Interstellar Adventure
Adventure: the pursuit of life — Daniel Roy Wiarda

Tales from the Office, Series #82048

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

She was sitting at her desk, reading email and browsing bone-dry project documentation. Nearby sat two, plain, white Styrofoam cups. Standard corporate-issue, Recyclable #6. In one cup, coffee. In the other, granola. For the last hour, she'd been sipping coffee and pouring granola in her hand, then popping it in her mouth, quelling the munchies that had overtaken her while waiting for the lunch hour to arrive. One cup sat to her right on the cool, grey industrial desk. The other cup sat to her left, in front of papers waiting to be filed away. It was a seemingly normal workday scene. Suddenly, tragedy struck. She absent-mindedly reached for the granola cup, keeping her eyes fixed on the LCD screen, reading the latest important dispatch from HQ. Her slender, tanned fingers wrapped themselves around the polystyrene cylinder, lifted the vessel, and tilted it toward her cupped palm. But, instead of the coarse, dry oats and honey mixture she expected in her hand, she felt lukewarm, sticky liquid pouring over her appendages. The caffeinated nectar ran off her hand, slowly spreading across her desk, and onto her laptop. She jumped quickly, muttering reproachful words to herself. Yanking open the cold, metal desk drawer that contained pens, paperclips and other miscellaneous items, including napkins from lunchtimes gone by, she pulled out the absorbent paper, formerly known as trees, to staunch the spread of the creamy brown coffee. Only the very edge of the laptop base had received a dousing of the creamy brown liquid. She lifted the base, mounded napkin after napkin, and watched as they sucked up the bane of electronic devices everywhere. She silently prayed that none of the beverage had run into the protective plastic casing. After the last drip had dried, she proceeded to test the machine to make sure that normal functions were still present. As she typed, the words came out sdrawkcab. With mounting dread in her heart, she crossed her fingers and rebooted the system. As the familiar black screen with the wavering four-color flag appeared in front of her, she waited for and received the blue blinking screen, followed by the login dialog prompt. She typed in her password, pressed 'Login', and was rewarded for her patience and prayers with a functioning desktop.

