Nov 10, 2015

Holiday Giveaway! Skirts Sports Peek-A-Boo Skirt

As we enter this holiday season, I thought it would be a great time to have a Skirt Sports product giveaway! The fall and winter seasons are actually my favorite time to workout.  I love the cold weather, running during the first snow, and hitting the gym when the temperatures dip below freezing.  I find the chill in the air exhilarating after a hard workout.  I know most people hibernate during the winter, but the winter is my season to dominate at fitness!

Skirt Sports Peek-A-Boo skirt

I'm giving away a Skirt Sports Peek-A-Boo Skirt to help you continue on your fall fitness journey.  Or if you feel so inclined, this also makes an awesome gift for the fitness-lover on your shopping list.  This skirt is cute and functional with a lacy outer skirt layer covering 5" shorties underneath that have pockets on each leg which can hold a phone, keys, or energy gels.  This skirt is great for a wide range of fitness activities:  running, cycling, weight training, Zumba, yoga, Spin class, etc.  My favorite part about this skirt is that it makes me look cute while working out.

There are many ways to enter:  through Facebook, Twitter, and even just commenting on my blog.  Please see the rafflecopter link for details.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway runs through November 17th, 2015. One winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email. This giveaway is part of a series of giveaways presented by the Skirt Sports Ambassador Captains. If you have won another giveaway in the series, you are not eligible to win again.

Nov 5, 2015

Race Report: the Gauntlet

I've been busy lately.  Between raising my sweet daughter, trying to excel at my coursework, serving in my Church callings, and spending as much time as I can with my incredible boyfriend, I still try to keep up with my running and my workouts.  It's working so far.  The way I stay committed to training is just by signing up for races so I have to keep up with my training.  And this last race I completed, I had the pleasure of completing it with my incredible boyfriend, and I know I wouldn't have been able to finish it without his support and his help.  Quite literally his help; I am way too short and currently lack the upper body strength to have made it up some of those tall obstacles on my own.

The Gauntlet is a 4-mile race with a whopping 25 obstacles!  It supports the charity Folds of Honor that helps the spouses and children of those who have been killed or disabled in military service.  With the Air Force as one of the sponsors for this race, I felt it was a great fit for me as an Air Force veteran.  They had a heartfelt recognition ceremony for all who served in attendance.

As what I wear when running is important to me, you know, because I feel if I look cute then I will perform even better, I decided to sport my Skirt Sports Fearless capri and Super Girl tank.  Really, the names just made the outfit a great match for this event.  Fearless and super were both traits I needed to conquer the Gauntlet.

This was, hands down, the hardest and most challenging obstacle course race I have completed to date.  If it weren't for Alex running it with me, there was no way I would've been able to overcome some of these obstacles!  I was already having a pretty hard time that day since I was more sick than usual with my thyroid disease, but I still went out eager and ready to compete and complete something physically challenging.  The gauntlet for sure helped me accomplish this goal.  The obstacles were quite diverse and included giant walls to climb over: some with ropes, some with tires, some at a slant, and some that were just super tall and had no accessories to help with the ascent.  A variety of upper-body climbs like monkey bars, rope and ring swings, a rope climb, and this crazy ladder-type monkey-bar hybrid.  There was also a sandbag carry, a burpee station, and a terrifying submerged barrel dunk.  These obstacles were physically testing, that's for sure!

The only improvement I would recommend to this race would be to have more race photographers.  With all 25 obstacles, there was plenty of opportunity for great pictures and a place for the photographers to stay.  Although they did include free pictures with this event, there wasn't a single picture of me.  I am glad I found a couple pictures of Alex owning the rope climb obstacle though.  He was just so awesome on all of the obstacles.  Like a boss.

We had a blast at this race though, and it was even a fitting choice as our first race together.  Now that I think about it, this was the first race I've ever done with a guy ever, and it was exhilarating.  I recommend this race to anyone who likes obstacle courses.  You get the biggest bang for your buck, get to support a wonderful organization, and you even get a sweet medal at the finish.  Just make sure to bring your own photographer if pictures are important to you.

Oct 27, 2015

Family Home Evenings

I know I haven't posted my Family Home Evenings in a while, but I promise you that we do them every single week.  FHE is such an inspired and wonderful program that really brings the spirit into my home and draws us closer together as a family.  I consider it one of the most important things I do each week, right up there with daily prayer, scripture study, and church attendance.

This year, I have been using a few books to guide my FHE lessons and activities.  They are wonderful books that really explain scripture stories well, especially for toddlers and children, and I recommend them.  Since my time has been more divided lately, they have been a lifesaver when it comes to FHE preparation and keep me on track with regular activities and lessons for my daughter.

This year, and really until I've finished going through the book, we are studying Book of Mormon stories and peoples for FHE.  The following books include stories, lessons, scriptures, and fun activities that have proven indispensable as we study these together each Monday night.

