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Rain pouring at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday. I check the radar. It might stop by 7:00 a.m. Do I go for it, or do I stay in bed? I encourage my students to show grit, and my Run 4 buddy shows her grit, so I roll out and head for the Geist 10K.

On the way, I hit a few pockets of heavy rain. Ugh, why didn’t I stay in bed? There were several reasons, I was to find out.

I parked, and as I got geared up the precipitation slowed to a light sprinkle. Throughout the race, it was mostly dry with a few sprinkles. Praise! I saw my sister-in-law, Denise, and nephew, Josh, before the race started. What a treat!

During the race, the 4 and 5 mile markers were missing. For runners without GPS, that makes it difficult to gauge your pace. Even with GPS, it is mentally challenging to not see the mile markers. Two women were questioning if they were near mile 5, and I was happy to tell them how close they were. I was also able to tell them when they were closing in on the last half and quarter mile. Hope makes tired legs run faster! It was the first 10K for one of them; how I love to witness others meeting their goals!

I chuckled as I ran with two other women, nearby. “…He was really upset. I told him to go out and use his gentle voice  and communicate with them.” I can’t get away from my job, even during a race.

After the race, I was able to congratulate Josh on placing 1st in his age division and 5th overall! I would have missed the opportunity, had I stayed in my comfy bed!

For my own accomplishments, I completed my 9th Geist event (7 half marathons and 2 10ks), which means I have participated every year since its inauguration. The race was humid and hilly with a headwind the last mile and a half, but so worth the effort!

What blessings I would have missed had I listened to my excuses (too tired, too old, too out of shape, too injured, too rainy). I was created to be a life participant, however that may look!

Last Wednesday, as I was teaching a group lesson to my four, elementary students (K-2nd grade), a paper fell off of the back wall. It was quiet enough that the students could hear it fall (a miracle in itself).

I said, “There must be a mischievous elf back there.” I hadn’t realized how my casual statement would be received; their faces lit up like Christmas morning!

“What?!”

“Where?”

“Can we go look for him?”

I knew I would not get their attention back until they had their curiosity satisfied, so I let them go search. I told them that elves are shy and don’t like to be seen. Eventually, I called them back to the table.

Later, a 2nd grade student, Mark, asked if he could spend his 5 minute brain break looking for the elf. I told him he could do whatever he wanted for the 5 minutes. Mark raised one arm in the air and announced, “I am the Elf Hunter!” and was off looking on shelves and behind supply storage bins. Needless to say, he did not find the elf.

The elf event sparked something in me. I had wanted to do some kind of elf in the classroom, but I hadn’t known where to get one this late in the season and didn’t want to spend money on the original Elf on a Shelf. A Christmas miracle provided me with an invisible elf, at no cost!

The next day, while they were out on the playground for recess and one student, Evan, was back in the room with me due to a pesky head cold, I sneaked around the room and put all of the chairs down around the group table and their student work offices, as if they had been knocked over. When the students came back in, I was at my computer with my back to the room, and Evan was in the library corner quietly doing a math app on the iPad, oblivious to anything I had done.

Soon, Mark noticed the chairs knocked over.

“What happened to the chairs?! What did Evan do?”

“Evan was sitting quietly working the whole time, and I have been at my computer,” I replied.

“THE ELF!!” shouted Mark, with great excitement, followed by much chatter amongst the boys. They were jumping with excitement, literally.

“I guess we do have an elf that visits,” I responded. Luckily, lunch was next on our schedule.

The next day, Friday, was our last day before winter break. In the morning, we tried to follow our normal routine. In the afternoon, while the boys sat and watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, my assistant and I put a book, with a pencil and note from the ‘elf’ inside it, on the students’ desks. The boys were so engrossed in the movie that they never noticed us.

After the movie, giddy with excitement, I waited patiently for the students to go to their desks. I finally told them to straighten up their desk areas, because I couldn’t take it any longer.

“There’s a new book on my desk!”

“Mine, too!”

