Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Race Day, Race Day, Gotta Run Fast on Race Day..

A little "run down" of what goes down on a home race day. 

I sleep in a little more...and run less. 
I also get my dinner ready to warm up as soon as I get home since it will be so late. 
This is what I had for lunch-toaster waffle with blackberry jam, blueberries, and strawberries. I have coffee at school every day, too.
Ya know, just some more evidence of my gift...
I tried a new protein bar and loved it!  It was the Picky Bars Smooth Caffinator.
I love to participate in contests and projects, so I did this one for Camelbak's #LivingColorful and to remind my team to hydrate!
Another new thing I tried before this race was the same brand of drink mix that I've been using when it's been more humid and I sweat more, but the kind with caffeine! I don't know if I even drank enough to make a difference, but it tasted good.
Before our first home meet, things are busy. We do team and individual pictures as well as take pictures with every single banner from each sponsor to send them a thank you. 
We start warming up about an hour before race time, make final bathroom breaks, and change shoes before heading to the line around 15 minutes before where we do strides, team prayer, and our cheer. At this meet Coach Burroughs sang the national anthem and our area FCA leader led us all in a prayer. Coach Farmer is the starter!  (Should we trust him with a gun?)

I'd say it would compare to any of the toughest high school courses you would find anywhere. If you know anything about course record times, my old record was 19:40 (However I've lowered it to 18:38). It's tough, hilly, rocky, and rooty, but I love the challenge. We tell our new girls that if they can race our home course, they can make it anywhere. 
Flat, open start, a loop through/around some trees, the mile loop, a little flat area past the campground, cross the road and onto Old Wagon where there are little spectators but big hills. The two mile mark is at the top of a long, gradual hill about halfway through. After another half mile comes the toughest hills, a short and steep one and a long and steep one. But this is my favorite part!  It's up that hill and you're on the downhill stretch--literally!  You go down the big hill and it flattens out!  From there you run to the 3 mile marker, round the corner, and to the finish!
We are also lucky not only to have the park to practice and host races, but to have an official timing system, too!  We also have some pretty great music, and having a great race makes me want to dance; dance is what I did (just a little after I caught my breath and legs). 
Farmer likes to do his races a little different order than most, where the boys race first. His logic is that they run faster so they'll all finish sooner so the girls can start sooner. (This helps even more at our second home meet because middle school races two 2-mile races after us, followed by an elementary 1-mile race that I get the joy of leading!  It really hurts me trying to run after a race, even after a cool down, but that's just what happens! Racing hard is brutal on a body!  However, I get a big head start and just show them where to go. By the end when they pass me I just tell them where to go.)
That was the race from more of an outsider's perspective, so here it is from a runner.  I won't give too much detail, because running and racing is just something that you can't understand unless you actually do it.
Before races, I am never sure how things will go.  Like James 4:14 says, "You do not even know what will happen tomorrow..."  I always make time to read some scriptures and pray before every race to give me some peace and focus for what I am about to do.  Before this race, I read Psalm 37.  A couple verses from there that stood out were the first words:  "Do not fret..." because I was a little nervous for this first race.  Verse 4 is also one of my all-time favorites:  "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
  I also wrote 1 Peter 4:11 on my lower leg to remind me that I have to do this with His strength because I literally have none.  Especially with anemia, I have no energy except that that God fills me with.  Then because it is all from Him, it is all for Him.  The result is to use His strength to proclaim that strength.
  This is my calling.  Each race is an opportunity to use my gifts.  Whether I win or lose, feel good or miserable, if I have done my best, the result is God's plan.  I am to use every step to shine for Him.  Win, I praise Him.  Lose, I praise Him.  Racing is not easy.  Start lines are the scariest part.  Hearing that gun go off and the stampede of runners taking off in that first speed out is a bit intimidating!  There are so many bodies all heading for the same place as the trail narrows; I am always relieved when this part is over. 
Throughout races, I pray, sing bits of songs, and remember Bible verses.  Some particular to this race were from the Psalms passage, verse 24, "though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand," and the Bible Gateway verse of the day from the day before from Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble."  Though I did stumble a few times, literally, I did not fall!  And though I have my fears and failures, God never lets me fall.
The song that was in my head was "Lord I Need You
Races seem to fly by so fast!  The great ones especially.  This night was one of those.  When I have a run where I feel so free and flying and joyful, it is truly a gift from God.  I was so excited and thankful crossing that finish line, feeling better than I had since last season, relieved to have my first race this season done, I was filled with joy to the point of tears!