First, we follow the lessons from "Ites: an illustrated guide to the people in the Book of Mormon" by David Butler.  This book goes through each person and group of people mentioned in the Book of Mormon with scriptural examples, stories, and activity ideas.  This book does a great job of setting the foundation for children to better understand Book of Mormon stories as they have more knowledge of the people involved in each situation.

After we have studied the people involved, I will then do a lesson from "Who's Your Hero?" by David Bowman.  This book covers the stories of the Book of Mormon with very detailed Family Home Evening outlines included with each chapter.  He provides activity and lesson suggestions for children of all ages, even teenagers, and the activities have been creative and fun.

By using both of these books, June has learned about the people in the scriptures and why they are important.  "Ites" will be coming out with a Bible version that I plan on purchasing around Christmas time so we can better study biblical stories together as a family.  I find using these books takes a lot of the pressure out of planning FHE activities and ensures that I have no excuse to skip.

Oct 8, 2015

21 Gems from General Conference

This last general conference, where the living prophet and apostles share messages with the world on the gospel of Jesus Christ, was incredible.  Granted, I do say that after every conference, but that doesn't make it any less true.  It was incredible, and many of the talks given spoke directly to my heart and gave me the guidance, comfort, and even hope that I need at this exact time in my life.  As I said, incredible.

However, watching these particular conference sessions was a completely different experience for me than ever before and this is due to the blessing that I got to watch them all with my wonderful, handsome, sweet, and spiritual man (yes, I love taking every opportunity I have to brag about him).  The Family: A Proclamation to the World, a message from the first presidency of Christ's church given 20 years ago, states the ideal family relationship we should all be striving to achieve and maintain.  That family relationship is a man and a woman, sealed together in the Lord's temple by proper priesthood authority, raising and teaching their children in righteousness and in His gospel.  I've never had this before.  But as I was sitting with Alex, watching the living prophet and servants of our Savior speaking to us during conference, it felt so right.  It felt like this is exactly how a family is supposed to feel, and I loved every moment of it.  In fact, the spirit was stronger than before and the messages pierced my heart straight to my very soul so powerfully.  It was like having Alex there increased my own spiritual sensitivity and all things fell into place as they are supposed to.  I know that by striving for this ideal, we will find true happiness in this life and in the life to come.

I want to share some of my favorite quotes from this general conference and I hope that they can provide you with the guidance, comfort, and strength you need to overcome any challenges, trials, or fears in your own life and even grant you with the true peace and serenity that accompanies feeling God's love for you specifically.  I encourage you, if you feel so inclined, to prayerfully and intently listen to or read the full messages here for I know that they will bless you in all aspect of your life.  This is modern day scripture meant for us this very day as we face today's unique challenges.

Aug 26, 2015

My summer hibernation is over!

Summer is hard on me with all the heat, heat, and more heat!  Due to my hyperthyroidism, I get pretty sick in hot conditions.  Sick to the point where I just want to lay in bed all day with every fan in the house on.  So, I tend to go into a running-hibernation during the hottest summer months.  I know, it's a bit backwards from the usual of taking time off in the winter, but just you wait.  I LOVE running in the cold!  That's another story for a much cooler climate.

Don't get me wrong, I still ran...just not as often and not as regularly.  My sleep schedule became skewed where I was going to bed after midnight and sleeping in until 10am.  This led to a whole series of running-related issues to include already-high temps of 90-degrees plus, and hawk attacks.  I'm talking Alfred Hitchcock type bird attacks.  I swear, they are everywhere in the small town I live!  They even live in the tree by my house and it's like they are just waiting for me to step onto the road before they start screeching and swooping at me with their talons extended.  Long story short, OUCH!  I may have scars now from these predators.  Anyway, top off the summer heat and angry birds with the fact that I took an intense summer class and my mileage has dropped dramatically.

Well, my summer hibernation is over!  I'm back to running and I'm gradually building up my mileage to my pre-hibernation stats.  It feels so dang good to be running consistently again!  My mood is better, I feel more accomplished, and I have a new set of fitness goals to start achieving.  I forgot just how much I missed running.

For those who are curious, this is how I got back into running consistently after a summer hiatus:

1) I found a running buddy!
With my motivation waning, I enlisted the help of a new running buddy.  She makes sure I get up and out the door before the sun has risen so we can get in a run before the heat becomes unbearable.  She keeps me running when I would normally stop.  She even helps me push my pace and/or my endurance.  Most of all, she keeps me distracted on those days I'm just not feeling a workout with her engaging conversation.

2) I signed up for a race.
A tried and true source of running/workout motivation for me is a race on the calendar.  My first race after this hiatus will be Skirt Sport's Virtual Boobie Run.  The cool thing about this race is that it comes with a sports bra instead of a t-shirt!  But I know I also need a formal race to really motivate me out the door, so I decided to find a race that will be on the same day as the virtual.  Running in the USA is a great site to find any number of races, and I used it to find the 10K I am now registered for.  I had to pick a distance that required some training on my part, but was also attainable in case I end up getting sick again.  Voila, 10K!  I'm pretty excited about running the Red Raider Road Race next month.  I'm also considering signing up for a Lubbock obstacle course race in October, the Gauntlet.  Doesn't hurt to keep the training alive.  Oh, how I love Lubbock.

