Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Memories

 A bittersweet year.

That was my first thought as I opened my 2013 memory jar and spread the contents before me.  My memory jar brought up feelings of happiness and great sadness.  As I take a moment to reflect on the last twelve months, I would like to share some events that were the most important to me.

January 2013 found me joining my first running club, The Red River Road Runners.  A friend introduced me to this running club and gave me one of their flyers.  I became a member of the RRRR running club, and a few days later I ran one of their 5K Winter Series races. 

January 19- Caleb turned 13, and I now have 2 teenagers in the house. 

January ended with my husband and I refinancing our mortgage from 7% to 2.75%.  Yes, you read that right, and I will probably never see that again in my lifetime.

Nothing too exciting happened in February so let's fast forward to March.

March 21- Nicholas turned 18 years old!  Wow, time sure flies by!  My sweet little boy has grown up to become a sweet young man.

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words," and I most certainly agree!  As equally exciting as refinancing the mortgage was in January, two months later I would reap the benefit of being debt free especially from that dreaded student loan I picked up when I decided to go back to school a few years ago and get my Master's degree.  Whoo-Hoo!

April 22- I celebrated Earth Day by planting my first vegetable garden.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, chili peppers, and a few herbs is what went into my little garden.  It was nothing fancy, but I was one proud gardener. 

My sweet grandmother passed away this year on May 17th.  She was 100 years old.

I was lucky enough to spend time with her as I was growing up.  Some of the best memories I have were made at her house.  One of those was eating dinner.  She loved to cook and made the best homemade biscuits ever. 

When I was a child I remember having sleepovers at her house when my cousins came to visit.  We would make pallets to sleep on all over the living room and stay up for hours. 

She loved to play scrabble and Yahtzee.  She also loved to sew, and when I would come to visit I would often see her working on another quilt for someone.  And, when you walked through her door she would have coffee waiting or ready to make.

While my grandmother had a sweet side she did not put up with foolishness and was not afraid to discipline anyone who needed it.  One time I was playing in her yard and decided to climb the fence.  I guess she was peeking out the windows because the next thing I knew she came out and told me to go pick out my own switch.  Although I tried to find the smallest one possible, it still hurt!  I never did climb anymore fences though. 

When I was in high school I struggled with algebra, and one day I found out she had loved math.  I'll never forget her sitting down with me and patiently explaining a problem I was struggling with.  She was good!

I would often sit in her kitchen and listen to her tell me family stories.  I could listen to her for hours.

I love my grandmother and will miss her dearly.  I'm so thankful for the time I had to spend with her and all the fond memories.  She will forever be in my heart.

                                                    Dottie Elliott

May 23-  I ran the Mudbug Madness 5K race.  Not only was it hot and humid, the race began in the evening.  Can you say hot, yucky, and tired?!  A teacher friend of mine was also running and I met up with her before the race began.  This was our before picture.  I'm sure we were already sweating before we even started running.

May 30-   Chris and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary.

June 14-  I turned 45.  Happy Birthday to me!

June 29-  Southern Ladyrunner was created.  This is a community Facebook page I created, in addition to my personal page, where I can share my running experiences, motivation, and tips to those who are interested or loves running as much as I do while not boring everyone else.  In less than a month my page had 100 likes and as of today it has 265 likes.  This is unbelievably exciting and tells me I must be doing something right if that many people are interested and continue to stay with me.

What was the most exciting thing about July?  I bought a new car!  This is my new 2013 Honda Accord that I love!!!

August 10-   I embarked on a new journey.  Last year I had made up my mind and registered to run a half marathon in 2013.  As the time drew closer to begin training, I joined USA Fit.  I trained with them for 3 1/2 months every Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. with the exception of a couple of race days in between, and it all paid off!

August 31-  I ran the Saints Back to Football 5K.  So fun!!!  This race began in front of the Superdome in New Orleans, La and ended on the fifty yard line.  This was one of the most exciting 5K races I have ever done!

Then on September 7, I ran the Run or Dye 5K in Shreveport.