Wild West Relay Volume II: Race Day Arrives

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I slept so well, I didn't even hear the alarm go off. Judy and Keith were both up, and when I first heard them, I surely thought they had risen early. No, just me and my time-zone confused mind. I rolled out of bed at 4:45 am, washed the sleep out of my eyes, and put on my racing shoes. I knew it was going to be a chilly morning, so I made sure my jacket was out. Not something I normally think about in the middle of August! We rolled our suitcases back out to the vans and arranged our gear. Our start time was 7:00 am, with a 6:00 am check-in. Four of our crew had decided to stay at the home of a friend that lived near-by, so we had coordinated a 5:30 am departure from the hotel. Right on time, everyone wandered out of the hotel or pulled into the parking lot. View Photos Keith, Chris, Bill, and Brad all piled in the back of the van, Judy navigated and I drove to the start. The start of the race was at the Budweiser Brewery in Fort Collins. We were there in less than 15 minutes. The highlight of my morning so far? Seeing the big Budweiser sign of course! I couldn't have a drink yet...just another 36 hours or so! View Photos We were one of two Texas teams participating in the race, the other being a 6x6 Ultra team from San Antonio. The start line was full of energy and music at 6:00 am. Smiling faces, teams pulling in and getting organized. We took a couple of team pictures under the official start sign, and then waited around for our start. Looking at the other team vans, team 'costumes', and chatting with each other made the hour go by quickly. We had some goodie bags with swag samples and our official race shirts to go through too. View Photos The 6:30 teams took off, and we moved closer to the start. The morning was still very cool, crisp and dry. Our group was hanging around for the start before heading back into town and looking for a hot breakfast. Once the start actually occurred, it was rather anti-climactic. About 8 racers lined up at the start, including our man Paul, and exactly at 7, they were off! They ran down, out of the parking lot, and off onto the first leg of our collective 195-mile adventure! View Photos Back into the vans again, this time with Van 1 splitting off to follow Paul, and us to follow our growling stomachs. Driving down the main drag in Fort Collins, we quickly found exactly what we were looking for...an IHOP! Pancakes and coffee! We discussed our route to get to the exchange point and how we were looking forward to our respective legs. We had printouts of the leg descriptions with elevation gains and all. View Photos After our breakfast, we made our way to the exchange. We saw some runners waiting at an exchange that we thought might have been 5, but they weren't ours. We saw a convenience store and decided to stop for the flushing toilets because we knew there were only port-o-lets at the next exchange. I signed the guest book at the convenience store (one day that signature will be worth money!) and marveled at the fine merchandise this store had to offer. We also paused to talk with another team that was the one 6x1 Ultra team in the competition. These were the crazies that were running six legs at a time before handing off to their next teammate to run the next six legs. They actually seemed pretty normal. View Photos After we pulled out of the parking lot, we quickly found the next exchange. It was just up the road from the convenience store. Literally...less than a tenth of a mile. We gave ourselves a good laugh and had a bit of a wait before we expected our runner. I was trying to stay hydrated, and therefore drinking more water than I think I've ever drank before. This also meant I had to go to the bathroom more than I ever had before. So, after a bit, I went and stood in the line for the port-o-let. It was a long line. View Photos We also chatted with some of the other teams here. I was loving some of the other team names. I think my favorite of the day was the Wyoming Women's Militia and Knitting Circle. They rocked! An all women's team, I think they ended up second in their division. View Photos Our Van 1 buddies pulled in after a while. Vickie, our Leg 6 runner would be coming in soon. Bill, our Leg 7 runner started to warm up. We stood near the entrance to the exchange, and cheered in runners from other teams as they came in. Finally, we saw Vickie running up the slight hill. She and Bill made a smooth transition, and he was off! Responsibility for the timing chart also transitioned from Van 1 to Van 2, and we again slit up. View Photos We drove down the road toward the next exchange, passing Bill and whoopin' and hollerin' at him for encouragement. This would become our modus operandi for the remainder of the race. Waiting for our runners at the exchanges, seeing our teammates off, and then shouting 'woo hoo!' out the window at them while we drive on to the next exchange. During the hotter parts of the day and on the longer legs, we would pull to the side of the road about half way through to check on them before driving on. View Photos Starting when Bill ran, the day had turned from cool to progressively very warm. The bright Colorado sun came out, and in the increased altitude, it was potently hot. I changed out of my long sleeve warm shirt and into my race singlet. I thought the 'Too Hot To Handle' appropriately described the day, if not the runner. ;) he he he View Photos My first leg was a mere three miles. But, the first half mile or so was all downhill, followed by several short, 'rolling' hill sections, with the last mile being a consistent uphill climb. Either I hadn't stretched properly, or I ran at an odd gait down the first section of my leg, or a combination of both, but I felt my right leg getting progressively numb. By the end of the first mile, it was completely numb. I kept looking down at my feet to make sure it was still there, and to make sure that I landed on the flat of my foot so as not to twist my ankle. I wanted to stop and try to stretch it out, but the another part of me said 'just keep going!', which is what I did. George was down a bit from the exchange to greet me. As you can see, I didn't look happy. :( I handed off our 'baton' to Paul, and he took off for the start of section 2. I was so disappointed in my first leg! As soon as I stopped running, my leg went all 'pins and needles' as the feeling slowly started to return. I also started coughing terribly. Within five minutes of finishing my run, I felt like my brains were going to leak out of my nose. You know that stinging feeling you get when you get a rush of chlorine water up your nose when you're swimming? Yeah, that's what it felt like, except it didn't go away. Then, my nose just stopped up. I was still coughing, and I couldn't breathe in or out of my nose. Excellent. We made a few PB&J sammiches, with lots of peanut butter and lots of jelly, and I chowed down on some Goldfish crackers. We were done with our section, so we got in the van to drive to Exchange 18. This is where Vickie and Bill would pick up again in the night leg. We knew it was going to take us a fair bit of time to get there, so we hadn't planned on stopping except for a gas or pit stop. We took an unpaved, narrow road down a steep, winding hill. This was a bit nerve-wracking, but Bill did an excellent job driving. We found a convenience store, where I located some nasal spray for my poor nose. The stinging had stopped, and I finally sneezed after feeling the urge for over half an hour. But, the stuffiness persisted. Until I used the nasal spray. After that, I kept a constant supply of tissues at hand. The map above basically shows our route from Fort collins to where I finished, in Red Feather Lakes. View Photos After we left the c-station, I was in the back and fell asleep quickly. The next thing I know, we're in Walden. Evidently, our navigator decided to take a nap as well, and the driver missed the turn we were supposed to take. This, however, worked out very well for us, as we were able to check into our hotel, grab a hot bite to eat, a quick shower and a brief doze on a soft bed. This is also where I made my first audioblog check-in. View Photos As the sun set, we made our way up into the mountains of southern Wyoming for the start of our night leg. Stay tuned...next time at Interstellar Adventures: Wild West Relay Volume III: Full Moon Running. Hey! Stop that! That's not what I mean! ;)

Just what I needed!!!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Now I'm re-inspired, re-energized, and re-dedicated! Only 54 more days! This is exactly what I needed after yesterday's run. My friend, fellow marathon runner and gal-pal extraordinaire, Judy, sent me a couple of articles about our race. I will be running with 14,849 other beautiful, strong and extraordinary women on October 23. We will continue the tradition of excellence from last year. And if that doesn't do it for me on race day...well, there's always the hotel.

New mileage achievement = great pain

My entire body hurts. My calves, my quads, my low back, my shoulders and my arms. Sure, I could've taken an ice bath and I probably wouldn't hurt as much, but sitting in a tub of freezing water for 20 minutes didn't appeal to me yesterday. I've done it before, and it is pure torture. So, I'm suffering today. I got my kids back from my grandparents (babysitting for my early am run), went to my friend's house, had four enchiladas, some chips and homemade guacamole, a glass of wine, three beers, and put some pictures on some pages (aka scrapbooking) for a couple of hours, then went home. I fell asleep at 7:30 pm. I vaguely remember my kids trying to wake me up to come put them in bed, but I told them they were old enough to find their own beds. (I promise, I'm a good mom! This just wasn't one of my better moments.) I couldn't even open my eyes! I was totally drained. That hasn't happened to me in a long, long time. I feel better, energy-wise today. Colorado Volume II due tomorrow.

