More than a month ago

It’s hard to believe I returned to Southwest Florida more than a month ago. I have spent a great deal of time with family and friends since returning, something that was hard to live without for almost two years.

One of my new favorite routines happens every Saturday. I spend the week looking forward to my early start that morning.

In an effort to train for my third 5K race, which took place on Memorial Day, I ran with my mother and younger sister Maureen, who were also participating in the race with me. I was so excited to recruit two people to run with me, especially since it was Mom and Maureen’s first race. I’m happy to say I beat my best race time by more than three minutes that morning even in the awful heat. Mom and Maureen finished before me making their first race a memorable one. Although we did not cross the finish line at the same time, it was encouraging to know that they were running the same race with me. I kept my pace going and am happy to say I finally ran the entire 3.1 miles without stopping, making it truly an awesome achievement.

Every Saturday, we meet at Maureen’s house to run along McGregor. I still cannot put into words how much that first run meant to me. I have spent the majority of my time running by myself, or with my puppy Lucy. To run with other people, well it felt incredible, even if we all are not running at the same speed. Even though the race is over, we still meet every Saturday morning. Yes, it’s still a highlight of my week. This past Saturday as I pulled up to Maureen’s house, I saw Dad standing with Mom and Maureen, which made me smile. Our running group is expanding . . . I love spending that time with family first thing in the morning.

As I sit here and reflect on some of the highlights of my time back in Southwest Florida, a trying time, a time that kept me apart from Jason for 47 days already seems like a lifetime ago. I smile when I look back. I smile because of the strength we both had during the time he was in Fort Myers and I was in Kingsport. I smile because that is now a distant memory.

The best feeling in the world is being in the same state, the same city and living under the same roof again. Now we are back to our old routines, some that I love and will never grow tired of . . . a kiss before he leaves for work that is accompanied by have a great day.

I am now a firm believer that the heart grows fonder when you are away from your loved one. I have seen a new side of Jason that I cherish since returning. Our relationship is stronger than before. Jason’s affection and expression of how he feels comes more often making me feel even more loved.

For the first time in a longtime, I really feel like I am home. That feeling is not just because I am living in the area where I grew up surrounded by friends and family, but I am living my dream once again.

As a freelance writer, there is good and bad. I absolutely love the freedom of making my own schedule. I enjoy working from my home having the luxury of walking into my kitchen to grab a snack or cook lunch. I also love having the opportunity to be in the same vicinity as my one year old puppy.

What I was lacking did not show its presence until I moved back to the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area.

I am now spending more time out in the community, interviewing people face-to-face, making my passion for writing truly surface once again. There’s something special about living in the same community in which you work. I did not know how much I missed that interaction until the first assignment my editor gave me took me out into the community.

My passion is in full force again. My passion of writing has taken on another dimension.

Our move back to Southwest Florida was one of the best decisions we have made, especially because of the opportunities that we have found. Jason and I continue to grow as a couple, I’m writing more for editors I truly love working for, I’m spending my weekends with Mom once again and my best friend is only 30-minutes down the road.

Although our lives have been enriched with so much beauty here, I still find myself thinking of Tennessee. I miss the mountains. This past week it hit me pretty hard. Oh, how I miss the pure beauty of that state.

The hiking, getting lost in the woods, is what I miss the most. The clarity the hills and mountains gave me was truly special.

I finished . . .

I finished . . .

Today was the big day, the day of my second 5K race.

I woke up feeling good, nerves free and excited to tackle my second race. I’m happy to say I was granted my wish . . .  completely blue skies with temperatures climbing into the 40s by the time the 12 p.m. race began. Although there was sunshine, snow still lined the streets that took us the 3.1 miles. It was pretty running with a blanket of white surrounding us.

Jason took off for work around 8 a.m. kissing me good bye, wishing me good luck and telling me to have fun. After watching him drive away and Lucy letting me know she was ready to go back inside, I felt completely relaxed. I had about 3 hours to kill before I had to get ready. I had some breakfast, and well, I put on my running gear because I was so excited.

The hours started to tick away, leaving only minutes until I had to get everything together. I am happy to say the nerves were still gone. I got Jason’s MP3 player ready with the playlist he made me for my first 5K and then finished putting the last layer of clothing on, before putting on my running belt, and was out the door with a smile on my face.

Today I had to drive myself to the race because Jason was working. It felt good to make that drive. It felt good to be independent. I arrived at the Renaissance Arts Center  and Theatre just a few minutes later and found a parking spot. As I climbed out of the car I saw some of the runners stretching, others doing short sprints getting their bodies ready for the race.

I checked my phone one last time before I zipped my running belt close to after the race. I had a good luck message from my mom. I was ready.

There were only 63 runners for the KingsportARTS Paint the Town 5k. The runners ranged in age from youngsters to older men and women. There was even a cute puppy that joined its owner in the race. (I wish I knew, I would have brought Lucy with me. She definitely would have helped with the outcome.)