3) I freshened up my playlist.
This one is pretty easy to do.  A new playlist, especially with newly downloaded songs, can be just the positive push I need out the door.

4) I freshened up my running wardrobe.
Since I'm a Skirt Sports Ambassador, I definitely invested in a few new running outfit pieces.  Every time I get that package in the mail from Skirt Sports, it feels like Christmas and I just can't wait to don my new apparel and take it out for a run or a workout.  And now that they have their new season and styles up online, it was an easy way to find some self-motivation.

New discoveries on new running routes, in my new running outfit.
With my dependable running buddy, new running wardrobe, new updated playlist, and a couple races on the horizon, I'm back to running consistently with a vengeance and a rediscovered love of the sport.  And once classes start, I'll have a whole new gym to take advantage of and explore.  Here's to a much more active fall.

Aug 10, 2015

Race Report: Skirt Sports 13er

Hooray!  My summer semester has ended and I conquered my course with an A.  I can't think of a better way to start off my journey back to school.  Granted, I did average about 40 hours per week on this class, but it paid off and I learned a lot that I hope will help me in future schooling and really the future in general.  So, what does this mean?  It means I get to catch up on my blogging!  This first topic I've been so excited to write about is my race recap of the Skirt Sports 13er racecation that I ran in June.

Nicole DeBoom and I
The weekend was full of skirts, sports, and sisterhood.  I rode with a fellow skirt sports ambassador, Aleasha from A Liddle Run, and the trip was a blast!  The ride out went by so quickly and before we knew it, we were already in Colorado (as the Colorado highway patrol man informed us since we were still driving at the Texas speed limit).  Driving adventures aside, we were able to meet the entire Skirt Sports staff and get to know these wonderful, hard-working ladies.  It was like meeting celebrities as we have heard so much about them, worked with them via social media, but had never met in person until this point.  I felt so welcome within this group.  They are so passionate about what they do and so caring about the women they know.

Our pre-race festivities included an Ambassador banquet where the inspiring Nicole DeBoom spoke to us about her own athletic journey and the mission of Skirt Sports.  She is a master story-teller, and her story of how she was inspired to start the clothing line was incredible.  I encourage you to read it if you haven't already (just click here).

The skirt sports ambassadors were then treated to a gorgeous hike in the mountains.  Coming from the great plains of West Texas, this was quite the treat.  I always forget how much I love the mountains, and how much I miss them.  And I always forget just how brutal altitude and inclines can be!  But it's always worth it once I see those awe-inspiring views from the top.  I like hiking in the very back of a large group.  I think that comes from my military experience where I always placed myself at the back of my flight to make sure no one fell out or was injured (okay, and sometimes I just wanted to go slower).  Since I'm also a youth camp director, I always hike in the back for the same reason:  to help those that need it, and to make sure no one gets lost or injured.  It's now habitual for me to want to do the same thing on any other hike.  That doesn't really add to the story, but it gives you a little more insight about me.

Me and Noelle
Our last pre-race activity was a lake party hosted by Noelle Wilson, the amazing lady we stayed with.  She also works at Skirt Sports and is the head of the ambassador program.  She is one of the sweetest, most selfless and caring people I've had the pleasure to meet.  The lake party was a blast, even in the unexpected thunderstorm that swept through it.  I can never turn down a burger, and that's exactly what we had.  It was actually quite perfect as I prefer a burger as my pre-race dinner.  I ate so much during this Ambassador retreat, and it was all delicious.

The next morning was the 13er in Boulder.  Thousands of women were in attendance and the feeling of sisterhood was contagious.  I don't know what it is about women runners, but I find them to be so welcoming and so encouraging.  The atmosphere is just plain awesome!  Since I've been fairly ill with my thyroid not-so under control, I decided to play it safe and run the 10K and I'm so so SO thankful that I did!  Again, I didn't consider just how hard the altitude is to run in and it took my by surprise right at the beginning of the race.  Seriously, at the half-mile point I was already feeling it.  Instead of trying for a personal record (PR) in unlikely and possibly even thyroid-madening conditions, I decided instead to turn my focus outward.  I shouted encouraging words and gave out high-5's to passing runners (in both directions).  I stopped to help runners take selfies in front of the beautiful scenery that encompassed the course.  I ran and walked with so many interesting women and girls.  That alone made this run memorable.

Beautiful course!

