Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Houston Half Marathon Recap 2019

My husband and I completed the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon last Sunday. It was my first time running the half-marathon in Houston. So far, I've been blessed to run 5 marathons and now, 5 half-marathons. 

Zeke and I have a lot of help when it comes to training and finishing long distance races. It truly takes a village. We have a sweet friend who keeps the kids while we run the half, which makes it easier on this mom's heart. 

We took the whole family to the expo on Friday. We noticed it was a two-step process to pick up our bib instead of the usual one step. The volunteers we friendly and helpful. I also noticed that the registration was held in a different room than the expo. We picked up our bib and went to a different room where the expo was. There were a lot of vendors, and tons of photo booths. We really enjoyed that. The participant t-shirts were in the back of the room. We picked up ours and walked around the expo a bit more before they closed. The kids had a great time. 

I learned from previous experience that doing too much the day before backfires when you need to race. I rested part of the day and prepared everything for the kids and myself for the next day. I took my flat Cintia picture, which was great because I noticed all the stuff I was missing. 

Went to sleep early and I woke up earlier than planned. I thought, no problem, I can read my Bible in a Year and get started with my day. It was 33 degrees that morning. I stepped outside and felt good about my clothing choices. 

A note on my training. I trained at 5 am twice a week for 32 weeks. A lot of those mornings were very cold. During those opportunities, I fine tuned what I needed to wear during cold weather. A lot of people made fun of my decision to train during cold days. I'm the person who benefited from getting out and training in the cold. Training was not easy or convenient but it was worth every dark and uncomfortable run. 

When we got to the GRB, it was early enough that I could attend the Protestant worship service. As we were singing praises to God, I cried and I expressed my thanksgiving to God for allowing me to be back after my sabbatical last year. The message that morning was about being thankful to God. I remember the pastor, who was running the half that morning say, "God is in control, let's be thankful." 

I went out to meet my running group. I'm thankful to God for them. They successfully helped me train for all of my races. The friendships I gained are priceless. I gave a lot of hugs and wished everyone well on their races. 

Zeke and I used the restroom before we left (great move). We went to our corral and waited in the 36 degree weather. It was windy too but I had one of those thick trash bags around me to cut down on the chill. 

Once the race started, I got ride of the trash bag. I had visualized how I need to finish the race, so I worked on my goal immediately. 

My goal was to finish strong, feeling great, standing up straight. Simple right? 

I followed my plan to run a mile and walk one minute. I told myself not to look at my pace, just run strong and enjoy each mile.

When I was on mile 7, I saw a text from my friend saying one of my kids had a fever. I immediately took my gloves off and texted her back with instructions for treatment. I asked her to text me back so I could check on my kid. I then noticed one of my gloves fell. I started to run back to grab it. I got some ugly looks from the runners (I do not blame them at all!) but I've had those gloves since my first season of marathon training. I couldn't leave my gloves behind. I picked them up and kept running. I also turned on the gospel music. 

I knew the course well from miles 1 through 8. I've ran it 4 times before. Mile 8 is the big split between full marathoners and half marathons. For the first time, I took the left turn with all the half-marathoners. 

I basically ran and prayed the whole way in. I also enjoyed the Half-marathon course. It is flat! I was pleasantly surprised. Well, it is way flatter than the marathon course for sure. It was great to run through Main Street close to rice. Those fountains by the Museum of Fine Arts are gorgeous to see! 

I took my bottle of water with me, so the only time I stopped was to get some Gatorade around mile 10. 

When I got to mile 11 I basically forgot about my intervals. I could see the elite athletes to my right. Now, that was an experience! Running the marathon course guaranteed that they were at the airport by the time I finished running my race - foreal. 

I kept running and it was interesting to be feeling that great that late in the race. I kept going. When we got close to mile 13, someone on the full course fell down. I alerted one of the course marshals who ran back to help the poor man that fell. 