Planned vs. Actual

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Today's Plan: Run 3:20, approximately 16 miles at an easy pace, 12 - 12:30. Today's Actual: Ran 3:50, 18 miles, at a 12:45 pace. The pace was so slow because I didn't know we were running the extra miles, so I exerted too much energy on the front end and had to do a 4/1 run/walk on the route back. Only when I looked at my watch and saw 1:40 and asked why we weren't turning around did I come to find out we were going 9 miles out. Plus I forgot to take my Aleve, so my hips were hurting. I'm not happy today. :( I'm going to shower, get dressed, go to my friend's house, pretend to scrapbook, and drink lots of beer and eat some enchiladas. My marathon is 8 weeks away from today, and based on my performance this morning, a 5:00 finish goal is looking to be in jeopardy. I'm going to be so disappointed if I don't finish in 5:00 or less. I mean, I know finishing is a feat in itself and I will be deliriously happy when I cross that finish line, but I've been putting a lot of extra work in, doing the speed workouts and hill training and everything to meet the 5:00 goal. Now I'm just in a bummed-out mood today. This isn't the normal 'me'. I'm just feeling sorry for myself and I need to snap out of it. OK. There. :D

Wild West Relay Volume I: Dallas Hill Wrangers Travel to Colorado

Friday, August 26, 2005

How many suitcases does it take for Lass to run from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs? One, two, three. Three suitcases. (Insert the sound of The Count laughing here.) I spent Tuesday and Wednesday making my lists, washing clothes, organizing piles of running clothes, regular clothes, running shoes, regular shoes, mandatory safety gear, and miscellaneous items needed to ensure a comfortable journey for myself. I packed one suitcase for 'after the race' and one suitcase for just race gear. The other was really my small rolling carry-on, so it was more like a quarter suitcase. OK, OK, I'm just trying to justify having three bags for a four day trip. Any other normal trip it would have been one. I promise. 5 am dawned early (like any other day really) Thursday morning. I was so excited about the trip, I jumped out of bed and immediately began double-checking my packing list and trying to not be paranoid about forgetting something very important. I knew we were going to make a shopping trip to Target (see, even on vacation I get my Target fix) before the race so we could stock up on food and beverages and whatnot, so if I did forget anything, I'd be covered. Nick was so sweet to agree to take me to the airport so I didn't have to leave my car in remote parking for days. A 10:30 am flight means being to the airport by 8:30 am, and I live about an hour from the airport. Plus, there was morning rush-hour traffic to worry over, so we left my house at 7:30. Traffic wasn't so bad, so we got to the airport early. Got my bags checked in with no problem and then waited on the rest of the group. Nick stayed with me till it was time to go through security. He really is a doll. The whole team, plus two support crew, were there and ready to fly. Keith, Judy, Chris, Bill, Jean, Paul, Gates, George, Celine, Vickie, Brad, and yours truly, plus Janet and Deborah rounded out our motley crew. Team Photo waiting at the gate. We boarded the plane on time, not knowing that we would have a significant delay ahead of us. As we were sitting on the plane and preparing to take off, the captain came on the loud speaker and said that there was a small problem that they hoped to have remedied quickly. After a while, he came on again. Yep. Still working on the problem. FYI, this problem was that the co-pilot flight computer wouldn't come on. The pilot flight computer was fine though. Oh yeah, I’m feeling good about this. Um., can we get another plane please? A little longer...still working on the problem. They actually shut down all the power on the plane in order to try to 'reboot' the system they were trying to fix. That does not give one a good feeling about flying on a plane! Judy and Keith are happy to board.          Somebody's a happy flyer!                They finally decided to de-plane us. They were going to see if they could 'borrow' the necessary part from another airline, otherwise we were going to have to wait for a part to be flown in from another United hub. Great. It was time for lunch, so we went on down to the Chili's Too, had a beer and some lunch, and then came back to see what the status was on the plane. Some French guy getting a shoe-shine.       Duck...duck...goose!                  We sat around, and sat around, and sat around. They kept giving us updates. The part was here, and they were installing it! Except from what we could see, it was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Finally, the captain came on and said that the part they flew in didn't fix the problem! The diagnosing computer was wrong. Hmmm. So, meanwhile, all passengers with connecting flights are being placed on other flights. They have priority since they are connecting. We, as direct flyers, are on the bottom of the list. Except there are 14 of us! It's easy to re-route one or two people, but 14 of us have to get to the same place at the same time. Dammit! Didn't they know we were special? The plane that wouldn't fly. So, in all my diplomacy, after the captain came on the last time, asked "So, at what point do you all give us a status as to when the flight might actually be cancelled in order for us to make an educated decision about our options. We know that no other United flight to Denver is going to get us where we're going, and our option is to spend more money on another airline, or rent a van and drive all night directly to the starting line." They didn't seem to understand that I was just asking when the flight might actually be cancelled rather than them giving us a status of 'we're still working on it'. I wasn't trying to be mean, just trying to elicit more information. But, within two minutes, the flight was cancelled. We were standing at the head of the line, so we were able to be some of the first ones places on another airline. We had booked a group rate, and they were able to get 13 of us on an alternate American flight. One girl had booked on her own and got on the last United flight out to Denver. We all felt much better. Gates & Janet correctly riding the escalator.    Keith needs safety instructions though.                         The American flight took off around 5 I think, and was smooth, for flying. I don't like flying very much. I'm really bad with the take-off part of it. I just try to breathe deep, close my eyes and think happy thoughts to myself. I finished four days of crosswords while on the plane though. That's a good thing. The little plane that could! We got to Denver around 6:30. Picked up our rental vans and headed toward Fort Collins. I was starting to not feel so good since it had been almost 7 hours already since I'd last had something to eat. My body is a finely tuned machine (*cough, giggle, snort*) and must be fueled at consistent intervals, or I start to feel very, very ill. I had a bit of a headache from the canned air smell on the plane. Sadly, there was nothing along the road except for mountains and prarie. I would spend the next 48 hours in a van with these people. Good thing they're awesome! We made it into Fort Collins and found a Carrabas. Good pasta for fuel. I had the Mezza Luna ravioli. It was actually very good. I think I ate half a loaf of bread too. And, had a glass of Rosa Sangria. It was very delicious. I could taste the brandy in the mix, and it made my headache go away. Or maybe it was the Aleve. After dinner, we checked into the hotel and unloaded bags. I was driving, and while Judy was checking in, she was waving me in to the lobby. I went to see what she needed. When I approached, she handed me a fax. It was from Nick. What a sweetheart. He just sent me a little inspirational note to have a good race. Then we went on our shopping spree to Target (said with a French accent of course, Tar-jay). Loaded up on water, sport drink, carbs, sweets, etc. Food for fuel for running. Oh, and PB&J. I love peanut butter and jelly. My favorite running food. It's practically a gourmet meal out there on the course. And how does one make a gourmet PB&J? Lots of peanut butter and lots of jelly. Enough so the jelly squishes out the side when you take a bite and you have to lick the jelly off the side of the bread. MMMMM. Back at the hotel, it was time to wind down and prepare for the day. Keith & Judy & I were bunking together since I knew them best. I was supposed to room with a couple of the other solo girls, but a snafu with the room reservations gave us one smoking room. So, since Judy said it was her error, and I'm not picky, I stayed with them. I did have a bit of a scare though when Keith opened his suitcase and we were shocked to hear a strange buzzing noise. But it was just his toothbrush. ;) We sorted through our running gear, laying out our starting line clothes and deciding on a shower schedule for the next day. We made it to bed shortly before midnight. For a hotel room bed, I fell to sleep quickly and slept well. Next Installment: Wild West Relay Volume II: Race Day Arrives!