At the half-way point I even found a new running buddy, and we ran the rest of the race together.  There was this great viewing spot and I knew I wanted a picture by it, but I am horrible at taking selfies.  Luckily, there was another lady who was thinking the same thing as me.  So, I offered to take her picture if she took mine, and it was a run-friendship in the making from that point.  As we ran together, I come to find out that Jennifer is also a blogger (a seriously fabulous blogger) and Scootadoot (I had to follow her once I had 4G on my phone again).  She was also training for her first half that she just ran on August 1st!  Way to go girl!  She was so much fun to talk to, and although the going got tough cresting a mesa (and obviously still altitude), the second half of the race went by a whole lot faster than the first.  We crossed the finish line together and she scored a new 10K PR! 

One of the best parts of this race is that there is gourmet cake from Kim and Jake's Cakes at the finish line. It was the best cake I've ever had!  Now, I love cake, and it was hard to decide between red velvet, chocolate, vanilla, and the many other varieties offered.  I ended up with a slice of vanilla and a slice of red velvet and YUM!  Genius, pure genius offering cake at a race.

Jennifer and I parted ways since I was going to stay through the end of the race and I met back up with my fellow Skirt Sports Ambassadors.  Toward the end of the race, there were only two runners left on the course, and I thought it would be a great idea if a few of us ran their last leg with them to help motivate and encourage them to the finish.  I've finished last in a race a few times and it was always nice to have someone to run with.  So, Nicole DeBoom, Aleasha, and I did exactly that. We met two amazing women, and ran the last part of the race with each of them (don't worry, we stopped just before the finish line so their victory finish photos would be all about them).  They were so motivated as they persevered on in the heat of the day and on their own.  I find that just as inspiring as the runners who finish first (also amazing, especially since Aleasha placed in her age group).  And I have to admit, it felt pretty good to be on the motivating side and to encourage others.

The Skirts Sports 13er race weekend was the most memorable, inspiring, and just plain fun racecation I've done so far.  It was very well organized, the expo was so good I may have bought too many running things, you get a finisher skirt, and the women were pretty incredible.  I recommend this race to beginner runners and veteran ones alike.  I can't say enough good things about this race.  I'm already planning my trip for next year.
Skirt Sisters

Jul 14, 2015

Back to School: my adventures in adulting

After long, careful, and un-rushed deliberation; after much research, thought, and prayer, I finally decided that I am going back to school.  Each time I pray, it just feels like the right path for June and I, so I decided to get to work on pursuing my dream job (other than raising my children).  What do I want to be when I grow up?  I want to be an athletic trainer for Texas Tech, preferably with the football team.

I was all set to start school in the fall at West Texas A&M University.  This first year, I will be accomplishing all my prerequisites so that I can qualify for the Masters of Athletic Training at Texas Tech.  Only problem was, the one core class, Human Anatomy and Physiology I, I need to complete all these classes in time, was full with no hope of getting in that semester.

The Lord provides a way though, especially if it is His will, an upon just a little more research as I planned my future courses of action (which I do all the time, it must be my intelligence briefing training), I found that the local community college was offering that very course, over the summer--and there was still one seat left!  Now I had a time crunch.  This was Friday and the class started the following week.  I called the college and they had me come in to expedite my application and enroll me in the class same-day.  They were so helpful and worked with me to get me into this course and I am thankful for their work in this matter.

Registered for this class, I went back to WT to have an advisor register me into the second section of this class for the fall.  Since I didn't have the ocurse completed yet, I needed to have an advisor green light me in for registration.  As I met with her, it turned out that there was just one seat left in this class as well and lucky for me, it fit into my schedule perfectly with my other fall courses.  Seriously, this was perfect timing as the other sections of this class conflicted with the other courses I have to take, it was literally perfect.  Once again, my testimony of accomplishing the Lord's will in my life had grown.  He set things up for me in such a way that I cannot deny I am doing what He wants me to be doing.

Now, I'm all registered and ready to go back to school.  This was six weeks ago.  I'm six weeks into my expedited online summer class of the hardest subject I've ever taken.  Ever.  I don't know how I'm doing as well as I am, but I know the Lord is blessing me in this area as well.  I've been putting in close to 35-40 hours a week studying, reading, studying more, and doing the homework, assignments, labs, quizzes, and tests of this class.  It's a lot of work--more than I've ever put into a class before.  I found that I learned a lot from my first time through college.  There were many times I wished I had studied differently, applied new techniques, and took class more serious!  With this second chance, I'm doing just that, applying all my lessons learned to succeed.

I know it's a round-about way to say, that this is why I've been quite on the blog and social media front for the past six weeks.  I have so many things I want to write about, and I will definitely do so after July 30th when I have my final.  There's the Skirt Sports 13er, there's the run where I got attacked by two hawks, and there's so many fun family home evenings and gospel learning that have happened.  Hey, maybe I'll even write one on the study methods I'm using.  So wish me luck, I'm almost at the home stretch of this class.

Jul 1, 2015

Homework...lots of homework

I know it's been a while since I last posted.  I have a lot I need to write about!  From my awesome Skirt Sports Ambassador retreat 13er weekend, to my pseudo-internship with Texas Tech football, as well as the spiritual learning I've received.  And I will post about these things in due time.