When I got close to the finish line, I noticed a lady to my left was walking. I tapped her on the shoulder and said "come on, the finish line is right there." She started running super fast and zoomed past me. 

I then took a close look at the finish line. I started crying and thanking God for the opportunity to finish one more race. My heart was full. 

My time was 2:38:11, 5 minutes short of my PR. This time does not describe the gratefulness I am still experiencing. This time does not define me, my training and what I am able to run. This time is simply a reflection of what God allowed me to do that day. For that, I am incredibly thankful. 

I finished before Zeke, which was weird cause he usually takes naps waiting for me to come through the finish line. He too had a great race. 

Thanks to God, our kids' fever went down and she was feeling well by the time I was finishing the race. 

Today, two days after the race, I'm not as sore as I remember. Running a half-marathon and not killing myself in the process does have its perks. 

I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to do what I love while feeling well. I want to thank God for my husband, who is always there for me, who pays for everything (yep, running costs and Zeke pays the bill) and who is always patient with me and this hobby of mine. I'm proud of him for joining me in this adventure. Celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary by running 13.1 miles was pretty epic. 
I want to thank my kids for riding their bikes while I was piling the miles in the neighborhood. They had to slow down for me and that was a sacrifice lol!
I want to thank my amazing running group for running with me at dark o'clock. Seeing them reach their goals was a blessing beyond measure. I want to thank my running group for getting me to 5 marathon finish lines and 5 half marathon finish lines (not counting shorter distances). They have been in existence for 26 years and they really know how to get you from couch to the distance of your choice. 

Thank you my dear reader for joining me in this adventure!

What's next? I entered the NYC marathon. It's a lottery and it's not my first time trying. If I get in, you will be reading about my training. If not, I will be training for something else as exciting. Regardless of the goal, I will be running. 

Great things in '19: 4 goal questions

We’re back at the daily grind. Most New Year's resolution people are back to old habits. The gyms are back to empty-ish. The good thing is that we have a choice. Will you choose to change or would you rather stay the same? Here are some things to consider.

Consider your annual goals:
• Are they achievable? A few years ago I modified my annual goals because they were not achievable. Simpler goals are better goals to pursue. For example, instead of going after 57 goals, I decided to focus on the areas that will make the most difference in life. Inside those categories, I write no more than 3 goals.

Consider your monthly goals:
Are you making progress? You can't measure what you won't manage. It is important to manage your goals so you can have a monthly measure of your progress.

Consider your weekly goals:
Are you basing your schedule around your goals? Your goals should drive your weekly schedule. If you don't have an aim you will hit it every time. Own your schedule and fill it with activities that will support your goals.

Consider your daily goals:
Are you developing persistence to reach your goals? Long term goals are reached in the quiet, ordinary acts of daily life. When you work daily, you develop persistence. When the going gets tough, you will keep going because you know how to persist.

If you are reading this post, it is because you want to change. I believe you can reach your goals. Be sure to review your annual, monthly, weekly and daily goals.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Running in the Rain

I was crossing the street one morning and at the light, I could hear the conversation inside of a car. “People run in the rain?!” Their voices got lower as I kept going but I could hear the curious amazement at the simple act of a person trying to reach a fitness goal.

It took 32 weeks of training. I trained in the Texas heat and humidity. I trained in the rain. I trained in perfect weather. I trained in the bitter cold. I believe that training in all weather conditions pays off at the end. I had great excuses to stay at home and sleep in. My goal drove me out there and my family and running friends motivated me.

Every time I thought about an excuse, I remembered there are people older than I, with more kids and life responsibilities than I have and they still find time and motivation to run. I thought about people with mobility challenges who are training with persistence. I proceeded with thanksgiving in my heart.

Running is a gift. Running is my second chance to be a good steward of the body God gave me.

My 4-miles with a smile effort was supposed to last 6 weeks. I’m thankful my running friends wanted to keep going.

