Saturday, November 30, 2013

Half Marathon Completion

It’s finally slowed down around here for me to be able to update my blog about the half marathon I decided to run for a good cause on Nov. 17th! The post is long, fair warning. But when you’re describing an event/experience of a lifetime, it’s hard to short change the descriptions (and I still did!) Now that it’s over and I’m 2 weeks out, I can honestly say I’m glad I did it. I’ve been reading some blogs about running and it makes a wannabe “runner” like me feel more normal in my reactions at the race. Truth is, it’s mental for everyone. That might mean for 5 minutes during a practice run, it might mean the last 5 miles of a race, it might mean the mental battle of getting out the door… but no one can avoid the fact that running is major mind games.

(Pre-Race 5:30am, The donors who helped me reach my fundraising goal are on the green tape)

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Quick recap of the weekend: N and I were too tired to drive to our hotel on Friday night so we left Saturday morning. We went to my first race expo after we settled into our hotel. I wasn’t super impressed to be honest. I think I was even more let down because N was saying how he’s been to better (he grew up in a running family of sorts). While there, I did buy some Gu packs and my all time fave working out headbands, Sweaty Bands. I got the vanilla Gu and it tasted so much better last time I tried it (I ate it during the race the next day).

Saturday night we went to the Team In Training Inspiration Dinner. The dinner was informative about where the the funds that we raise through the organization are used and what they contribute to in the fight against blood cancers. It was astounding to hear the research that’s being completed as we speak. There have been some huge advancements in the medical approach towards blood cancers and it was neat to hear how Team In Training was directly related to those research endeavors and I somehow helped with that cause. The tear-jerker came when the main speaker took the stage. She was a mom of a small baby when he contracted a form of Leukemia. After hearing her story and thankfully hearing that he survived, she said one of the most impactful statements I’ve heard and it truly inspired me throughout my race. She said (in other words), “Tomorrow you’ll run a race that you chose  to run. When you get tired and exhausted and might even feel like you can’t go on, keep fighting. Keep fighting because those with cancer don’t get the choice to fight because they are fighting for their life.” It gives me goose bumps even now as I type because health is truly a gift that I feel blessed to have when so many don’t get that luxury.

The next morning was the race. I felt nervous as it all hit me….the distance I was going to run, how it was the longest race since a 10k I ran, how I didn’t train the best because of my insane work schedule, and the unknown of the mental battles that were to come in this distance that I stupidly googled the week before (btw, don’t do that).

Here’s my thought breakdown:
Miles 1-3: I LOVE running. I’m going to run a million half marathons in my life. I could run for.eve.r
Mile 4: Ok, there’s a some pain coming through the ol’ legs. Here it comes…
Mile 5- 6.75: Oh, there’s the ONE hill someone said was coming. Wait, that makes two hills. Um, why are there more than 3 hills right now! I hate __________! She said there was A dang hill, not FIVE. I hate Trinity University for torturing me with all these straight up/straight down hills. (But it sure is a pretty campus)
Mile 6.75- 7: Got my second wind. Let’s do this.
Mile 7.5- 10: My legs hurt the worst they’ve ever hurt   in   my    life.    My feet are cramping up terribly. How does that happen?! The back of my knees are hurting so so bad. Ok, just make it to 10 where N is meeting me! Just.keep.moving.
Mile 10: I see N!!! Hi hi hi. So good to see you. You’re not going to believe the amount of pain I’m in. Omg, you have water. Thank you thank you. So glad you’re walking this one out with me. Ok bye.
Mile 10-12: Why did they stop the water stations? That’s mean. I hate the race organizers right now. Just think…one 5k left. I can do this. I’ve done a million 5ks. People have cancer and are fighting, I can finish 3 miles. One foot in front of the other.  
Mile 13: There’s no shade. Gosh, it’s gotten so.freaking.hot. The marathoners have caught up to us and they look miserable. I could never run a marathon. Water. All I want is water.    water.   water.   water. This is the worst mile of my life. I see the finish line. I don’t care that there are race photogs everywhere, I’m not posing because I just need to finish.
Finish Line: THANK.YOU.JESUS. I.just.need.shade….and water.