I have become so attached to my teammates!  They truly are my best friends. These two have been with me running since 6th grade, and Katlyn has been with me since kindergarten. Now we're seniors. We are so much more mature and have been through so much, but we are so thankful to have each other through the struggles. Each struggle is unique, but we can all relate. We are so pumped to be here in this season.
On Monday, we didn't all 3 plan to dress up, but since we did, I wanted to get a pretty picture of us.  Then we decided that we needed one just like it in our uniforms before the race and our first-team shirts after the race.  Again, there through it all!
Not to brag, just honestly what happens, I can't name a Panther Creek race where we didn't get a perfect score.
Farmer always picks out different colored first and second team all-meet shirts to give out to the top and second seven finishers. The individual winner gets a nice embroidered polo (one year was sweatshirts), and the top teams get plaques. 

After awards and pictures, it's time to head up the hill to the parking lot and back home!
It's late. No shower before dinner these nights.  I threw my leftover bows in the microwave and whipped up some dessert, finally cleaning up around 9:30. Now I still had to unpack and repack for school, do some work, and shower before bed. I love my sleep but race nights are just one of those times I am up late!
It may seem like a long day, but it flies by. 
I love it. 
There really is nothing like cross country season. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Access Life Expo

Last Saturday I got an amazing opportunity to volunteer as a "buddy" at the Access Life Expo for people with disabilities.  The East Tennessee location was held at Cherokee Dam.  My friend Maddie who is the president of Sub Debs, a club I am in, got some of us involved easily since her mom was one of the lead coordinators. 
Some girls came and worked the game station for an hour or so throughout the day, and a couple of us were there from 8:30-2:00 to be with a buddy.
We were thankful for a beautiful, warm, and sunny day out on the lake to have some fun with these kids and adults!
When each participant was matched up with their buddy, they got to walk through a tunnel we made while their name was announced and we all cheered.  This is Abby and Connar with their buddy Hannah, age 9.
As soon as I saw this cutie walking up, I could feel it inside that she is who I wanted to be my buddy!

Connar and Abby double-teamed with Hannah. I wasinpressed by her painting!
"An S for Sarah and a cross for Jesus."
Sarah is a member of the Sunshine Ambassadors, a dance group for people with disabilities. They have several locations around East Tennessee, and have classes to attend and go places like this expo!
Since we were out by the lake, one of the activities was a float boat ride!  This was Sarah's favorite part. She also got to "drive."
These are just a few of the stations that were her favorties.  There were also snacks, archery, coloring, crafts, fishing, kayaking, crafts, prayer tables, bracelets, fingernails, and more!
There was also a section of animals to pet and play with.
The furs kept the girls entertained as they chased each other around with them like they were real!
Golf and fishing were a it more of a challenge, but it was still so much fun!
It is such a blessing to serve.  There is no feeling that compares to loving someone and not expecting anything back.  However, you usually end up getting something back, something more valuable than money can buy or you can acquire on your own.  God will fill you with that one-of-a-kind joy that He gives His servants and children.
Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

Serving others is ultimately serving God.

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 19:14

Little children are so important to the Lord.

"And He said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me."  Matthew 18:3-5

Children are the best example of how to approach God, totally humble, with that "childlike faith" in our Father who has the power to accomplish anything.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What About the Waffles?

I can't believe that I forgot this...
At the very beginning of summer, I got the sudden urge to get a waffle iron after I saw a cute idea on instagram.  Mom and I bought one at walmart, and I had some friends over, but I never shared it!

Luckily, Mom didn't get home until we were finished cooking, because she would've died seeing all the ingreedients we had out on the counter!  I can't remember them all, but here are the ones we chose from:  pumpkin, cinnamon chips, chocolate chips, Resee's Pieces, peanut butter, oreos, caramel chips, candy cane Hershey kissees, marshmallows, sprinkles, cocoa, Yorks, white chocolate chips, see where I'm going.
This pucture does not do Katlyn's waffle mix a bit of justice. You should've seen all the ingreedients she threw in there. I'm surprised that it even cooked!

We call poor Katlyn a walking struggle. Here is just one small example of her typical self. But the beautiful thing is, she is such a happy, positive person!  We make great best friends; she keeps me loose, and I keep her from losing things. 