Bonus Miles

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Did a little social run tonight at Arbor Hills. Ran an easy, conversational 4 miles in 47:55, then ran/walked, but mostly walked, the final mile in, well, too long. But, 10 miles total running today plus a cool-down mile (you know, I think I forgot my morning warm-up half mile) in one day ain't too shabby. To quote Adam Sandler. Then went and had some quesadillas and a Shiner for dinner. Mmmm good.

I knew it!

Yep, I'm wishing I had run hills. I had my first taste of the mile repeats today. They suck big time. They're super fun! Mile 1: 10:20 (way too fast) Mile 2: 10:48 Mile 3: 11:00 Mile 4: 10:48 Mile 5: 10:45 Mile 6: 10:34 These are all actually a little fast, but hey, better than slow. Total of 6 miles in 1:04:05 (if my math is right, which it may not be), with an average 10:40 mile. I've decided to serialize the Colorado report. First installment will be up tomorrow. I know you're all sitting on the edge of your seats in anticipation. :P


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I can't think of anything to write about today. I'm still sorting through pictures and stuff from Colorado, and the write-up is nowhere near ready. :( Sigh. And, the official photos are still being uploaded by the picture-taking-people. I've looked, but don't see any of me. :( This is actually probably a good thing. Just to give you a taste: I'm all smiles before the run.      But at the end, I thought I was going to die.                            I was runnin' ugly, breathing hard, it was HOT, and for some reason my right leg was completely numb at this point, and had been for about two miles. Yep, this was my low point of the race. Good news is, it was all fantastic after that!

So what's next?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Now that the Colorado relay is over, what's next you ask? Well, the marathon is the next thing on the list. October 23 in San Francisco. That's exactly two months away! I'm done with hill workouts now, but we've moved on to Yasso's and Mile Repeats. I had Yasso's explained to me like this. You should run 800s in minutes what your marathon goal time is in hours. For simplicity's sake, we'll use my goal time. If you marathon finish goal time is 5 hours, then you should run an 800 (two times around a quarter mile track) in 5 minutes. Between each 800, jog the same number of minutes it took you to run your repeat. Then, run another 800 in 5 minutes. You start with a low number of repeats the first week, then build up to 10 over several weeks. Mile repeats are similar. These you are supposed to run 20 seconds faster than your goal pace. Then walk 400 meters between each repeat. This Thursday we're supposed to do six of those bad boys. I see a max of eight in a day on our schedule. Holy moly! That should be fun. :) After the marathon? The Rockledge Rumble 30K Trail Run on Nov. 12. Then, the White Rock Marathon on Dec 11. Then, the big, bad Bandera 50K Trail Run on Jan. 7. Bandera is what started all this blogging stuff. I still think that this is one of the hardest things I have ever done and finished. Last year I conquered the 25K trail (plus some). This next time I'm going for twice the distance. A 50K. That's 31 miles. Depending on how well (or not so well) my marathons go, I will be running the 50K distance. If I'm not feeling so hot, then I'll just do the 25K again for fun (and a better time). This is the grand master plan.

Yee Haw!

Monday, August 22, 2005

With a final finish time of 31:54:01, the Dallas Hill Wranglers took 1st place in the hotly contested Flatlanders Division, and were 49th out of 60 teams overall. I took almost 300 pictures...I promise I won't put them all up. It'll take me a bit to get the final 'story' all done, but hopefully it will be worth it. Blog-along Lass