With my finisher medals: one for the race, one for Team In Training

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Things I learned from my half marathon:
1. 30,000 runners is inspiring and claustrophobic at the start line. It can be a little unnerving when you think of Boston too. So don’t.  
2. If you’re running a race out of town, you’ll probably be a mile from your hotel to the starting line. A.k.a. that’s how much you’ll have to walk when you’re done with the race. For me, that was torture.
3. Some people are ignorant when it comes to choosing the appropriate clothes to run in. I saw a grandma’s butt cheeks and I saw a guy wearing a banana costume and he looked like he was going to pass out from the heat. Pick a clothes combo that’s comfortable and won’t be a nuisance. I’m so glad I didn’t have to worry about my clothes. (Besides TNT giving me the wrong sized dri-fit)… 
4. Running in a long-distance race is a symbol of humanity in society. The amount of volunteers cheering and supporting complete strangers is awe-inspiring. I will volunteer at a race in the near future because it made such a difference when I was being challenged. I smiled and was close to tears so many times throughout the race because of strangers' generosity overwhelming me. People connections get me every time.
5. People are creative with their encouraging signs. Some of my favorite poster messages: “Ryan Gosling is a the end of the race", “SEX: ok I just got your attention, now good luck”, “Worst Parade Ever”, “There are no losers, just winners who finish later”.
6. My germ freak nature was tested severely. Let’s see… you’ve got water people dipping their fingers in your drinking cups, I had a stranger (TNT Coach) offer me salt pills for my cramping and then proceed to get them out with his sweat soaked fingers-yum, and I was handed an ice cold rag that someone rung out with their hands and I wiped it on my face. Who am I?! Clearly, I was so grateful for all of these things that I chose to over look it. 13.1 miles will do that to even the best germ freak. Winking smile
7. I needed to wash my face better when we got back to the hotel. With the combination of sunscreen, sweat, and then aloe vera (from my face being burned) it was the perfect storm for my face to break out in this Rosacea nightmare for 4 days proceeding the race. Usually I’ll have a small amount, NEVER my whole face and it was embarrassing.
8. I could not move on Monday. Next time I run a half, I will take off the next day before I even go. The amount of lactic acid in my body was the worst ever, and that includes when I played college volleyball and survived multiple 2-a-days. Now, this for sure has to do with my shotty training the months proceeding the race (not the first 3 months of training because I rocked it then).
9. I ran alone the whole race and it was a struggle, but I surprised myself. I had positive self-talk the entire time I was in pain (which was 3/4 of the race). I teach this method to my athletes on a daily basis. I was glad that when it came down to it, I had to use the method to get through the race. I felt so strong mentally when I was done because I got myself through that painful 3+ hours of challenge by myself (in terms of not having a partner running next to me, this is not a discredit to my awesome/supportive husband and the strangers who truly made a difference). When I did run/walk with N, I noticed having him there was easier for me (duh) to verbalize my complaints. And when I said them out loud, it just made them heavier. I wonder if it’s easier for me to run these races by myself because then I can only rely on my mind to get through the tough times. Interesting perspective…
10. The moment I crossed the line I thought, “I will never run that again.” That thought-process sunk in until Tuesday. When Tuesday hit, it started sinking in that I ran a half. By Wednesday, when the only thing left was the issue on my face, I was ready to sign up for another one. I am not proud of my time by any means and the competitor in me (the one who looks like a crazy who gets too heated during innocent board games) wants to see what I’m capable with more free time to train harder. It’s been an interesting process to go through to say the least. Today, I’m still waiting it out to see if I want to commit to the training.
11. My husband is one of the most supportive people I know. I know some people don’t like to read mushy gushy comments about spouses (I guess I’m talking about myself here as I roll my eyes at annoying Facebook posts from people gushing about their significant others Winking smile), but I can’t not recognize his HUGE part in me crossing the finish line. He catered to my every negative/nervous thought leading up to the actual event. He was supportive by spending his first weekend open after a long and grueling football season coming out of town to see me race. And I could.not.have.done.this.race.without.him.there. Period. He sent me encouraging text messages (along with other friends and family, thanks guys!) the whole race, was so positive when I saw him twice on the course, and was at my beck and call when I was done. He even rubbed my sweaty feet when I crashed onto the bed when we finally got back to the hotel (and after my long training runs too). He made sure I stayed hydrated before and after the race. And my favorite moments post race was anytime he looked genuinely proud of me or stated it more than once. Best felling ever. Anyway, he needed a public shout out because I am blessed beyond measure to call him mine.

At the finish line and the inspiration dinner

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12. My honor patient, Ben (brother-in-law), was a great inspiration throughout the race. I thought of cancer survivors as a whole, but it was even more inspiring that I could tell myself, “If Ben could go through chemo, I can do this”. It was too easy to use him as inspiration and run in his honor.

Overall, it was a good experience. It’s funny how something so challenging and difficult can ever be described with the adjective good. But truth is, running long distances like that truly does get to your core of who you are and how strong you can be. I think anyone running a half for the 1st time can attest to the fact that you question if you really have it in you once it comes down to race day. A barrage of thoughts can be overwhelming when you start to really analyze what you’re about to do. And then once it’s over, and you’ve surprised yourself (and maybe others around you), you have a new level of invincibility that starts with the sentence, “If I can finish 13.1 miles, then I can do _________”.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11-13

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Energy is for the birds.