So here we are, a few days away from the Houston Half. I remember the last time I ran the marathon. The amount of discouragement I received was heavy. You won’t believe the negative words I heard. I pressed on and grabbed my medal and finishers shirt.

Last year I took a Sabbatical. I never gave up on running but I took a break from racing.
So far, that decision has been one of the best I’ve made.

I came back healthier. I came back with the right motivations. I came back to encourage others to put in the hard work, week after week.

It is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Giving encouragement this early in the morning has been life-changing.

My prayer is that God will continue to bless me as I follow His plan for my life. Running long distance is part of the plan. Meeting new running friends and encouraging them is part of the plan.

Finishing a strong season with 13.1 on Sunday is where I’m headed.

These are a few reasons why someone would run in the rain at dark o’clock.

If you are trying to do something difficult, you are not alone. Don’t let the critics discourage you. Find your why. Find your tribe. Find someone else to encourage.

God’s for you, all the way.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Story of Marriage

our wedding day in 2006.
I remember getting engaged to Zeke on Christmas day. It was one of the happiest moments we shared together at that time. I remember immediately getting on wedding planning mode. No, we didn’t have a date yet but I just wanted to plan.

I remember going to a popular wedding planning website and getting a profile completed. I still have my wedding planning book. I remember asking a late friend for help with the food and cake. The only problem was that Zeke and I were broke.

We didn’t have an immense amount of inheritance laying around. We planned, we had an idea of how much things were going to cost but we were in this relationship by ourselves. I’m glad God was on our side.

Our story is one that screams the question, “what do you do when material commodity has been stripped away?” Do you have a legitimate relationship without engagement photos, the expensive wedding, and exotic honeymoon?

One of my kids thought that every couple getting married had a limousine. I gently informed her that her parents didn’t have a limo because that’s not a requirement to have a Christian wedding.

Zeke and I had a strong belief that God wanted us together. Once we became engaged, we pretty much looked to God to bless our union and we just kept following His lead. No limo required.

Our beginning was really out of the ordinary. We attended a 6 a.m. prayer meeting on the morning of our wedding. We waited for the courthouse to open its doors and we got married on a Tuesday morning. We then went to our chaplain’s home and we got married in the living room. We couldn’t afford to rent the beautiful chapel available in the place I used to work and we were going to get married in my office. The chaplain kindly offered his home. He had given us marital counseling a few days before and wisely asked about our plans. We are forever thankful for his kindness, wisdom, and hospitality.

Six months after our wedding, we had a “blessing of our marriage” ceremony in Mississippi. The only family member who was at our wedding was one of my cousins, so the MS ceremony was a good way to gather more family and friends.

The ceremony happened at the church where Zeke used to play as a musician. The church kindly donated their space and resources and gave us a sweet, sweet ceremony and reception. Our family helped us with what they had and we were grateful to have more people close to us to celebrate our new family.

I think about the beginning of our family as God’s best for us. I certainly had an idea of how I wanted things to go. God had the final and best answer.

I know for a fact that an expensive wedding filled with exquisite details does not guarantee a happy marriage. The Christian marriage requires a commitment to God, His word and His ways. No wedding planning website can teach a couple such things.

The lure of keeping up with appearances distracts many people from the reality they will face when the guests are gone and two people begin their lives together. The cute engagement pictures are irrelevant when dealing with baggage from one’s past. The height of a wedding cake and the popularity of the DJ does not help heal the hurts two people experience in a marital relationship. It is important to prioritize the time spent on wedding planning versus life planning.

I don’t come from a place of perfection when it comes to wedding planning. I started out planning my dream wedding but our lack of resources changed all of that. By God’s mercy, I grabbed a hold of a premarital counseling book which I managed to read. We also saw two counselors before we got married. We were blessed to attend a financial planning class as newlyweds. Again, none of this was really my idea. God placed these resources our way and we took advantage of it.

You’d think that we would have no problems because of the amount of counseling we received. I believe that all the wisdom we received opened our eyes to see our need for even more help.