Right now, I'm in the midst of the hardest, most time-consuming class I've ever taken--Human Anatomy and Physiology I.  I don't know why I thought taking this huge class in the expedited summer semester, and online to boot, would be a good idea, but I felt that this was the course of action I needed to take.  So, here I am, putting in 30-hour plus weeks of reading, studying, lots of homework, lots of quizzes, lots of labs, and lots of tests.  I want to make sure I'm learning this material, and learning it right, so that leaves me with a seemingly never-ending bout of homework.  As I write this, I'm actually taking a break from studying for my lab practical exam tomorrow--a 50-question fill-in-the-blank with no notes test!  Yes, I'm stressing about it.

So, come July 30th when this class is over and I will hopefully earn that grade I desire, I will be writing my blog posts again.  Until then, feel free to comment on any of my posts and let me know how you are doing!

May 29, 2015

I'm sold on this early morning stuff

It finally happened!  After trying for weeks to get up early, as in before 9am, I did it, and it was wonderful.  My family has a habit of staying up way late at night, well into the early a.m. hours in fact.  Unfortunately, their late nights have pulled me into a later and later bed time, which has led to me sleeping in later and later.  I like being up earlier in the day, so I decided last night to make myself go to bed early.  Granted, it was still 11:30pm, but still earlier than usual.  And this led to me waking up by 5am.  Hooray!

My goal was to make it to the 5:15am Body Pump class at my gym.  With all the rain and flooding and thunder and lightning and hail we've been getting, outside workouts have proven to be dangerous.  Body Pump is a great alternative.  I got up at 4:30am, and didn't even hit snooze! (also very unlike me, as I hit snooze five or six times usually).

First thing I accomplished this morning was a sincere and intent prayer.  I'd gotten into the habit of rushing through my personal prayers lately, almost just repeating things without putting much thought into them.  I want to get out of that bad habit and make my prayers meaningful.  Sure, I was o my knees longer than usual, but wow I felt amazing afterwards!  I poured my heart out to my Father in Heaven in gratitude for all the blessings He's bestowed upon me this week, for He really has blessed me!  I took the time to pray, by name, for friends and family members and their specific situations.  I put thought into asking Him for the righteous desires of my heart, also specifically.  It was an incredible experience.  If you haven't prayed like this before, I highly encourage you to do so.  Pray to your Heavenly Father as though you were talking to a loving earthly father.  He wants you to talk to Him, to come to Him.

With my mind in the right place, I studied my scriptures after my prayer.  Again, this was an area I had also been slacking on.  I had skipped too many days of personal scripture study, and if I did open them I just skimmed a verse or two.  Not this morning!  I actually studied.  With the Institute student manual opened, I read verse by verse and consulted with the notes of the guide.  I wrote down my own thoughts and impressions as they came to me.  As I did so, it seemed my mind was opened and I received even more insights into the scripture.

With my soul spiritually exercised and fed, I headed off to the gym to do the very same physically.  I both kicked butt in Body Pump this morning at 5:15am, and also got my butt kicked by Body Pump.  I lifted more weight, completed more reps, and really felt the burn.  I love this workout; it's such a great way to get strength training in.  Fun music, a variety of routines, and the motivation that being in a fitness class provides easily makes it a staple in my training.

When I was done with Body Pump, it was only 6:15am, so I grabbed a breakfast bagel from Chick Fil-a.  I haven't woken up early enough to enjoy one of these in a long time.  It was delicious.  And by the time I got home, it was still before 7am.  Not only was I already productive, but this started my day off on the right track.  I made better decisions, was able to think clearer, and I was just overall happier. I think I'll try to make this a habit.  Crossing my fingers that I do just as well tomorrow.

Perfect reward for a winning morning

May 24, 2015

The Marathon of Enduring to the End

Today, I had the opportunity to speak in church, in Sacrament meeting.  I was asked to speak on enduring to the end, which is a fitting topic for me.  You know, enduring...endurance...endurance events...running!  So really, I got to speak about running at church to the whole congregation.  I shared my story of running a marathon and related it almost as a parable to enduring to the end.  As I spoke, I felt my words be guided by the Holy Ghost, to try and speak what most needed to be said.  Here is the text of my talk.  It's not exactly what I said in my talk, but it is close.  I hope that you enjoy it and maybe even learn something new from it.

Enduring is a process that we will be undertaking the rest of our time in mortality.  It is much like running a marathon.  In fact, I just ran my first marathon back in April, the Big Sur Marathon.  This race was breathtakingly beautiful.  The course runs on the scenic Highway 1 in California and it runs parallel and right beside the Pacific Ocean.  To my left were beaches, waves, cliffs, and all manner of coastal beauty.  To my right were glorious majestic mountains.  And in front of me loomed the toughest physical challenge (aside from giving birth) that I was about to face.  They call it a hilly course, but coming from here, the high plains of Texas, it was a mountainous course.  Huge inclines, shooting high into the mountains lay before me, and seemingly never-ending rolling hills taunted me along the way.  I had to overcome all these challenges just to finish. As I covered those 26.2 miles, each mile was a testimony of the importance of enduring to the end no matter what trials lay in wait.