The same feeling consumed me. The same feeling of “you did this by yourself, be proud.” I stood amongst friends chatting with each other and family members getting each other ready for the race.

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I stood behind a few rows of people from the starting line. After a brief message from the organizer of the race, the countdown began for the race to begin.

As the clock struck 12, the runners in front of me picked up their feet and before I knew it I was doing the same thing.

I don’t know if it was the excitement that I was finally running or the adrenaline you get when you’re around other runners, but my speed was pretty fast as we started running on Yadkin Street on the left side of the Renaissance Arts Center and Theatre. I started to slow down my speed once we turned onto Oak Street. As I rounded Forest Street I felt as if I had my stride in check. It must have been a pretty slow stride because a lot of other runners were passing me.

With that said, I felt good. I was outdoors, the sun was shining and I was listening to some great music.

As we made our way to Myrtle Street my body was telling me to slow down. I slowed down to my first walk of the race.

The 17 days of not running caught up with me. The 4 to 5 miles my body got used to running on a weekly basis was no longer the case. I had to listen to my body. I picked my speed back up and then got hit with a hill on Catawba Street and got slowed down to a walk once again.

By this point I was giving myself pep talks.

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I managed to pick up my speed once again and ran almost the entire distance of Center Street before my body couldn’t take the hill anymore.

The route took us along the same roads until we hit Oak Street to make our way back to the beginning point on Yadkin Street.

Unfortunately Oak Street was where I had a mishap. The cop who was standing at this point was talking to someone and didn’t see me go by to direct me down this street instead of continuing along the same route we took the lap before. Fortunately I had a feeling something was wrong and decided to turn around. I rounded the corner onto Oak Street and saw the finish line in the distance.

I crossed the finish line two minutes past my first race’s time. I was hoping I would beat my last time.

Today’s race had its ups and downs. I was frustrated and a little disappointed by the time the race was over. After I grabbed some water and a banana I looked at my phone and saw a message from Jason nine minutes before the race began “Good luck baby, I love you.” That made me smile before I shared “Well good news is I finished.” His response, “All that matters.”

After I left and returned home I became emotional. I became emotional because I know what I am capable of and I didn’t meet my own expectations . . . to finish the race without any walking.

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Nearly all runners know the voice in their heads that tells them to back off when the going gets tough. Part of training is to help you get better at ignoring this voice and continuing to push even though the voice gets louder and louder as you get more and more fatigued . . . Don’t hope that the race feels easy. Expect it to be hard and know that you’re going to have to repeatedly challenge yourself to ignore the voice in your head that wants you to slow down.

After talking with Jason later this afternoon it really hit home when he told me how proud he was of me.

Bottom line, I ran in a race today. Yes it wasn’t a pretty race. Yes I struggled more than I like to admit. But I finished the race 34th out of 63, 15th out of 36 overall female and 7th out of 12 in my age group for women.

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The lesson learned today . . . even if it’s a 5K you still need to train. The bigger lesson . . . I’m not ready to run races in the winter. A very unpredictable winter. A winter that started off manageable turned into a frigid cold February. The only thing that kept me from training for 17 days was the bitter cold, below freezing temperatures, and the snow and ice on the ground. When you no longer have a gym membership to run on the treadmill you rely on the forecast for outdoor running.

With that said, I ran today despite the long time of no training.

The good news . . . Jason lifted my spirits. His words made me cry, yes the good tears. Then later today text messages back and forth from my mom started the water works again. Sometimes you just need to get out of your own thoughts and listen to other people’s words. Words you were telling yourself, but having a hard time believing.

We definitely are our own worst critics. But once we get out of our thoughts, it’s amazing how much positive energy runs through your body again.

I’m happy to say I have already found my next race, a race in May. Yes, May when I know the temperatures should be bearable and the training should be limitless.

Today’s experience did not detour me, but gave me the determination to run another one.

Race #2!!

Race #2!!

I have been worried about my Saturday, Feb. 28 race all month long because of the frigid temperatures and the tons of snow we have had throughout February.

Unfortunately, the second week of February was the last time I laced up my running shoes and went for a run. This of course adds to the worry because I haven’t been out there running, practicing, training, getting ready for my second race.

I guess this is what happens when you cancel a gym membership and live in a state that although does not get a ton of snow, has the potential of having a white winter.

It’s been pretty downhill since last Monday when the first true snow storm blew through and the snow has remained on the ground since.

I read on the local news website this morning that the Tri-Cities area has had 15.5″ of snow, breaking the season average of 13.3″ inches.  This is why I haven’t been running . . .

With all of this said, I traveled to the Renaissance Center here in Kingsport this afternoon to pick up my race packet for the KingsportARTS Paint the Town 5K.