I survived the first week of season. It's getting easier and easier with the years that come. It's been a hectic week where I've spent more time off the court than on, but the on-the-court moments have reminded me why I keep coming back for more. Practices were smooth, my players looked calm, and the talent gives me goosebumps. There were hiccups of course, but that's the name of the coaching game: flexibility. The more I remind myself of that, the more calm I tend to be. I'm glad to get to this second week where things start to "slow down" (quotation marks are necessary because in the real world, it's not slow and school starting is coming sooner than later). I'm just glad to spend more energy on the court aspect of my job.

Speaking of energy, I had a player on my club team last season who made these no no-bake energy balls. I always wanted to try them, but knowing she made them with her hands freaked out the severe inner germ freak in me (and if you know me, this isn't surprising).

I just made some and had a taste... delish. Can't wait to use them for energy this week.

Ingredients
·         1 cup (dry) oatmeal (old-fashioned oats)
·         1 cup toasted coconut flakes
·         1/2 cup chocolate chips
·         1/2 cup peanut butter
·         1/2 cup ground flax seed
·         1/3 cup honey
·         1 tsp. vanilla
Method:
Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.  Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like.  (Mine were about 1″ in diameter.)  Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Makes about 20-25 balls.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Serene Sundays.

I have a cool story...My husband has been out of town since last week with one day home. I've  missed  him.  He was in Baltimore because he gave 2 liters of bone marrow to his brother. So cool. I wish so bad I could've been there, but work did not permit that. So he flew up there and met his mother (thank God she was there!) and gave a record-breaking amount of marrow. Now we wait for the next 30 days to see if Ben's body will accept it with the goal of keeping that dang Leukemia gone for good! So keep praying for God's providence to that plan. He got home an hour ago and has been sleeping since. He's exhausted and he starts back at work for football tomorrow. I was reminded why I would never make it in the medical field when I had to bandage where they took the marrow from (his lower back). It was bruised and the punctures were so big that I felt myself feeling nauseous. I'll stick with teaching. :)

While he was asleep, I'd thought I'd make and bake. I mean, starting tomorrow, I will face the 2013 volleyball season. To those who aren't high school coaches, there is always that lack of understanding that brings the look of, "So what?". But basically, we're (other Tx vball head coaches) all about to face a stressful and rewarding 3 months....long practices, goose-bump wins, heart-wrenching losses, lesson learning (by athlete and coach), patience tests, reminders of the good in humanity, the witnessing of teenage harrowing acts of picking others up, teamwork, yelling, parent complaints, parent praises, frustrated players, content players, laughable moments of being reminded that being a coach is all about flexibility, emails, phone calls, ordering, tournaments, hoarse voices, happy hearts, heavy hearts, sore feet, sore arms, good drills, drills that die, the loss of 10 lbs that comes with the chaos, helpful co-workers and more.. and then leading into the new school year where teaching in our classrooms will be the "other" part of our jobs (which brings a whole list of other factors we'll face...good and bad). Either way, it's a career that I'm so grateful to have. I could not be doing anything else with my life and through the challenges that it often brings, I'm grateful to God for choosing me to be in my position. And on this Sunday I have a need for serenity on the eve of the unknowns of what this season will bring. Oh and the need for a good sturdy prayer before I go to sleep for God to prepare me for what's to come...which is why I call this serenity..for now. :)

Ok so I got off on a tangent. This is definitely the time of year where reflection is rampant through my busy mind. So I made and baked today because as usual it brings a strange sense of peace. Maybe because I have full control over what's going on in the kitchen when I'm making food. Although, the countess recipes gone wrong or "interesting" ways some of my intentions of turned out show quite the opposite; I can't run from the fact that we are truly never in control. :) So I made muffins, streusal blueberry and banana nut, for my coaches/student assistants tomorrow morning...


Then I made this pasta salad that I kind of thought of at the last minute. It's not ground breaking so I'm sure someone else has made something similar before.
Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Spiral Noodles
Spinach
Cherry Tomatoes
Salt/Pepper
Ground Mustard
Basil
Parmesan Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Directions
1. Boil water and then put noodles in. Cook for 10 mins
2. Saute spinach and cheery tomatoes (cut in halves) in olive oil (I just poured for 2 seconds, no measuring)
3. After noodles are done and drained, stick in bowl with spinach/tomatoes... mix
4. Mix in balsamic vinaigrette until desired flavor. I poured dressing into noodle mix twice to achieve the faint taste of the flavor.
5. Then add seasonings below.
6. Last, sprinkle Parmesan cheese and mix. Repeat.
 

Note to self: don't take pictures when it's steaming hot.

Bon Appetite'! And I'll be back after season. Maybe if I get bored on a weekend after tournament season, I'll be searching for the serenity that I feel today. Wait, that's probably a gaurantee... :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Cool July

I’m not going to say it. I’m not going to mention how I really did plan on posting more these past couple of months. I’m not going to state what I usually do about my intentions to create more than I do now.