We learned to get help when we needed. I had to desensitize myself from the fear of asking for help.

The longer we are married, the more thankful I am to God for the beginning of our relationship. The most precious features of a successful marriage can’t be put in dollar signs.

Sure, I used to feel embarrassed when people looked at me up and down and my appearance as a wife didn’t measure up. I got over it and I know I stand in my confidence.

My confidence comes from knowing that God knows what He is doing. My confidence comes from the inner treasure Zeke and I enjoy as a married couple.

I know that there is nothing wrong with the expensive, dreamy weddings we often see and enjoy. I am actually happy for couples who had them. Those types of events were not part of my love story. I’ve been blessed with God’s best. I know that the blessing of God looks different for different people. In my case, the simplicity of reciting my vows in someone’s living room was enough to start a lifelong Christian marriage.

I have experienced virtue and joy through simple beginnings. I am thankful God chose us to be a family. I am thankful God continues to bless us as a Christian married couple.

Happy 13th anniversary to us!

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Proverbs 15:17 (ESV)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Result-oriented Routines

Routines are an important part of my day. I see my routines as the means to an end. I want good results, therefore, I submit to my routines.

Routines are not magical formulas to a great life. If it was that simple to be successful, we wouldn't be struggling to get it together, right?

If you don't have a routine, I encourage you to think about your results and work backward.

Results: Kids at school with homemade lunches, feeling well.
Mom at work with homemade lunch feeling well.

Wake up and actually get out of bed to make stuff happen (If you are not a morning person, you might have a problem here. Fixing this step will help you be more productive.);
Put exercise clothes and shoes on;
Drink coffee;
Read the Bible in Portuguese (the actual book, not an App);
Shower and get dressed;
Make sure kids lunches are in their backpacks;
Everyone is out the door.

*Notice that not one time, I was required to be on my phone. I added an extra lock that impedes me from looking at any apps before a certain time in the morning. Looking at my phone steals precious time I can use to reach my morning goals. I don't watch TV in the morning either. We might listen to music while eating breakfast.

Results: Wash dishes, Prep kids' lunch, work.
Wash dishes after dinner;
Pack kids' lunch;
Set aside exercise clothes and shoes;
Work for 40-45 minutes;
Marriage time;

Results: Rest, Prepare for the week ahead, have fun.
Laundry (start and finish the entire process);
Chores (the kids help with chores);
Wash and braid the girls' hair;
Grocery run;
Pre-pack kids lunch for 2-3 days;
Prepare the menu for the week;
Get at least one day ahead with meal prep;
Run long distance;
Do a fun outing with the kids;

My routines are result-oriented. They are means to an end. Most days are not the same but as I think about my results, I am able to create routines that will support them.

Questions: What are the results you want to see in 2019? How can your routines support your results? 

You can't change what you tolerate

January is a great month.
It starts with the promise of a brand new year.
A year filled with expectation and hope.
Then, my birthday hits.
I feel blessed to celebrate one more year of life.
God is the giver of life, so my aim is to thank God.

January is also the month when I achieve one of my biggest fitness goals.
I get to run a long distance race.
Because running long distance is such a big goal,
I decided my new year starts after I cross the finish line of the marathon.

Once that happens, I celebrate, rest and recover from the miles.
I quickly start conquering the goals I set for myself.

I enjoy listening to teachers who encourage me to be the best I can be.
One such person is the late Dr. Myles Munroe.
I ran into this quote of his:

"You can't change what you tolerate."

I wonder what I am tolerating. Instead of turning external with this tolerating thing, I decided to focus on my inner life.

It's easy to point externally when it comes to the things we are tolerating.
The challenge is to see the things we are tolerating in our inner world.

I made a mental list:


If I tolerate it, I can't change it.

What are you tolerating in your inner life? How can you change it this year?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

18 lessons of 2018

1. Good things come, I just don't know when. The previous winter made me wonder if good things would ever come. I honestly saw myself in a downward spiral mood for years to come but one day, everything changed. Good things do come, we just can't pinpoint when they show up.