And, the Autumn Breeze on Oct. 19th.  This was my very first 10K race. 

November 24-  A day I will never forget.  I ran my first half marathon.  This was a story to be told all by itself.  You can find that story on my previous blog entitled 13.1.


On a cold winter Monday morning, I received a call from my mother that stopped my world for a moment.  My dad had been rushed to the emergency room early that morning from difficulties with breathing. 

A few years ago dad had been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphoma Leukemia and had recently begun his first chemo treatment.  He had been in and out of the hospital for a couple of months.

He began radiation treatment for skin cancer his doctor found behind his ear and soon after started chemo for his CLL.  After dad received his first chemo treatment, he came down with a fever.  His immune system was very weak and he often had difficulty breathing.  On Thanksgiving he was sent home, and my family was able to spend time with him.  We thought he was doing better.

After receiving the call from my mother that dad was in the ER, I spent the rest of the day at the hospital.  My family and I was with him until he took his last breath.  On December 2, my dad passed away.  This was the saddest day of my life.  I don't think I have ever cried as much as I did that week. I miss him so much.  That next day I ran the hardest I have ever ran.  I ran for my dad, I ran for the sadness, I ran for the heartache.  There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about him.  He was such a wonderful dad and I loved him very much.

 December 10-  I ran again.  I had entered my town's 5K Christmas run the month before and after dad passed I almost didn't run.  After thinking about it, I decided to go ahead and run.  My dad would have wanted me to, so I ran for him.  That race gave me a PR (personal record), and I ran the fastest 3 miles I have ever run, a 33:35 time.  Thanks, Dad!

December 25-  My husband gave me the sweetest Christmas present ever.  On Christmas Eve my husband kept asking me what my favorite Christmas gift I ever received was.  After thinking about it, I told him it would have to be the gift he gave me when we first started dating. He gave me a small Christmas bear figurine that I sit out every Christmas.  On the back he wrote simply, To Karen, Love Chris.  Then he said, "I bet I can top that." 

My husband and Aunt Charlene made and printed my half marathon story into a 20 page photo book.  It was a surprise gift I received from my husband on Christmas Day and a gift I will always cherish.

Yes, it has been a bittersweet year.  But, I made it through and will continue to move forward with the help of God, my family, and the comfort of knowing I'll see my father and grandmother again one day.

So, I am ending this year honoring my father and grandmother.  I dedicate to them all of my 2013 memories and end the year with this poem.

On Eagle's Wings
And He will raise you up
on eagle's wings,
bear you on
the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine-
like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My First 13.1

It began a year ago.  I came upon a friend's Facebook post that she had just finished the 2012 William's Route 66 Half Marathon.  When she announced that she signed up for next year's Half, it was only $40, and who wanted to run it with her, I thought about it for a second and immediately signed up too.  From that moment on my journey began. 

I began running 2 years ago and up until now had never ran more than 4 miles.  I was a little hesitant but remembered hearing from another friend that if I could run a 5K distance I could train to run a Half.  She had also told me about a local running group that met in the summer to train for the Louisiana marathon in January.  I contacted them, was assured that I could train with them and be ready for my Half in November, and signed up.  Training began in August so I had about 4 months to get ready.

On November 22, 2013 my husband, two boys, and I packed our bags and drove the 6 hours from Bossier City, LA to Tulsa, OK for the 2013 William's Route 66 Marathon.  This was my first race that the entire family would get to experience, and I was excited that everyone wanted to be apart of my experience.

It was a cold, rainy evening when we finally left town.  We arrived in Tulsa around 2 a.m., and it was freezing cold!  Good thing I packed everything from shorts to tights and jackets.  No need to wonder what I was going to wear anymore because it was 32 degrees and not expected to get any warmer that weekend.

I woke up Saturday morning to the most amazing view from the 9th floor of our hotel.  The first thing I noticed was a running trail next to the hotel. I wanted to run that trail so bad, but since we got in late I had slept late, and now it was time to get ready to meet up with my friend who I hadn't seen in 10 years.  The rain had stopped and the forecast called for cold, cloudy, and windy for the next 2 days.

