weather. However, as the race went on and I kept running, I started feeling sicker and sicker and weaker and weaker. About half-way through the race, my IT band and old knee injury started really acting up, and I had to walk. I tried to keep running, but I was in so much pain from both the infections and from my IT band. Soon enough I found myself finishing the last few miles running a couple minutes at a time, then walking a minute. I was so exhausted, but I kept going. Even in all the pain of this race, I was so appreciative to even be out there--to run in the majesty of the mountains.

I kept going, putting one leg in front of another. I was far slower than 2:30 for my finish time, but I was still going and I knew I would finish. As I hit the final stretch, I saw my wonderful family out there cheering for me, even with some pretty awesome signs. My husband, my daughter, some of my in-laws, and friends were out there cheering me on, even though I was far past my expected time of finishing. I was exhausted as I crossed that finish line, but I did it! I finished that race and I did it just shy of my second goal, in 2:56:64. So yay!

And I'm smiling because I can see the finish

I was in a lot of pain afterwards. I was limping and I was barely walking. My husband helped me get to the refreshments area where a sweet volunteer ran and got me a couple cups of chocolate milk. With how sick I was feeling after, that was all I could keep down. By the way, I don't condone running when sick. I didn't realize how sick I was until after the race.

He loves me <3

I need to give a shout out to my incredible husband really quick. He is the most loving, supportive, caring, amazing person I know! He supported me during my training for this race by driving me up to the mountains to practice running downhill and biking alongside me during these runs. He bought me new running shoes when I wore my old ones out. He was always so eager to make me dinner or lunch after my hard runs, whatever I was craving. He took the whole weekend to accompany me up to  Huntsville for this race and woke up super early in the morning to take me to the race. Then, he waited for me at the finish line after having made signs and entertained June during this time. He even ran with June during her run and helped me stretch afterwards. Okay, he stretched my legs for me, which was even better since all I had to do was just lie on the ground. He is so incredible, and I am so blessed to have him.


 Now back to the race itself. The Huntsville Marathon was very well organized. They had the transportation down, with all the runners being bused to the starting lines either 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles up the mountain to still allow for the races to start as scheduled. Their gear check was even quick and efficient. The aid stations were every two miles and had water, Gatorade, energy gels, bananas, and oranges. There was even an aid station where the guys working it were dressed up in outrageous 70's type costumes, and some silly clown costumes. As each runner crossed the finish line, the race announcer would call out their name and where they are from. That was a really nice touch when I staggered across the finish line and received my medal. There were runner-only treat booths at the finish with Great Harvest Bread Company offering bread with butter and delicious cookies, and other awesome post-run goodies. It was a very well-run race, and a lot of fun.

Not my fastest, but I did it!

So I crossed the finish line just shy of 11:30am (start time was 8:30am), which gave me 30 minutes to try and recover before the kids' run at noon. My daughter and some of her cousins were running that half mile race. June was so excited about having her very own race to run, and she wanted to wear her Skirt Sports dress and her bright pink squid hat. She stood out easily among all the children running. Since I was way more tired than I thought I would be, I sat on the curb and watched her start, then struggled to get myself up and walked over to the finish line to watch her finish. Alex and his friend ran off and followed her alongside the course to keep cheering her on. She rocked that run! Once again I must say that I'm glad she wanted to wear that squid hat because she was easy to find. She was so proud after she finished, and we were very proud of her.

Just look for the squid in the ocean of kids.

I love to see my daughter's passion for fitness. I hope to instill in her a desire to be active and healthy. I hope that she always finds it fun, just like she does now. Her excitement for these races gets me even more excited for them too.
Family Finish Photo
Sure, this race was tough--way tougher than I was expecting it to be with all the health issues I had. But, that's part of the reason why I run. I get sick A LOT! And sometimes it's really frustrating to feel like I'm always sick, to the point where I start to get depressed. I sometimes feel like my body is letting me down. But then, I look at my medal display full of medals of all the races I completed; of all the races my body has carried me through. And then I have races like this, where I am struggling because of my disease, but still my body is strong enough to carry me through 13.1 miles--no matter how slow--and across the finish line. And that gets me through the hard times. I know that I can do hard things because I can complete hard races.