But.I.can’t.help.it. I want to blog more, create more, make more. SO here I am, once again, saying that I kept meaning to post some things I’ve done on here since the summer began and didn’t get around to it.

For starters, the running has been steady. I’m still an ex-volleyball player who’s knees are still reeling from the constant jumping from the never-ending years of playing. But, hey, I’ve been consistent and it’s easier to run when you have a cause. I would’ve quit a long time ago if I didn’t have a purpose. Ha! Here’s a pic from one of my long runs… so beautiful.

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We’ve also been hosting some more this summer. I truly love it and I get that from my mom. I grew up watching her gift of hosting and it’s definitely engrained in me. This upcoming week we already have dinners planned on two separate nights. And we hosted my mother-in-law, her boyfriend, my aunt/uncle-in-law, and cousin-in-law for a big lunch. My mother-in-law is gluten-free now so all the recipes (except the bread) is safe for anyone else who has the same eating lifestyle!  Smile  Here was the spread…with my wedding china that makes my heart sing at the sight of it. (The rolls were still baking. Timing is the part of hosting I’m still trying to master Winking smile).

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I made chicken (yes, this vegetarian touched, dipped, and arranged the raw chicken breasts. I’m bragging because that’s a big deal for me. And who cares if you brag about touching chicken? Winking smile) that I covered in bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. My wonderful/helpful husband cooked them on the stove. Took forever, but apparently they turned out good (I was told, obvi).

Next, I made the popular Watergate salad. My stepmom makes this every holiday and I love it. I finally got the recipe from her. It does not look appetizing at all because the green color is interesting for a food color. However, it’s so good that I always go back for more. Here’s a picture after step two of the recipe…

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The recipe is SO simple. You can find it here.

Next, I made a Pinterest recipe for rolls! I always feel accomplished when I get a recipe right from that dang website. I love the fail pictures like this because I relate to this from so many things I’ve tried. Hahaha.

Hilarious Pinterest Fails - Likes

Anyway, they didn’t look  a n y t h i n g  like the picture on the website, but the taste was UNBELIEVABLE. I just couldn’t get them smoothed out like the picture below. But either way, you must make these. They’re supposed to look like this:

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Last, I made my grandmother-in-laws family recipe of corn pudding. I can’t give the recipe because it’s a family one, but there are so many varieties online. This one looks good.

Henry loves having visitors and it always wears him out. I came in the bedroom to see him exhausted on our bed. He’s real cute.

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The caption, “Mom, leave me alone. I’m napping". Yah, we’re “those” people who give our dog a voice and conversations. Deal.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Running for a cause…

I’m running a half marathon. There. It’s out there. I can’t believe I’m going to actually finally run one! I’ve had a lot of “runner” friends or friends who run over the years. The ex athlete in me wants to be a runner so bad, but my volleyball knees have always opposed. I’ve thought about signing up too many times to count. The obstacle of running that long has always been a little bit of a fear starter in my exercise mind.

Why now? First, I’ve always been intrigued with Team in Training through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I like that they give you ways to raise money for such a good cause and at the same time, train you to run long distance. I need the accountability and coaching (coming from a coach, hmmm). And it seems like an easy motivation to run for a society who raises money to find a cure for all the cancer patients who struggle through the terrible disease.

Second….After suffering for around a year, my Pawpaw died of lung cancer years ago. That was my first time being that close to the disease and the experience rocked my core. To see a loved one deteriorate so quickly and there’s nothing you can do about it is extremely heart wrenching and agonizing to watch. When it’s terminal, it’s the longest goodbye there is. It’s hard to know that your family member is staring death in the face waiting for it’s arrival and knowing their indefinite coming absence is inescapable. Seeing my dad lose his dad and see his parent suffer was one of the hardest things I’ve witnessed too. The whole thing just sucks.

My brother-in-law Ben was diagnosed 2 years ago with lymphoblastic leukemia. He overcame it which was so awesome! Unfortunately, it has returned recently and I thought this would be a great time to contribute to the cause to help rid of cancer. Since he has one of the specific cancers that this society is working against, I wanted to partner with them. So I will start training a couple of weeks after he starts his second round of chemo. My thought process is that if he can go through chemo and cancer, I can train to run and raise money to help.

My precious Pawpaw with Lisa and I in the 80s. :) Love this picture.

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Ben (brother-in-law) at our wedding

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My honor patient will be Ben and I’ll be running in my Pawpaw’s memory.

So if you donate to charities and would like to help, please click on the link below. If all you can do is pray for Ben’s recovery, that rocks too. And if you’re thinking about getting involved with an organization, this is a great one to attach yourself too. God Bless.

To donate on my running page, go to: http://pages.teamintraining.org/txg/rnrsa13/monicashall

Smile