We spent that day picking up our race packets, walking around the expo exhibit, and then driving the course so I would know what to expect.  She told me that the course had changed and there were lots of hills.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear.  With plans for her to come by and pick me up at 6:30 a.m., I arrived back at the hotel that evening, laid out all of my racing gear, set my alarm for 4:30 a.m., and we all went to bed early.

At 4:15 a.m. my 13 year old son, who always sleeps late, wakes me up.  I look at my clock and tell him I still have 15 more minutes and why is he up?   After hitting my alarm clock a couple of times and my son telling me to get up, I decide it's finally time to get up around 4:45.  Normally I have this time to myself as I get ready, but I was actually glad he was awake.  We talked as I got dressed and ate my half sandwich with peanut butter, half of a banana, drank my coffee, and water. I think he really helped to calm my nerves.

My husband began waking up around 6:00.  I spent a few minutes going over some details of where they would be standing and how to get around street closures.  At 6:30 my friend arrived at the hotel and we were off.

The race began and ended in downtown Tulsa.  Her timing was perfect as we were able to get downtown before all of the street closures.  We found a parking spot in between the start and finish line.  Since we arrived in plenty of time before the race started we did a quick warm up jog to the Fleet Feet Sports store that was nearby.  It was 22 degrees with a 12 degree windchill.  We joined the hundreds of other runners trying to keep warm before the race.  No one had expected it to be this cold, and I kept hearing how this was unusual.  I assured my friend that I did not bring the cold weather with me.  The store took a group photo of all of us then we headed out into the cold.  We headed to a nearby hotel to find a restroom, checked our bags in, and headed to the start line.

Once we got to the start line we had to separate.  She was in corral A and I was in C.  I knew we wouldn't be running together and was ok with that.  We wished each other good luck, and I told her I would see her at the finish line.  I heard the national anthem being sung as I headed to my corral.  I quickly walked up to my wave group as it ended and found a spot in the middle of the group.  As I waited for my wave to begin running I chatted with a woman next to me while trying to keep my feet moving.  It was so cold I could not feel my toes.  Our wave was finally given the go. We quickly moved up, the horn went off, and away we went as I pressed my start button on my Garmin watch.  There was plenty of entertainment to be seen amongst us runners.  You never know what you will see in a race.

 We headed down Main Street, turned the corner, and immediately had to run downhill.  Thank goodness I was prepared since my friend and I had drove the course the day before.  She warned me to not go out too fast because this is just the first mile and there will be more hills.  Yes, I listened!  I got down to the bottom of the hill and was greeted with the first band.  I was all smiles.  Just as soon as I came down that hill it was time to head up the next one.  Yes, this is still mile 1!  I turned the corner at mile 1 and the first thing I saw were clothes everywhere.  People were shedding shirts, pants, gloves, and even trash bags.  Not me! I was not shedding anything, and I still couldn't feel my toes!

As we ran past mile 2 the course led us through Cascia Hall Preparatory School.  I could have stopped right here and gazed at this building for awhile.  The architecture was absolutely beautiful.  This is one of the great things about running.  You get to see things you never knew existed.

Around mile 3 I could finally start to feel my toes again. We ran past mile 4 and 5, which had more hills, then I pulled out my first GU energy gel.  At the 10K point, I began looking for my family.  I was surprised at how many spectators had came out to support us all along the course, especially in such freezing temperatures.  I don't know if they realize how much their cheers and support means to the runners, but it was amazing!  Every time I passed a spectator cheering us on I would thank them.  At the half way point I spotted my family.  They were holding their signs for me and saying your half way there.  I laughed as I passed Caleb and his sign, "Just Keep Swimming!"

I ran through mile 7 and as I reached mile 8 I heard my son calling my name.  I looked over and saw my husband driving and following me along Peoria Ave.  I smiled and waved back at my family as they drove on ahead.  They drove as far down as they could until we had to turn after mile 8.  I looked over one more time and saw my son waving his "Just Keep Swimming" sign.  I laughed, gave him a thumbs up, and kept on going.