Race Check In #4

Saturday, August 20, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Race Check In #3

this is an audio post - click to play

Race Check In #2

this is an audio post - click to play

Race Check In #1

Friday, August 19, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

We made it! Now...just 195 miles to go...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Our American plane finally landed in Denver. We were all tired, hungry, and ready to get to Fort Collins. The Denver airport was a bit strange, but we made our way to the baggage terminal and picked up our luggage (which, by the way, flew in on United on their last Denver flight). Picked up the rental van without issue. Well, sort of. We couldn't understand the rental agent's accent, but we still got the van. I didn't realize Denver was so flat, with the mountains on one side and the start of the Great Plains on the other. Fort Collins was about a 40 minute drive north. I didn't think I was going to make it, considering that it had been over 8 hours since I had last had anything to eat. Well, anything better than Trolli sour worms. There were no restaurants besides fast food joints and truck stops, so I tried to keep my mind of my rumbling stomach. We ended up eating at Carrabas. It was good, but they sure are proud of their food. Their prices say so anyway. Then it was to the hotel to check in and unpack before heading over to Target for a snack shopping spree. I love Target. I always feel at home there no matter where I am. Now I'm just updating this quickly before I head off to beddy-bye-dreamland. Enjoy the photos folks. We'll be starting our race at 7 am MST tomorrow, but I won't actually run until around noon or later. Thanks for all the well wishes! You guys are great! Hey look! It's RunOn! The plane that finally got us there. Metal-paper airplanes in the Denver airport. My van-mates and a cool mountain storm.

36 legs, 195 miles...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Update: 3:10 pm CST
Believe it or not, we are still at DFW airport. The diagnosing computer wasn't working correctly, so what the problem it said it was wasn't really the problem, and the plane still couldn't get off the ground. Hopefully American can now get us where we're going. I arrived at the airport at 8:15 am, and I am ready to be breathing in that Rocky Mountain air. I'm not a big fan of flying, and I'm really not feeling so hot about it after the issues we've had today. If this plane doesn't get off the ground, we might not make this race. Too late to drive now and get there in time to make the start. My friends and I are all taking it in stride, and we're all still laughing through the frustration.
The group waiting to board. The plane that wouldn't go. The group waiting to run. On our way to the next terminal on the new SkyLink. Update: 12:58 pm CST
Still at DFW airport. We're supposed to leave at 2 pm now. They had to fly a part in from Chicago. I had a beer and some Southwest Egg Rolls in the Chili's Too here at the airport. Tasty! I'm ready to go and run! Cross fingers that this part fixes the issue...otherwise we're renting vans and driving. Not too many flight options open for a group of 14. :(
Update: 10:52 am CST
I'm supposed to be in Colorado by now. But I'm still in Dallas. Issue with the plane. I'm glad they decided to try to fix it before we took off. Don't know when we'll get there. *Sigh* Anybody know any good airport games?
OK folks. This is it! United is taking me from DFW to Denver, where we'll then pick up a couple of 15 passenger vans, do a little last-minute shopping, and then head on up to Fort Collins, CO for the start of the Wild West Relay. The Dallas Hill Wranglers are running in the Flatlanders Division. The course will take us from Fort Collins, up through Roosevelt National Forest, across the Laramie Mountains, into Wymoming (briefly), then back to Colorado, over the Continental Divide and across Medicine Bow Mountains, above the Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge, across the Rabbit Ears Range in the Routt National Forest, and on into Steamboat Springs. I'm running legs 12, 24 & 36. Leg 12 looks to be in the Roosevelt National Forest. Leg 24 is going to be in the middle of the night, somewhere around 2-ish in the morning. I'm excited about this. Even though this one has the most up-and-down as far as hills mountains go. And, 36 is the home-stretch. Yes! I've been practicing my victory dance! My teammates will run out to meet me about 100 yards from the finish, and we'll all run in together. I'll try to blog an update or two if I can, but I'm not sure what my internet access level is going to be. If all else fails, I'm going to attempt an audio blog. Please note I hate the sound of my recorded voice. Just for you special people would I do this. Wish me luck!

Mission Trip, Finale

11th Grade Mission Trip: Gulfport, MS Hurricane damage had ravished a small community outside Gulfport. Our mission this year was to help repair a church. The church was attended by the senior citizens of the community. Not a single young family attended this church. It was two rooms on the inside, with a small fellowship hall around the back. We were to put new siding on the outside of the main building. A group in the week before had completed re-framing, insulating, and wrapping Tyvek around the building. We measured (twice) and cut (once) the siding, popping chalk-lines to make sure they were level, and nailing the boards into place, all the way around the building. We also painted the outside. And then I noticed the bell steeple. It was sad looking, with its paint chipping off. But, we couldn't reach it from our ladders, and the pitch of the roof was too steep to climb on without safety ropes, so it was to go unpainted. Then, someone told me they couldn't even ring their bell because the bell cord had rotted out and fallen off. Well, that was it. We were getting up on that roof. I had recently done a ropes course, and I knew how to tie a Swiss Seat climbing harness from scratch. So, someone found some nylon rope, and I made myself a Swiss Seat. I secured another length of rope to the harness, climbed the ladder, and tossed the rope over the roof, where I was to be 'belayed' by one of my friends (also in a Swiss seat tied by me, so if I fell, it was no one's fault but my own). I climbed up the roof, and straddled the ridge cap. I hauled up another rope, which I tied to their church bell. One of my friends tested it from the inside. *Bong Bong Bong* Their bell could now be rung before Service. Then I hauled up a paint bucket and brush and painted the bell steeple. It was now pretty and white and matched the rest of the building. Yes, there are pictures of this feat, but no, I don't have them in my possession. Somewhere in the church archives by now. Another five days of great service. 12th Grade Mission Trip: Slidell, LA More hurricane damage brought us to Slidell, LA. Here, I worked on the home of an older lady, with no family to help her care for her home. Her home was a small trailer, 'permanently' placed on the lot where she lived. There was an enclosed patio built around the front of the trailer. The steps up to the patio were rotting out, and she needed wheelchair access. So, we built a ramp for her and replaced the stairs. We also cut out and installed a window for her on the patio. We worked on the porch on the back of the house as well, which had been unusable for some time. And, then her house and patio and porch got a fresh coat of paint. This lady was tickled to death to have young people at her home. She made snacks for us all day long, and made us fried chicken for lunch on our last day there. This was my last mission trip for some time. I graduated from High School and went on to college. There was no 'college mission trip' that I could go on. I also fell away from going to church and questioned my beliefs and the need for religion. But, I still treasured the time I spent on these trips, and felt that need to serve others gnawing at me. More Work When I moved back to my hometown during my separation, my mom again tried to involve me in the church. I would take my kids to events, and then I started working with the High School youth. I was able to participate in two years of the Great Days of Service program. By doing this, my work was able to directly benefit people in my own community. The first year I landscaped a yard and painted part of a house. The next year I scraped the paint off a detached garage that had been cited by the city for maintenance. This prepared it for painting by another group of volunteers. I also worked a day the second year with the youth on a special project house set aside for them. Adult Leader Between these two years, I also got to go on another Mission Trip in the summer of 2003. This time as an adult leader (in reference to myself, I use the word 'adult' loosly). We went to Diamond City, AR. This small town on the edge of the Ozarks is primarily a retirement community. The residents are often transplants from the North, with few family members to help care for them. The owner of the home that we worked on was a lady with no family and severe arthritis in her knees. One knee had a rod placed in it so she couldn't even bend her leg. We power-washed and painted her house, and built a wheelchair ramp for her. We also replaced a good part of the soffit in the front of her house. This was rotted out due to a poor roofing job two years prior. With my previous experience with roofing, I was also able to fix the problem that caused this rot, and properly re-shingled the valley that was the source of the water run-off. What's Next? I haven't been able to go on another Mission Trip yet. But I will. I've volunteered on occasion for other things. Most recently I spent a Saturday at a facility that provides counseling to abused children. The company I worked for gave them a computer network and upgraded all their PCs to OSes that software vendors actually support. Windows 95 just wasn't cutting it for them. And now that I think about it, that was over a year ago. I need to find something else to do.