I trained four months for this race, with about two years even before that of just running.  Our training for this mortal marathon began in the preexistence and continued to the day we make out first covenant.  In fact, receiving saving ordinances of the Gospel marks the start of our enduring race.

As runners at the starting line, we tend to be excited and anxious with our new covenants and responsibilities.  We want to do well.  We wonder if we are prepared enough. We envision the finish line and the glorious reception that awaits us once we have earned that coveted finisher’s medal.  But sometimes it seems, shortly thereafter, that things get hard.  Difficult trials try to impede our path, maybe those closest to us are not supportive of the new life we are living.  Temptations arise. 

The first three miles or so of any endurance event hurts.  It’s hard, there’s so much distance still left to cover.  In fact, I remind myself that these first few miles are a warm-up and get me used to this forward movement.  For that is exactly what we are doing once we receive the saving ordinances of baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and all the temple ordinances—moving forward towards Christ.  And with all this work we go through through to get to that point our life, it is only the beginning.  We can only ensure our eternal salvation as long as we endure to the end.  As Elder Robert D. Hales said, “Enduring to the end applies to all of God’s commandments.”  All of them.  After receiving our saving ordinances, enduring to the end in keeping His commandments is what will allow us to achieve exaltation.   “Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.” [3 Ne. 15:9]

Any runner can tell you that the first three miles in any endurance race are hard.  I usually feel stiff, awkward, and heavy.  This was true for the Big Sur Marathon.  Many influences of the world try to get us to just quit, right there, in the first ten minutes.  But never judge a race by the first few miles.  “Be patient in thine afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days” [D&C 24:8].

Now as I’m running, especially in a race, I like to find a running buddy.  Someone I can chat with to help the miles seem not-as-long.  Don’t we have those same people in our own lives?  Our family, our friends, coworkers, acquaintances, ward members, club members; the list goes on.  Some of these people are great running buddies.  They encourage us, they motivate us, they support us and help us do our best and try our hardest in our race.  However, some of them are negative influences.  They may complain, they may demean, they may criticize either ourselves or the race we are undertaking.  They may try to get us to slow, to not try as hard, even to just quit.  They may say something like, “Why are you even doing this?  It’s so hard.  Let’s just enjoy ourselves and quit now.  Most people don’t even run marathons, so why are you even trying?”

If we give in to these people, we have allowed ourselves to be, as Neal A Maxwell said, “persuaded out by companions who insist that they know more about life’s perilous journey than do prophets of the Lord.”  At this point we have put the opinions and approval of these people above that of God.  This can lead to an allowance of vices, pride, friends, and even family to influence us off the covenant path.  Weak commitments to eternal covenants are leading to their loss of eternal consequence (Neal A Maxwell).  We are risking the loss of eternal life for temporary things.  And we are forsaking that finisher medal.

When I found myself running with a person who was bringing me down like this, I realized that if I wanted to finish this marathon, I had to pick up my pace, even if it meant leaving him behind.  In the end, we each run our own marathon.  We can help others on the way, but we cannot carry them, and we cannot allow them to pull us down.  After trying to persuade my running buddy to pick up the pace, met only by murmurings and criticisms, I fought past the guilt he was throwing at me, and kept moving forward. 
After finally hitting my stride, the miles just flew by clear past 13.1--halfway.  Living the gospel can feel easy here, as it should.  I stuck with a fueling and hydration plan during the race to make sure I had enough energy to endure to the finish.  I took with me a water bottle and energy gels that I would consume every four miles.  I also planned on stopping at each aid station for a piece of fruit and a sip of Gatorade.  Just as I had a physical fueling plan; daily intentional scripture study, daily meaningful prayer, regular sincere repentance, weekly Family Home Evening, and church activity help to fuel our spirits to endure to the end.  Each aid station offering fruit, Gatorade, water, and motivation in the form of wonderful volunteers, was akin to renewing my covenant through taking of the sacrament, and even receiving spiritual strength as I serve at the temple.  Those ordinances sustain us, and provide us with so much strength, endurance, and guidance. 

That fueling strategy helped me to keep going, even when faced with that daunting, terrifying mountain-of-a-hill, Hurricane Point. No matter what Satan throws at us, maybe in the form of high winds, or Hurricane type winds, or maybe in the form of a seemingly impassable mountain, we just keep placing one foot in front of the other and stick to that fueling plan, trusting in God and having the eternal perspective in mind.  As we focus on our goal, to cross that finish line, we will find that we can accomplish anything, even cresting Hurricane point. 