“It looks like there is a note,” my assistant played along.

Mark excitedly read:

Dear Students in Room 129,

I have enjoyed visiting your classroom this week. Have a great break. Hopefully I will see you next year!

The Secret Elf,

Eugene

The boys exclaimed:

“He came, he came!”

“When did he come?”

“How come we didn’t see him?”

“I told you; elves don’t like to be seen,” I said, with a wink.

 

Names of students changed for confidentiality purposes.

This is the first post I have tried from my phone. I hope it posts correctly.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I have to give a shout out to the state of Wisconsin (via the good Lord’s palette) for a wonderful run yesterday. The shining sun, clear, blue sky, open fields, and gently rolling hills of the countryside were the perfect backdrop for an eight mile training run. Even the stiff, west wind could not dampen my spirits.

There were geese in the fields and a multitude of birdsongs in the air. At one point, I thought I could hear wild turkeys. What a different experience from the suburban streets back home.

Later, as we drove down the road, my husband asked me, “Did you see that dead deer in the ditch?”

Thankfully, no, I did not. I have seen flattened squirrels on the streets back home, but I am glad that my little slice of heaven in Wisconsin country was not spoiled by a decaying deer in the ditch.

In the last couple of days, temperatures were well below zero, the windchill was a dangerous 30-40 degrees below zero, and the sky dumped almost a foot of snow in less than 24 hours. Schools and governments shut down, roads and highways closed, and power outages reported. What to do?

Some may see this as a crisis, but on social media I have seen posts describing families playing together in the snow, family game nights, neighbors and strangers helping one another, and people having fun cooking at home instead of eating at restaurants. One family was enjoying the loss of power so much that they turned the lights back off after crews restored the power. Speaking of crews, thank you for your dedication and efforts in this cruel weather.

For me, I have enjoyed the quiet and stress free life of having no place to go, no commitments to fulfill, and the time to putter around my home. I also have had the time to cook AND clean up. The typical work day is up, shower, eat, drive, work 8-9 hours (sometimes longer), make phone calls during my commute home, grocery shop, workout, cook, clean up, laundry, prepare to do over the next day. A couple of nights a week, I also attend Bible study.

photo(1)

My favorite activity the last couple of days was cooking soup. I have a sensitivity to canned soup, so I make my own, when I have the time. After two days, two stock pots, three pans, one crockpot, and many spoons, I now have 11 servings of soup (chicken and beef) in the freezer for school lunches, after my husband and I ate two meals from the original batches. If only I had gotten the standup deep freezer I asked for at Christmas, I could have made more. If I ration the frozen servings and the weather breaks by the end of February, I think I can get through the winter without making another mess, I mean batch.

The one thing I do miss is running! It is dangerously cold outside, and even this crazy, avid runner will not run with these temperatures and slick roads. Better to run another day than to go out and get hurt today. The travel restriction is upgraded from a warning to a watch, but the gym is still closed. My solution is to cover all exposed skin and take a snowy hike. Now would be a great time to have a pair of snow skis or snow shoes, but that will have to wait until next Christmas.

Marathon Conversations

A marathon takes up hours of your day. There are many sights to see and cheering spectators on the course, but that isn’t the only entertainment. There are periods of time when there is no music and the roadside is bare, except for the aid stations, and you have the opportunity to hear conversations between runners and volunteers that bring a smile to your lips. Here are a few of my favorites from the Air Force Marathon last month.

Along the course, I saw two runners who were blind, each being led by a sighted guide. The blind runner of the first pair held the arm of the sighted runner, and the second pair held a short rope between them. What dedication both runners and guides must have to train for a marathon together! The second runner was wearing a bright orange shirt that said BLIND RUNNER on the back.

Male runner behind me:  “Hey, a blind runner.”

Female response:  “Where?”

Male runner:  “The guy in front of you with the bright orange shirt.

Female runner:  “Oh.”