Mission Trip, Part II

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A continuation of my Mission Trip Tales. I would have to say these were probably the best two years in my memory. Every trip was worth it, but, as the first was my 'indoctrination' to Mission Trip, and the second one of the most moving and eye-opening experiences of my life, these two stick out in my mind. 9th Grade Mission Trip: San Marcos, TX I was so excited to go work for an entire week. Well, 5 days. The mission work-week was Monday-Friday. Our youth leader would find some local organization in the city we chose (or we were 'chosen' for) that could help with the coordination of 100+ volunteers, supplies, lodging, etc. and knew where the work was needed. That year it was the Southside Community Center in San Marcos. Yep. You read right. 100+ volunteers. Ours was a large youth group. We had a lot of active members, and other not-so-active members. Some kids were 'forced' into service by their parents (builds character). Not me. I jumped at the chance and was always ready to work to pay for my mission trip privilege. It wasn't cheap sending us all to wherever we needed to go, and we would work garage sales, pancake breakfasts, fish fry's, concession stands at Cowboy games, car washes, whatever. Yes, not only did I give up one week per summer, I spent an entire year working toward it. We packed up into a bunch of 15 passenger vans and made the drive down to San Marcos. Once we got there, we divided up into 'families'. These were our work-crews and worship groups. We would stick with the same group of people for the entire week, working together and bonding. The leaders divided kids up so as to put them with other youth and leaders that they maybe didn't know so well. This first year, I learned how to do roofing. My group was to replace the entire roof on a house. So, we grabbed some shovels, climbed a ladder, and started by stripping the entire roof of shingles. Once we'd cleared off all the shingles and tar paper, we pulled off the rotting roof deck. Down to the attic studs. We cut replacement boards, hauling them up and down the ladder, and nailed them in place. One nail at a time, with a hammer. Yeah, I got good at driving a nail. After we'd replaced the decking, we laid down new tar paper. Now, remember, this is San Marcos, TX, in June. Looking back at the weather data from when I think we took this trip, the high daily temps were 97, 99, 100, 100, 93. We were on a roof. With no shade. Laying black tar paper. What was I wearing for shoes? Well, this was 1989, so of course, I was wearing Keds. Yes, my shoes melted and stuck to the roof. I also almost passed out and fell off the roof. But, I didn't, as so am still here to torture you. We stapled down the tar paper, laying down little silver aluminum disks to protect the paper from tearing when we whacked the stapler down. Tar paper done, we started shingling the roof. We carried the bundles of shingles up the ladder. I remember these being really, really heavy. We laid our starter strip, measured out the rows, snapped our chalk-lines, staggered the tabs on the next rows, and the next thing you knew, we had shingled a roof. One nail at a time. Yep, even did the ridge cap. In fact, we finished the roof in four days time, so we were able to help finish the roof on another house. Five days of hard, sweaty, manual labor. And I loved every swing of the hammer. 10th Grade Mission Trip: Chavies, KY This year, we went to Chavies, KY, and worked in conjunction with the Appalachia Service Project. This was probably the most profound year for me, as I saw sights that I would never imagined I would see in our country. We stayed in an old school building in one of the smallest towns I've ever been in. They had a post office, a gas station, a small market, and that's all I can remember. One of those places that if you blinked, you would miss it. Literally. Don't believe me? Click the link on Chavies above, and then zoom all the way in on MapQuest. Yeah. I think I counted 10 streets. The people that lived in this community were coal miners. They were the poorest of the poor. The uneducated. The 'backwoods' folk. Their children were dirty and hungry. Their bikes ran on the rims, as there were no tires to be had. There was no food in the kitchen. The house was heated by a coal-burning stove. The coal was stacked in a pile in the front of the house. There was no yard. Only dirt and the side of a hill. The house had three rooms. The main room, with the only light-bulb in the house. The bedroom that slept the entire family. The kitchen, with a sink that had no running water. A hose snaked into the kitchen window. The hose was hooked to a series of hoses that wound half-way up the side of the mountain to the only source of running water. This is how they did their dishes. The floor was bare wood, knotted and dusty. The walls were bare sheetrock, with no insulation. Walking out the back steps, you encountered their bathtub. With a firm layer of dirt indicating that the bath had not been used in some time. Continuing to walk down the path from the back of the house, you came to the old outhouse. You had to walk past this to get to the new outhouse. The first thing we did was fix the pitch of the roof. We tore out the ceiling and re-braced the studs, headers and joists, replacing sections that were too rotted to be simply braced. We also replaced their chimney flue. How their house had not burned down the previous winter we don't know. We then insulated their walls. Even with long sleeves and baby powder, I itched for the rest of the week from the fiberglass insulation. We sheet rocked the walls and ceiling, even staying late on the second to last day to make sure the job was done. You see, the building inspector came around, just as we were finishing early. During his inspection, he realized that someone had given us the wrong nails. So, we had to carefully remove the sheetrock from the ceiling and put it back up with larger, bracketed sheetrock nails. We also dug a trench around the side of the house. You see, it was built on the side of a mountain. One side of the house was on stilts to keep it level. We braced these too. But on the mountain side of the house, water runoff was rotting the wood siding. They needed an irrigation trench. It was to be two feet wide and three feet deep according to the building inspector. I dug most of this out myself with a pick-axe and shovel. One of my friends carried the dirt to the other side of the house in a bucket. This went around the new bracings. The homeowners were old for mountain people. The husband had a beard that ran half-way down his chest, white and grey and grizzled, with a red streak down the center. Dyed by tobacco juice. He and his wife were mostly raising their granddaughter, aged about two, fathered by their 18 year old son, their youngest. In those five days, I feel that I did more good than I've done in any five days before or since. Why places like this exist in our country, I don't know.