Sometimes though, we become complacent, or maybe overconfident.  Thoughts can turn to something like, “I feel so great, I don’t want to waste time by stopping at this aid station for water, I’m just going to fly by.”  Or maybe, “So what if I don’t study my scriptures today, I usually do so I’ll be fine.  I hate the taste of those energy gels, I’ll be okay without one this time.”  And even, “I’ve got too much going on at school/work/recreation, I’ll be okay if I skip church today.  It’s only once.”
This line of thinking gets more precarious with each skipped aid station, with each abandoned energy gel, and with each neglected sip of water.  Without proper nourishment, we can only go so far.  And it’s only so long until we crash.
With each incline, I found it harder and harder to keep moving.  An old injury was flaring up horribly and my legs were hurting something fierce.  I hit the wall hard.  I went from kinda-trying-to-run, to a slow shuffle.  Everything hurt.  Everything was tired.  I was beginning to wonder why I even signed up for this to begin with.

This marathon had a time limit, and as that time loomed closer, I was genuinely concerned I wouldn't make it.  I was worried that I wouldn't even make it to mile 22 before the first checkpoint expired.  My motivation started to wane, and I had just about consigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't finish the marathon.  But hey, at least I would have earned the 21-miler medal.  Sure it’s the 21-miler medal and I set out to run the full marathon, but maybe it’s good enough.  Is it really good enough, though?
We must realize, as Neal A Maxwell goes on to say, “Whenever an undertaking is begun, both the energy and the will to endure are essential. The winner of a five-kilometer race is declared at the end of five kilometers, not at one or two. If you board a bus to Boston, you don’t get off at Burlington. If you want to gain an education, you don’t drop out along the way.”  

It’s in these moments that the words of Robert D. Hale give us guidance, “We cannot expect to learn endurance in our later years if we have developed the habit of quitting when things get difficult now.”  Elder Hales continues, “We cannot endure to the end alone.  It is important that we help by lifting and strengthening one another.”  It was just when I was about to give up, that I could hear my Mother's voice telling me, "Rachel, don't quit!  Just keep going.  If you quit now, you'll be so angry with yourself.  You can do this, and you will have help."  An intense feeling of love filled my heart and I instantly felt comfort and peace.  Don't get me wrong, I was still in a LOT of pain and I was still VERY tired, but all of a sudden I felt like I could endure it.

And right at that moment, a man came alongside me.  He turned and explained that if I could just increase my pace ever so slightly, I could make it.  I could make it to the 22-mile cut off, and even finish before the course cut-off.  He encouraged me to just stick with him, and that I did.  I matched him pace-for-pace.  This was just the help I needed.

Anytime during an endurance event, you can always tweak and adjust how you fuel.  Even though I had skipped taking gels and water, at any time I could readjust my process and start taking in water, fruit, and gels—which my body much needed!  This is exactly what the Atonement does for us!  We can never be off track to the point where we can’t apply the Atonement and reap it’s eternal benefits.  We can never have done too much to lose those blessings.  We can always get back on track and back to progressing.  

So, now with my own fueling plan back on track, hydrating back on track, and positive influences all around, we continued up and down the seemingly endless hills, encouraging all around us to keep pressing forward.  The Lord sends us help when we need it.  He sends people to lift us out of darkness, to help us overcome trials, tribulations, and temptations.  To help us find our way back to the covenant path.  In turn, He will guide us to do the very same for others.  We cannot endure alone, nor should we.  We are stronger and happier together.  As we ran, we encouraged and strengthened each other—and even found more runners to join us—straight through those final miles.  It didn’t matter what pace we were going at as long as we were pressing forward. We cheered on the faster runners who passed us by.  We rooted for the slower runners who were trying their hardest.  We knew that we all were set on a pace and a course that would carry us to that finish line.

You know what happened next?  As I kept up with fueling, as I kept my pace, as I kept encouraging others, I made it! I crossed that finish line victoriously.  I didn’t win the race by any means, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I endured to the end.  Neal A Maxwell said, “Whatever your work may be, endure at the beginning, endure through opposing forces along the way, and endure to the end. Any job must be completed before you can enjoy the result for which you are working.”  And oh did I enjoy that result.  Once I crossed, I about collapsed from fatigue, and also from sheer joy.  Tears came to my eyes.  I was just so happy have completed!  I did it!  I am now officially a marathoner!

I endured to the end and earned this medal!

At that finish line stood my best friend and members from my family holding motivational signs and cheering for me to keep going, to cross that finish line, to complete the marathon.  We have so many people in our lives—both here in mortality and on the other side—that are rooting for us.  As we endure to the end, we too will be greeted as victors by loved ones.  And we will have earned that most precious medal that can never be given, only earned, exaltation and eternal life.  All who have endured to the end will receive this reward.

Elder David Bednar said, “If living the Gospel is hard, then you’re doing it wrong.”  Enduring to the end will take work, but it doesn’t have to be impossible as long as you are putting the Lord and His Gospel first in your life.  As I bore testimony of earlier, by doing so everything will fall into place or fall out.  Life happens, and we aren’t always as vigilant in scripture study, FHE, prayer, temple attendance, or whatever it may be.  The Lord understands this and that is why he gave us the wonderful gift of the Atonement and repentance.  Through the Atonement, we can get back on track.  We can fix our fueling strategy.  We can make it through those rough patches, those lethargic patches, those Hurricane Points, for they do happen!  All we must do is keep our goal of crossing that finish line in our sights, and do our best in keeping all the commandments so that we can endure to end.