We turned on to Riverside Dr. and at mile 9 I pulled out another GU.  Thankfully, this was a flat stretch of three miles along the Arkansas River.  At mile 10 I heard someone shout, "That was a 10 mile warm-up, now just a 5K left!"  At this point I was starting to slow down.  I started to feel a little annoying pain on the outside of my left knee.  I had been doing my run 3 min/ walk 2 min pace, but now began to do a little longer walk break than 2 min.  I made my way through mile 11 and then turned onto Southwest Blvd to mile 12 and passed under a bridge with a Route 66 sign.

At mile 12, I was ready to get to the finish line.  With only a 1/2 mile or so to go I was barely shuffling along.  I looked up and saw the one thing I did not want to see, another hill.  Ugh! This one I had to walk up as my knee was hurting again.  About that time I saw my friend, who had already finished, run up next to me encouraging me on. We made it up the hill and I took off running again.  A little ways down I thought my right calf was going to cramp up on me so I slowed down.  It didn't.  I turned the last corner and spotted the finish line.  I ran through the finish line, with hands in the air, and a big smile on  my face.  I had just finished my first half marathon!  I finished in 3 hours, 20 seconds.

I walked through the row of volunteers handing out race blankets and medals.  Once I got my medal, I spotted the photographers taking pictures.  I put down my things and posed for my finishing picture.  At this point I could feel every muscle in my legs.  It hurt to even bend down to pick up my water.  I walked through a tent where more volunteers were serving small cups of spaghetti with a roll and handing out water and Gatorade.  As I walked on through the tent grabbing my food and drinks, I  saw my friend.  We made our way to the bag check area congratulating each other.  If it wasn't so cold I would have loved to walk around some.  I pulled out my cell phone and called my husband.  He said they were back at the hotel so I asked my friend if she could drop me back off at the hotel.  Wearing our medals, we began our walk to the car.  After running 13.1 miles, walking to the car was not fun.  She told me that walking was what I needed to do and that it would help me.

After making plans to meet back up for dinner, I went back to the hotel to clean up and pack for the trip back home.  We met back up one last time to visit, take pictures, and eat.  We even made plans to do another one again someday together.

 A big THANK YOU goes out to my long time best friend, Amy, for making this journey a reality and an experience I will never forget.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My First Stridebox Review

I received my first subscription for Stridebox in the mail this month and was so excited that of course I had to blog about it!  First, let me introduce Stridebox to you.  For those of you not interested I'll understand, but if you are a runner like me you may find this blog helpful and informative.  Stridebox is a monthly subscription box for runners that delivers an assortment of running accessories, gear, and nutritional products to you for only $15 a month.

The picture below shows all the goodies that came in my box this month.  I have decided to write about each product as I try it and give a little review of what I thought about it.

Jelly Belly Sport Beans

I decided to try the sport beans first because it was a running day for me. The quick energy label very much appealed to me at that moment.  I had just arrived home from work, and my energy was depleted.  I had to get in a run and was resting a few minutes trying to find the motivation to get started.  I thought this would be a great time to try something from The Box.  The jelly bean had sort of a vitamin taste at first, but it is a jelly bean and you can taste the sugar too.  This needs to be eaten with water because it is sweet and makes you thirsty.  It gave me the energy I needed though to get up and start running.  I finished my run and noticed that it did not get my stomach upset during or after my run.  I have not tried any other energy chews yet so, I will be interested to see how they compare with other products.

Klitch Footwear Clip

The Klitch is a footwear clip that allows you to hang your running shoes to the outside of your bag.  It took me a few minutes to figure out how to attach my shoes to the clip, but once I got them attached on my bag I really loved this accessory.  This will come in handy on the days when I head to the gym but can't go home to change clothes first.  I love how you can just clip your shoes without having to carry them or put them in the bag with clothes.  It's convenient and easy to use.  I will be interested to see how long the Klitch holds up, but I hope it lasts for awhile.  On a side note, I really need to get me a new bag.