The alarm went off at 4:15 a.m.

I was hoping the storms last night would have knocked out our power again so I could sleep in, but no such luck. So, I rose, dressed and ran. 4 miles, 46:04. 11:30 avg pace. If I can manage it tomorrow, I'll do a short run, but this may likely have been my last run before I leave for Colorado Thursday morning. I'm getting nervous... And as a side note: I think I've mentioned my handy-dandy running log. I record the time and distance of all of my runs, as well as which shoes I wore, and the date I bought each pair of shoes. The log then calculates pace, and gives me two estimates for a marathon finish. The four miles this morning has me up to 250 miles in my Brooks since April 13. I think I will retire this pair after Colorado this weekend. That doesn't include miles in my Asics or my Trail Shoes. Wow. That's a lot of miles. :D

Mission Trip

Monday, August 15, 2005

I got to thinking about this when reading another blog recently. I don't think volunteering is promoted enough. I think this should be a part of our normal lives, not just something we do on occasion. I plan on trying to incorporate this more into my life, and teach my kids to do it too. When I was growing up, my family was very involved in the church. I was raised Methodist by my mom, and my dad's family was Baptist. Despite the fact the volunteering wasn't promoted to me elsewhere, the church I attended was active in work in the community. Starting in Jr. High, we were encouraged to start our mission work. We performed community service both in our community on weekends and such, and also outside our community for longer periods of time. 8th Grade was my first opportunity to experience this type of service. 8th Grade Mission Trip: San Antonio, TX Since we were squirrelly pre-teens, we weren't expected to be able to go out and work for days on end, with hard, manual labor. Instead, they were going to break us in easy. So, they combined a 'fun' trip with a 'mission trip'. I'm not sure how many of us there were, maybe 30 or 40? We drove to San Antonio, and stayed in a hotel. We got to go to Sea World, and explore the River Walk. But, we also had devotional time, and talked about mission work and the purpose and need for helping others. Our mission for this trip was going to be working at the Methodist Mission Home. This is a facility that will house young mothers wanting to put their children up for adoption. They facilitate the adoption process and provide various services to birth and adoptive families. Our job was to perform maintenance work for the facility. I remember doing a lot of sweeping. We also did some landscaping. The work wasn't difficult, and I had all the time in the world. So, giving my time to someone else seemed to be an easy thing to do. And, at this point, it was only one day. The facility looked better after we left. The residents could enjoy their temporary home more, and I had done something good for someone else. So began my enjoyment of this annual pilgrimage. After this, I was hooked. I went on a mission trip each year in High School. I'll tell you more about those over this week.

I need a nap *yawn*

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I'm beat! Ran 15.2 miles today, 3:03. A bit slower than a couple of weeks ago, but those were near-perfect weather conditions. Today was very humid. I started out slowly and finished strong; in fact I think I was faster on the back half of the run. Adding to my exhaustion is the fact that Nick and I went to Gilley's last night. I wanted to ride the bull, but I didn't have my camera. So, I saved that for next time. We had so much fun! Well, except for the train getting there (scary people) and getting back (drunk people on a pub crawl). I'm not much of a cowgirl (I don't listen to country music by choice, and I can barely two-step, but Nick has a bit of a cowboy side to him, and he looks good in a cowboy hat, so we gave it a whirl. I'll go back again, just driving next time. Yeah, I think the getting back on the train was the worst. We were crammed into the train like sardines, shoulder to shoulder, and Nick is a little bit claustrophobic. He'd told me this before, but I hadn't seen it till last night. Poor thing. All those people crowded in, and I saw his eyes go wide. We didn't have a choice to get off though because we were on the last train of the night. Hiring a cab would have been 'spensive. We managed to get through 10 stops without incident, and the drunk pub-crawlers all finally got off the train to drink more. Not that they needed to. Then we made a late-night stop at IHOP. I had french toast. Now I'm hungry again. So, off to take a shower, then spend the day recovering from my run. Thanks to those who played the game on Friday! I hope you thought it was fun! I'll finish the last three that are now due, and post those later.