2. Keeping good habits are worth my time. The older I get, the choosier I am about which habits I keep in my life. I see that keeping the good habit of running is a great idea.

3. I choose to honor, no matter how challenging the personality. I learned a lot about honor this season. I decided that getting calm and showing honor is a very good idea.

4. The finish line is one of my favorite places in the world. I saw my kids crossing a finish line (again) and it reminded me of why this is one of my happy places. The exuberance, the joy and the sense of accomplishment are contagious.

5. Baking = gathering. My job change caused the rhythm of my home to change a bit. Nothing bad, just different. I find that baking is a way of gathering everyone around the table. We take a deep breath and enjoy that fresh baked good. We share stories about our day and we just connect easily. Baking brings us back together and I love it.

6. In the middle of the uncertain, look for the eternal. We bought a house this spring. We didn't know if it was all going to work out. I remember looking at my daughters reading together. They were connected to the story and to one another. It was almost as if I could see their eternal bond of sisterhood.

7. Music can calm a world of agitation. My husband bought us a ticket to a concert, our first one together. We highly enjoyed the music. Our world was a little agitated and music was amazing in bringing it all down to a joyful time. Our hearts are still full.

8. I already have all I've ever needed. I applied to run a major marathon and I didn't get in. Things like this remind me that I am blessed beyond measure already.

9. Not giving up is a good idea. I made a wreath for my front door and it was hard work. I basically came up with the idea myself and I went for it. I swear I'm not crafty but I did not give up. In other areas of life, not giving up on a good idea paid off. It is often difficult but when I persist, good things happen.

10. Every day I can be a better wife. I know it is hard to be married to me. When I consider my role in my marriage, I know that every day I can improve.

11. Dare greatly - I ran into this quote recently and I really enjoyed it.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt

12. Cranky pants - I was pretty cranky on Thanksgiving but I learned "you can't be thankful and cranky at the same time." I quickly got a thankful attitude back by submitting myself to God and His word. That pretty much saved the holiday.

13. Determined - "My disposition, not my circumstances determine my joy or misery." I had many moments of frustration this Fall. Somehow, I ran into this quote and it reminded me that my disposition needed to be pristine.

14. Love is sacrificial 
My husband and I agreed this was the absolute top lesson this summer. We may use the word love a lot. Only when we are tested through it we learn that sacrifice is part of it. I’m glad we had a chance to learn such Godly lesson. We’re better for it. 

15. Having a de-stress routine is a necessity 
I have been managing stress naturally for years but it wasn’t until the summer that I realized I needed a routine. I know I need to rest more, I just didn’t have the need to be strict with it until the summer. I have several de-stress things I do and they are simple such as taking a hot bath, doing my own mani/pedi or cutting the day short by going to sleep. I learned that adding such strategies to my week was very wise and I was able to benefit from it. 

16. When I’m in despair, I need to look up 
Last summer was hard so this year, I thought a lot about the past year. We had no jobs and then Harvey hit. I learned then that when I'm in despair, I need to look up to where my help comes from. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 

17. Helping other people reach their goal is the best
I didn’t realize that when I invited my friends to join me during my runs would be so fulfilling. We started together in the beginning of the summer. Some people had not been running on a regular basis, others took some time off. I’ve been able to watch their consistency and dedication. I am seeing many reaching goals they didn’t think they could reach. That feels lovely. Here is the other side of the coin: it takes unselfishness to do that. It takes a total abandonment of one’s ego because it’s not about me, it’s about others. I love helping people reach their goals. I hope to continue to help others. 

18. Making a summer to-do list was a good idea 
I made an “18 for summer 18 list” and it was a good idea. I reached most of the goals I set there. I made sure they were not long-term, difficult goals because the summer was quite intense. It was lovely to do things such as sit down with a friend and swim.

More in this Lessons of... Series:
• 2016
• 2015
• 2014
• 2013