IMG_20150227_142550It wasn’t until I walked out the door that the excitement for tomorrow completely consumed me. I left the worry at the door . . . I signed up for the race and I will brave the elements, whatever they may be tomorrow afternoon.

I just wish Jason didn’t have to work. It was comforting last time knowing he was on the sidelines waiting for me to cross the finish line.

I’m not nervous for this race, like I was for my first one Thanksgiving morning. I’m more excited that I have the opportunity to run!!! I’m going on a 17 day dry spell and it’s eating me alive!!

The sun has been shinning for the majority of the afternoon, hopefully melting some of the snow. Tomorrow’s forecast, a high near 39 degrees!!! Whooohooo above freezing!!!

 

Finally a day of running

The weather has been the absolute pits all week-long with rain every day since Tuesday. I could not tell you the last time we actually had some sun.

Even though the sky was gray and showed no sign of the sun making its way through the darkness, there was no rain. I was in desperate need of a run, especially since the last day we made our way to the path was Monday.

I could tell Lucy needed some exercise too. She’s been stuck in the house a lot lately because the yard is really wet, with some standing puddles. She’s not a huge fan of getting her paws wet. Although, she is getting better about going outside in a drizzle to go to the bathroom.

So I bundled up and hoped for the best. No rain!

I was discouraged by the distance Lucy and I accomplished Monday and was determined to have a better run today.

I am very proud of us . . . we made it 2.78 miles with no stopping. Well, we had to stop at one point because the path was flooded, as well as the grass next to the path on both sides. We both tip toed through the mess and then picked up the speed again.

Jason helped me plot out where my turn around point was on the Greenbelt to accomplish 3 miles. Next time we go for a run, that point will be matched!

I gave Lucy the full  length of the leash today, so she could run at her speed and I could go at mine. We started off on a shorter leash, but she was pulling way too much. She was really excited to be outside.

It was adorable watching Lucy scoot around the puddles. Little short stuff was a mess when we were done running. Her belly was full of dirt that splattered during the run.

I’m glad it was just the two of us using the Greenbelt for 90 percent of our run today.

I’m already looking for the next 5K to run, which is one of the reasons why I want to further my distance. I was really proud of finishing my first race on Thanksgiving . . . but I want to run another without any stopping!

I told myself I would wait to register for another race in the spring when the temperatures warm up. But, the day after my first race I began looking for another one. I think I found the next one!

So, after our long run this afternoon, Lucy and I went for a longer cool down walk than normal. I of course took some pictures while she was exploring without her leash attached.

Cloudy, overcast days are the best days to go for a run because it’s rare we come across anyone else.

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20141205_134631I love spending time with this puppy of mine, especially when we are out in nature!

Yep, it all became real

Today was the day . . . the day I went to Fleet Feet Sports to pick up my race pack.

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The excitement and nerves kicked in all at once as soon as I put the car in drive this morning. I was definitely proud to say the least, especially since I have been contemplating registering for a 5K since my birthday last December.

I cannot believe I am running in my first race tomorrow morning. Me, the girl who hated P.E. The girl who walked the straights and ran the curves of the high school track during P.E. class.

Wow, I have truly come full circle with my love of running. That is where the excitement comes into play.

The nerves, on the other hand, well, they are telling me “What the heck did you get yourself into?”

You see, when I registered a little more than a month ago for my first 5K race, Chase the Turkey, here in Kingsport, the weather was still nice, sunny, warm for the most part. Well things have drastically changed. The local news is forecasting snow in the morning. SNOW! What? This Florida girl is still getting used to walking around in the snow, much less running in it.

Leave it to me to register for my first 5K in the winter, ha!

Set all that aside, it was truly incredible to pick up my bib and long sleeve shirt. I am going to be running alongside other like minded people tomorrow, instead of me and my little puppy.

Yep, it all became real, as she handed me my goodies before leaving.

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IMG_2664My emotions, good of course, are every where today, as I set my mind to what tomorrow has in store for me. I hope to calm the nerves in time for the 8 a.m. race Thanksgiving morning and enjoy every mile to the finish line.

I have in essence been practicing for tomorrow since June when Lucy and I took up running on the Greenbelt. Before then it was running on the dreaded treadmill at the gym.

Tomorrow is going to be such a different atmosphere on a path I have not yet run. I definitely think the adrenaline will take care of my legs, instructing them to carry me through the 3.1 miles.

I’m truly excited!

I’m truly nervous!

It’s going to be an amazing way to jump start our first Thanksgiving, just the two of us. Monday night Jason and I made up the menu, yesterday and today I bought all the ingredients. Last year, we had Jason’s mom spend Thankgsiving with us. So, our first Thanksgiving in Tennessee is going to kick off with a bang!!

I’m so glad Jason will be there to cheer me on, that will calm some of the nerves, I hope!