Would you like to play a game?*

Friday, August 12, 2005

Fun for a Friday, right? Of course! We'll see if I can be creative enough and (hopefully) funny enough to pull this off. I played with True Jersey Girl yesterday. 1) Put your name in my comments and I'll respond with something random about you. 2) I'll tell you what song or movie reminds me of you. 3) I'll pick a flavor/color of jello to wrestle with you in. (maybe) 4) I'll say something that only makes sense to you and me. 5) I'll tell you my first memory of you. 6) I'll tell you what animal you remind me of. 7) I'll ask you something I've always wondered about you. 8) If I do this for you, you MUST post this on your blog. + Results may vary *Bonus points to the first person who correctly identifies the movie from which this line is taken and the name of the OS/computer.

The Last Hill Workout

Thursday, August 11, 2005

YAY! Done with Hill Work! Today was the last hill workout posted on our marathon training schedule. Next Thursday I leave for Colorado, so I'll get in a few hills there, but no more hill repeats! After Colorado we start alternating Yasso's with Mile-repeats on Thurdays. Once I figure out exactly what those are, I'm sure I'll wish I were running hills instead. But, despite despising hill workouts, I had a great workout today! We ran 11 repeats. I finished these in 44:50, for an average pace of 10:10. Yeah, but that's all because I can really speed up on the down-hills. Gravity is on my side. ;) I finally got smart and measured the distance I run. .2 miles uphill, then back down. So, each repeat is .4 miles total. 4.4 miles today. Plus I added on a little 5 minute cool-down. Whew! Now I'm stinky and need a shower!

That's twice!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In one day that I ran that is. I got a surprise email from a friend from my high school days. He's looking to start running again, and (surprise!) he figured out that I do that. :) His wife is about a month away from having their second baby, so she's not able to run with him. We met out at Arbor Hills last night. We ran 3.2 miles in 37:27, and even had a bit of breath to talk about jobs, kids and old friends. Great run last night Mr. C!

Welcome Home Soldiers

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

This morning I drove out to DFW Airport to welcome some of our soldiers home from Iraq for two weeks of R&R. I don't believe that this war is worth the cost, but I do believe in the men & women that are fighting. They are following their own path, and I am here to support them. Awhile back, I stumbled across the blog of a soldier currently in Iraq. He has some interesting thoughts and ideas. Again, not ones that I am particularly in agreement with on all levels, but he is willing to debate and consider the thoughts of anyone who cares to post. He's on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, but if you take the time to read his archives (at least his original posts...the comments sections can be quite lengthy), you'll get a good idea of what some of the soldiers are going through. For the men and women that arrived home today, I shook their hands, hugged them, welcomed them home, and hopefully showed them that they are appreciated. They are indeed.

Track Run

I had a good track run this morning. Seems like I have a good track run after a crappy marathon pace run...I've seen this pattern before. 3 miles, 31:50, 10:35 average pace I will have to run some more tonight. My plan to get to the track early didn't work out this morning, and I had somewhere to be (post to come) early this morning.

Two important events!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Birthday Party Last night my whole clan gathered to celebrate my littlest sister's 20th birthday. I drew the short straw and got to host. Despite forgetting to buy charcoal (yes, I have a charcoal grill...not a gas grill. Despite the effort, it provides MUCH better flavor) at both Target and Kroger, we managed to get the grill fired up and chicken cooked. The potatoes got mashed, and the hollandaise turned out PERFECT. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food...there were only two chicken breasts left over. My sister is about to move into a campus apartment (different from a dorm) and needs furnishings, so she got money and gift certificates to go to the new Ikea store that just opened. My brother was the only soul brave enough to actually venture to the store...with 15,000 other people. I just gave her cash. My mom made two cakes and cupcakes for dessert. The chocolate cake was delicious. It looks a little off I know, but it was so humid the icing wouldn't stand up. Plus she drives like a maniac, so what chance did the cake have? That's my mom with Ell. I was in desperate need of a beer...or four. Sorry about the 'no-make-up look'. It was a long day combined with four kids running through my house at top volume! Aren't my sisters pretty!? The three sisters. Oh, and we have a brother too. He's awesome. He still speaks to us despite the fact that we used to dress him up in our flower-girl dresses and made him play with us. Well, I used to transform all his Transformers because he couldn't, and I played Hotwheels with him too. He was such a sweet kid. My niece, Zed, Ell, & my sister's god-daughter. What a bunch of silly kids! First Day of School Today was also the first day of school! I know...it is waaay to early to be going back, but our school district just loves 'breaks'. We have a fall break less than 8 weeks after starting back, and all kinds of three and four day weekends. Whatever...hoity toity school districts will do whatever they want. The both of them before we left the house. And, Ell in her class. Zed wouldn't let me take a picture of him. First day of 5th grade...wants to be the cool kid you know. They both know kids in their class, so they were excited. No tears from either one of them!