Mine was Resee's Pieces, marshmallows, banana, and chocolate syrup!
This is the prettiest waffle I have ever made.
As usual with food at my picture with food in our mouths...
and one without!
Frisco always has to join the party.
Like the slogan Megan made up for us?
This spontaneous decision to have a little brunch party was a great way to start off my summer with lots of laughs and fun story telling and talks about whatever may come up.  It's a blessing to have friends like mine!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Can a Tennessee Girl Roll Tide?


More than anything else, people ask me where I'm going to college. My response is always the same. I. Don't. Know. This used to really stress me out and even make me mad because people were so pressuring, not that they knew that. They're excited that in a senior, and assume I have all this together. Hah!  I do not have it all together. But now things are starting to fall into place. 

I've narrowed down my top 4 college choices and have official visits scheduled in the fall. Now at least I can tell people that much!  Exploring all my college options isn't stressful anymore, but more fun and exciting!  Toward the end of July, we went to Tuscaloosa to have an unofficial visit and tour with one of the coaches. I had a blast getting to see the athletic facilities and drive through campus of one of the best colleges in the nation. 
After I found Dickey's BBQ Pit at the beach this year to be totally amazing, I'd been wanting to go to the one in Turkey Creek.  It was Mom's idea to stop here for dinner on our way to Alabama that night!  I had no idea where we may be driving through, but Mom was already on it, finding a place that made my day.
Sunset along the Tennessee River
Driving past downtown Chattanooga was full of lights.
Holiday Inn Express is one of my favorite places to stay.  With so much travel with cross country, we have become accustomed to Holiday Inn and Hampton.  This room key was also inspirational!  I was missing a morning of cross country practice, but I biked in the workout room at the hotel before breakfast and heading to campus.
Where the basketball gym, some athletic centers, training rooms, locker rooms, and offices are located
The main weight room is amazing.  This place is huge:  two stories!

The weight room has its own refueling center.  This cooler section is full of protein shakes, milks, yogurts, and more.  The counter has trail mix, protein bars, granola, fruit, adn more, too!
The Alabama A
Above the entrance to the weight room, where the team goes at least twice a week
Outside the entrance doors to the WR
Located in Coleman Coliseum, the track and cross country teams have some fancy locker rooms!
The campus at Alabama is beautiful!  They are also in the process of adding a huge chunk to it.  There is tons of grass, trees, and space to do all kinds of things.  It is very spread out, so you would have to like to walk, ride your bike, or drive back and forth.  There are rec fields out the wazoo for those who want to get out and play, and there is also a really nice pool with a slide and lazy river!  Places to eat and shop are located all over campus, so you're sure to find something you like.  If not, the town is also full of some great restaurants and stores!  New, updated dorms and other projects are always in the works to keep UA top-notch.  There is also a specific cafeteria for the athletes, the training table, but nonathletes can dine there, as well.  I was super impressed with campus and think that I would really enjoy going to school there!
This was in where I would consider kind of the center of things, outside where the Starbucks, SupeStore, several eating venues (Chick-fil-a, Subway, Wendy's, and more), student services, etc buildings are.
This is not your normal vending machine!  It's full of all kinds of supplies you might need throughout your day or for class.  Examples:  TI calculators, pencils, pens, sticky notes, tape,
highlighters, etc
This phone case in the supestore was pretty trendy.  They also had designs, Lily Pulitzer, and Alabama cases for any style!
One of my favorite parts of travel:  restaurants and shopping.  After leaving UA, we hit the Moe's down the street!  I know I've said that Salsarita's is my favorite, but Moe's gets a leg up on them by the salsa bar.  I can get as much of whatever kinds I want! 
There is also a Super Target, and Mom and I can't pass up that shopping opportunity.  Target is my favorite place to shop sales, sports, electronics, food, and Christmas!  That is actually where I ended up getting my dessert from the day.  Before checking out, I went to the fridge/freezer section and picked out a yogurt and a couple gelato pints to have for the ride back home!
After going on my first athletic tour of a college, I am really looking forward to taking official visits in the fall!  When I tell people around here that I am considering Alabama, they always pick on me because Tennessee and Alabama are such rivals, but I don't let it get to me anymore.  I'm going where God leads me, even if I am a "traitor" to my home-state Volunteers!  At UA, such top academic and athletic school, I know I would be taken care of.