As Robert D Hales said, “If we will be obedient and if we are diligent, our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed, and we will be close to the Lord and feel of His love and the comfort of the Holy Ghost…find the faith, courage, and strength to endure to the end so that we may feel the joy of faithfully returning to the arms of our Heavenly Father.” 

May 21, 2015

My real moment, aka my first DNF (Race Report: Armed Forces Half-Marathon)

I have never not finished a race before.  I've pushed through illness and injury straight to the finish line.  This race, that would not happen, no matter how hard I pushed and I tried.  I've run plenty of half marathons, and after finishing a full, I don't view them as a challenge anymore.  I should though, as covering 13.1 miles is still a major feat of endurance, strength, speed, and stamina.  I should've taken this race more seriously.

As I usually do, I checked the weather for race day to make sure I wear appropriate attire.  My weather app said 58-degrees, 5 mph winds, and chance of some sprinkling.  Sure it was a chance of rain, but still I decided to play it safe and I wore a windbreaker, long capris, and a hat.  I sported my Skirt Sports 261 Fearless outfit.  I love the fit, the comfort, and how it proudly displays the word "Fearless".  This is one of my favorite running outfits.

When I got to the packet pick-up tent, it was a little chilly, in the high 40's, but it really didn't feel bad.  I pinned my bib over the jacket since the sky was a bid overcast and it did start sprinkling.  So the cap was a good idea.

I felt great the first five mile of the race.  The skies cleared, it got warmer, the view was great, and I was keeping a great pace.  I was going a bit faster than normal, but the field was pretty fast.  I started off last, and about at mile 3 I passed one person, but that was all the passing I did.  It looked like the average pace the others were running was  about 8:30-9 minutes a mile.  I was happy with my 10 minute mile pace.  As I said, faster than usual for me.  And the first half of this course was going up an incline towards the mountains with rolling hills.  The view was beautiful!  There wasn't much greenery on the course, but this left the mountain views unobscured.  I love the beauty of the Sandia Mountains.  It felt like I was about to run right up them.

Right after I hit the the turnaround, maybe a mile after, everything changed.  The wind shifted and a storm was blown right on top of us.  The sun disappeared.  Then the temps lowered under 40 degrees and the winds picked up to 20-35mph.  They brought with them rain at first, then sleet and hail, and finally a rain/snow mix.  All within an hour.

It's funny, I felt cold only for maybe half an hour, then I felt fine.  Except I lost feeling in my hands, I felt sluggish, I stopped shivering, and my mind just kept repeating "Just finish.  Just finish.  Just finish."  I don't know how long this went on.  But I do remember passing the mile 12 sign.  And I do remember a car driving up and insisting to take me to the med guys.  In turn, I insisted I was fine and that I was almost there.  But he was more insistent.  Apparently, my lips were blue and my skin was bright red.  Apparently I had hypothermia.  Apparently, the weather was so bad that the finish line crew had packed up and left.  And apparently this was the first time I would DNF (did not finish).

I had so many things working against me.
The medics were great and quick to supply me with warm drinks and blankets.  They helped me get warm enough to the point where I started shivering again.  The red and blue started to fade somewhat, and I got sensation back in my hands.  Once I was feeling cold and had feeling back, they released me to drive back to my hotel and thoroughly warm-up.  I filled my bathtub with the water all the way to hot and just soaked in it until the shivering stopped.  After a quick shower, I then went downstairs to my hotel's hot tub and just relaxed there until I felt warm again.

Now during this whole warming-up/recovering period I was really beating myself up.  I hate not finishing something I've started.  It bothers me.  It taunts me.  I feel like a failure; like a disappointment.  And all these feelings were simmering in my head and my heart as I sat in that hot tub.  I felt like I'd been a marked a quitter.

Once I came to my senses, and after talking with a great friend, I realized that DNF'ing that race was smart and in my best interest health-wise.  After all, I would be so mad if I lost a finger just to finish a race.  I'm also lucky that I didn't get pneumonia afterwards.  Sure I got a pretty awful cold, but it could've been so much worse.

As I write this, about a week later, I've come to terms with my DNF.  In fact, after reading stories about professional runners, I realize that most have a few DNF's under their belt.  Maybe this is another sign that I'm a real runner.  Maybe I should be proud of the fact that I was smart enough to stop, get out of the weather, and get some medical aid before anything truly terrible had happened.

So there it is, my first DNF.  And it wasn't the end of the world.  On the contrary, I feel stronger and wiser because of it.  In light of this race, I've decided to focus on the 10K for a while, until I'm fully recovered from all the injuries I've been fighting.  I think the 10K will help me find my stride in training, and help me find the joy in running again.