Crossing the finish, with my guns up

Aug 16, 2016

My First Skirt

Those of you who read my blog know that I absolutely love Skirt Sports. I love their products so much, I'm even an ambassador for them, which is probably the highlight of my entire running amateur career. But how did my skirt obsession get started?
Hiking in my Jette Skirt and Eclipse Tank

It was actually something pretty random that brought me to Skirt Sports. It was a couple Halloweens ago, I think October 2014. I was running the Monster Dash half marathon in Dallas. Now, Halloween is my favorite holiday, right up there with Christmas, and I like to go all out in celebrating holidays. So, I dress up every year. With this being a Halloween-themed race, I wanted to wear a costume. Since a half marathon is quite a feat of physical endurance, I wanted something warrior themed. And I decided to theme my costume around William Wallace, the warrior Scotsman leader from Braveheart. That meant a plaid kilt, plaid sash, and blue face paint.

As I was about to run 13.1 miles, my costume needed to be comfortable and runner-friendly. I started scouring google for plaid running skirts with built-in capris. At that time, I chafed so much in shorts that I always insisted on wearing capris when I ran (I didn't yet realize Skirt Sport's amazing anti-chafe technology). And, if I could find this skirt with pockets to hold all my on-the-run necessities, all the better. I searched and searched and finally, on a discount clothing website I found a plaid running skirt with built-in capris: Skirt Sport's lotta breeze capri skirt in Abernathy print. Not only was it plaid and with capris, but it was loaded with pockets! I was ecstatic! I ordered the skirt right there and hoped that it would arrive before my race later that week (yes, it took me that long to decide on a costume).

My first skirt ever: lotta breeze capri in Abernathy
Unfortunately, the website I ordered from messed up my order and it didn't ship in time, so I resorted to searching for something that would do at a thrift store. Which was hot, itchy, and chafed me in places I didn't know could chafe. But at least I had a costume and painted my face blue and was able to shout ,"For Freedom!" at the runners going in the opposite direction. Anyway, since I wasn't going to use the Skirt Sport skirt for my costume, I intended to return it once it got in.

Or so that's what I thought I would do. My package came in, and I decided to just see what the lotta breeze capri looked like in person. I was impressed. The material was soft and breathable, and it looked even cuter in person. I decided to then just try it on and see how it looked, and once I did that, it felt so comfortable (and looked so good on me) that I thought, "What the heck, let's take it for a test run."

That first run was a five-miler around my dad's house. The capris stayed put and didn't ride up my legs. The pockets and headphone port made it so that I didn't have to wear a bulky armband or carry my keys in my hands! And a bonus surprise, this skirt has a thick waistband which kept my postpartum stomach tucked in and prevented bouncing. I even felt modest with the skirt covering my booty. This led me to purchase another skirt/capri combo for my upcoming race, mostly since the red of the Abernathy print didn't match my shoes as much as I wanted. Yes, yes, I know. I need to feel THAT coordinated. So I bought the jette capri in gotham print. After all, black and gray go with everything.
At the halfway point of the Big Sur Marathon on the Runner's World Challenge team.

The jette capri carried me through my first marathon, Big Sur. You can read more about my experience at the Big Sur marathon here. I think that was the first race I ran in my new skirt. I trusted it enough to get me through 26.2 miles of mountains, winds, and  a scenic wonderland. It didn't let me down. I didn't worry about fuel since my pockets were stuffed with Gu's. I didn't worry about chafing since everything was held securely in the skirt. I didn't worry about anything except getting over the next hill and finishing before the course cut off. And I didn't worry about looking good in my race pictures; I knew that wouldn't be a problem! The only thing I worried about was surviving all the crazy mountain inclines--which I did do. The entire marathon, my skirt performed beautifully, and from then on I was sold. I felt tight, secure, and pretty in that outfit...and I wanted more!
My favorite skirt: the Lioness
Well, I got more. Just about an entire dresser more as a matter of fact. I found the actual Skirt Sports website and slowly started replacing my previous apparel with Skirt Sports. When I found out that I could run in the shorter skirts and shorts and not chafe, I started alternating my capris with the vixen, gym girl, jette, and lioness skirts. Boy, are they nice to wear on these hot Texas summer days! Needless to say, all my workout clothing from my bottoms to my tops are Skirt Sports. I love the fit, I love the pockets, I love the feel, and I love how I look in them.

Skirt Sports Sisters