Somewhere in the second half of the marathon there was an aid station with a late middle-aged couple just ahead of it who were telling runners where to go for hydration. He wore jean shorts and a shirt that he probably donned when attending Jimmy Buffett concerts; she looked equally comfortable.

Wife yells out:  “Water on the left, Gatorade on the right!”

Husband yells out:  “Water on the left, Gatorade on the right, cold beer in the back!”

Wife, exasperated, turns and yells at husband:  “Stop telling them that! There isn’t any beer!”

Husband, grinning slyly:  “They know that, but they think it’s funny.”

With the endearing way he looked at her after she turned back around, I think he was having more fun teasing her than entertaining us.

Around mile 23, as delirium set in, I heard a conversation from a group trying to find meaning in the insanity of completing 26.2 miles.

Female runner:  “Why are we out here?!”

Male runner #1:  “This is one New Year’s resolution gone wrong. Alcohol may have been involved.”

Male runner #2:  “Yes, alcohol was definitely involved.”

I am so glad I ran my race without music in my ears; otherwise, I would have missed out on some great entertainment.

The weather map when I went to dinner the night before the US Air Force Marathon.  The map looked like this all day.

Marathon weather

 

The map looked the same when I went to bed. Not much had changed when I got up, either. All signs pointed to a rainy marathon. I did not want to run 26.2 miles in the rain, but I would if it came down to it. Wetness wasn’t going to stop me after hundreds of miles of training.

Marathon pic 1

 

I prayed for a pressure system to push the moisture south and east. The precipitation was a steady drizzle as my friend, Kim, and I sat in traffic waiting to park. As soon as we got in the parking space, the rain slowed to a misty spittle. When I got to the start line, the rain was a light mist, barely felt. Did I start with dry feet? Uh, no. I stepped in a puddle not far from the car and another puddle almost to the start line. At least my feet were equally wet!

The weather was not the only thing putting a damper on my race start. There was no one directing traffic at the intersection off of the highway, so there was a huge traffic jam. I was an hour early, and I still got caught in traffic. The jam put me 45 minutes behind schedule, and we had to park almost two miles from the start line with 15 minutes left to get to there. I did not get to stretch, had to run/walk to the start, and I still did not make it for the gun. I fastened my race belt as I joined the back of the pack crossing the start.

While the start was not as I had planned, the race was wonderful! The volunteers and spectators were energetic, my feet did not blister, and the rain stayed away!

 

Yes, I do believe in miracles!

Marathon Map 3

Running for Change

penny

When I told my friend that I was running in the United States Air Force Marathon, she got excited and showed me the album she made after running the Chicago Marathon. She had a graph of her training runs, pictures, her estimated finish time, a print out of her actual finish time, etc. She also had a plastic baggy with change in it (quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies); she said it was her prize purse. To break up the monotony of long training runs, she had picked up spare change she would find lying on the ground along the way.

When I told my husband about her prize purse, he said, “Where is she running? I never see change on the ground!”

I was thinking the same thing, but I started looking for change, anyway. For the first week or so, I only found a screw and two nails. They had no monetary value, but I pictured myself saving a poor driver from a flat tire. There were also plenty of cigarette butts and a dirty band-aid, but I wisely left them on the ground. About a week ago, I found a plastic bottle cap and a metal beer cap. My prize purse was looking pretty pathetic.

Then, last weekend at the beginning of my 16 mile run, I saw a bright, shiny penny on my path. My first currency for my prize purse! And, it was not just any penny; it was a 1999 penny. Significant because 1999 is when I started having symptoms of Meniere’s disease (vertigo, loss of balance, vomiting, hearing loss), had surgery to try to alleviate the symptoms, and lost the hearing in my left ear. That was 14 years ago, and look how far I have come.

As I completed my 16 mile training run, I reflected on what I had accomplished since 1999:  I lost 50 pounds, got my symptoms under control, started running, have run almost a dozen half marathons, a trail marathon, and I am now running a street marathon. That 1999 penny is a symbolic trophy worth more than any prize purse!