Perfect Fit Raw Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder

I decided to try the Perfect Fit protein powder for breakfast.  I have never tried a protein powder, but looking at the package it had everything I would want.  It's raw, organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and only 70 calories per serving.  They sent the vanilla flavor and I decided to mix it in with my smoothie.  I did not like this at all.  I could not taste the delicious, fruity taste at all.  Just a powdery, chalky, earthy taste.  I noticed on the package that it is sweetened with organic stevia.  I had never heard of stevia so I googled it.  I found out it is an all-natural sweetener unlike other artificial sweeteners.  I also read where it can leave an after taste in your mouth.  Perhaps this is another reason I did not like this product.  It did leave a horrible after taste in my mouth as well as the smell.  There was a recipe card that came with it so I learned that you do not have to use this in shakes or smoothies.  There is a pancake recipe using this, and I'm sure you can use this for other recipes as well.  I don't think I would try this again though.  I just did not care for it at all.

Bottle Bright

I love this product!  I tried this on my water bottle, and it removed all stains and odors in just 15 minutes.  It had a fresh, clean smell without any soap or chlorine taste or smell.  To use this product I filled the bottle with warm water and allowed the tablet to dissolve for about 5 minutes.  I then stirred it up, left it sitting for 10 minutes, and rinsed.  This was so easy to use!  I think this will be a great cleaning product to use on my water bottles and travel mugs.

Vi Fuel Endurance Gel

Be careful!  I opened the package and when I started squeezing the gel out it got everywhere.  I have never tried a gel before so I wasn't sure what to expect with this.  I really liked the peach cobbler flavor.  The package said to take it 15 min. before a run and then every 30-45 min. after that.  I tested this product out before a 3 mile run and since I only had this sample I ate it before my run with water.  Aside from being very thirsty during this run around mile 2 I did not have any side effects from it.  On a 3 mile run I don't normally take water with me and I'm not sure if it was the gel or just the running that made me so thirsty.  When I finished my run I noticed it did not leave me feeling sick or anything, and it did keep my energy up well after my run.  It had a sweet taste but not overly sweet or sugary.  I would definitely try this again as I increase my miles and run longer.  I also read that there is a chocolate flavor.  I would definitely try that one too.

 Just Keep Running Sticker

I spent a few days trying to figure out where to put the sticker.  It ended up on the freezer.  What better place than on the freezer I keep for posting anything related to running that I'm interested in at the time.  Now it will be a constant reminder for me to Just Keep Running.

Just Great Stuff Organic Bar                          

This is a chewy organic bar made from berries, dates, and cashews.  Ar first I thought it would taste like a granola bar.  It was actually more chewy with berries, dates, and cashews blended together.  I was expecting more of a sweet taste but to me it had more of a bitter taste sort of.  I thought it was ok, but I think I would prefer a banana over this type of recovery bar.

Bonk Breaker Bites

Bonk bites are energy and protein bars.  The peanut butter and jelly flavor is what I sampled.  It tasted like a peanut butter granola bar only fresh and moist, not dry.  If I had to choose between this or a peanut butter cookie, I would choose the bonk bites. 

Blister Protectors

This is a great band-aid.  I was wondering if I was going to get the chance to try this out before the month was over and I did.  I used it on the bottom of my right foot when I noticed a sore rubbing against my flip flop.  This band-aid has lasted 2 days without coming off.  It has lasted through walking around at work, bare foot, in flip flops, running, and in the shower.  It's transparent and blends right in with my skin so that you hardly even notice it.  I almost forgot about it until I remembered I probably needed to check on it.  The band-aid came off easy without it pulling the skin at all.  I will definitely look for these to buy.

Honey Stinger Energy Chews

This product I saved for last for my first summer 5K run.  I new I would need some energy to help me with this one.  The race was an evening run, hot, and humid.  I ate a few before the run and really liked it.  It tasted like a gummy bear with a hint of honey.  They are easy to chew, don't stick to your teeth or hands, no stomach upset, and you don't need to drink water with them.  Loved them and would highly recommend this product.