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No Pain, No Gain

Groggy-eyed and weary, I climbed out of bed after my mom gently woke me up from a mere 5 hours of sleep on Saturday morning at 4:00am. My body certainly didn't feel rested and the thought of returning to my bed after quietly brushing my teeth and changing into my running clothes was all too appealing. Nevertheless, I made my bed, grabbed my shoes, filled up my water bottle, and headed out the door with my mom. She drove while I flipped through upbeat oldie songs on my ipod and tried to jam out and keep us awake as we wound our way through the dark turns of Logan Canyon. 
The hour and a half drive from our cabin to the starting line seemed to take forever as my anticipation mounted. Once we arrived by the finish line, we parked our car as close as we could to where the buses pick up the thousands of crazy runners just like us. Tired and hungry, we each stuffed a Cliff Bar into our mouths as we made our way past the lines to the buses to pick up our race packets. We evaluated the goods of our packets, attached our bib numbers, made a quick bathroom stop, and then joined the line to board the buses. The short ride up the canyon to the starting line was over too quickly and then the waiting game began as we stood outside in the frigid  morning air debating which clothing items we would ditch in the clothing bus and which items we would be willing to wrap around our waists as we ran. We hit the bathroom lines two more times, just to be safe, and then headed up to the start line right before 7:00am.
The space around us became densely packed with people talking loudly with excitement, adjusting their ipods and head phones, and jumping up and down to keep their legs warm. My mom turned to me and said, "Good luck, see you at the bottom," and before I knew it, the gun had gone off and everybody was moving. We were off, ready to conquer the next 13.1 miles of road before us like the crazy people we are.

Despite my hip problems, I kept a great pace-- faster than my mom even-- for the first 6 miles; but by the time I passed the second water station, my mom had passed me up and my mind was completely focused on working through the pain of my grinding hip to keep my feet moving forward. Although the sporadic rain and cloud cover kept the temperatures pleasant, my pain made me want to give up at times. By mile 9, I had to stop for a bathroom break, stretch, and give my hip a minute to rest. The pain seemed to be worse than ever before, but I knew that my pace had been good and I was making my best time ever; I knew I had to push through to make my goal. Starting back into a running step was hard after my pit stop was difficult, but one of the good things about a race is that the people around you are there to encourage you. If I walk for a second, there is always someone there to come along and give you the motivation to pick up the pace once again.
By mile 11, all I could think was, "2 more miles, then my hip can break if it wants. Just keep going until then." Once mile 13 came along, I could see the finish line in the distance and my adrenaline kicked in like clockwork. A half a mile out from the finish, I saw my mom running towards me. She had finished already, but had come back to encourage me along. Once we got to the side barriers where the road is packed with race watchers, my mom ducked off the path to let me cross the finish line. A woman running next to me said that we should dig deep and sprint across, so we accelerated our footfalls, matched our rhythm, and ran towards the line like our lives depended on it. We crossed the line with smiles on our faces and then proceeded to hug like we were old friends; congratulating one another on reaching our goal and fighting through the pain. Once our medals had been placed around our necks, we said goodbye and parted ways. 

(I do not own this picture, it is a screen shot of an official race photo)

I wen to find my mom and together we joined the other tired runners as the kind volunteers served us Great Harvest Bread, chocolate milk, and fruit. Food always tastes better after running 13.1 miles. 
After checking our times to confirm that we had both done our best, my mom and I picked up our clothing bags and headed out. I was proud to have finished my third half-marathon, and my mom was proud to have beat her slower paces of recent years past. It was an excellent morning.

Due to the unfortunate state of the weather, we were unable to water ski upon our return to the cabin like we normally do. I am fully convinced that the best way to recover from a long run is to jump in the cold lake water and make use of a whole different set of muscles by water skiing and surfing all afternoon. This year was the first time I have ever been sore after a race and I know it must be because I was stuck inside all day long after the race.
Luckily, thanks to the generosity of my mom, my soreness was awarded with my favorite frosted cake as part of a late birthday celebration. I love Marzipan frosting! Eating a large slice of cake while watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with so many of the people I love was a great way to end my birthday week.

I endured the pain, and I have to say, I gained enough to make it worth it. Pride in a new self record, time with my mom, time with my family, and freaking Marzipan cake! Well worth it.


Internet Truths from the Late Night Hours

Sometimes, late at night, when I feel like the idea of sleep is a far off and foreign concept that my body is refusing to accept, or even attempt, I often take to exploring cheesy quizzes on the internet. Usually the quizzes involve testing my literary or film knowledge; particularly things relating to the Harry Potter series or the Disney Masterpiece Classics. Sometimes, however, I like to google for the most popular quizzes of the week and see how I fair on the things that the rest of the "Late night Googler" world does.
My most recent late night Google quiz involved asking the question, "Why am I still single?"
I am not overly concerned with my single status; in fact I am usually quite happy about it because of the freedom it allows me to do what I want when I want. However, like all young single adults, I often wonder at why I am still single when it often feels like something I haven't completely committed to choosing.
This was the internet's answer for why I am still single:

Why am I still single?

Hello to Ms. Independent! You are confident, happy, and you radiate. Tons of guys like you; you don't even know it. You probably just think they're your guy friends. You probably don't have any idea when a guy likes you; you spend so much time shining on in your own unique way, that when a guy likes you, he could beg and you still might not get it. You are brilliant and there is no one else in this world like you; you are probably the dream girl of many guys. But slow down to focus on them, and give them special attention, before you automatically decide that it's not worth your time. You'll find someone soon.

Take this quiz: Why am I still single?

The internet might not always be right, but I kind of like this answer-- even if it's not completely accurate-- so I think I will accept it for now; even if only to make myself feel better about wasting time on the internet instead of being productive during one of my insomniac moments.


A Window's View

Back a while (I think I mentioned it), I took the opportunity to do a cross-country road trip with my sister Chelsi. It wasn't a long trip, full of countless stops at historical sights and back roads to get to the "hidden gems" of each unique state; I knew it wouldn't be when I agreed to go. It was more of a, drive as fast as you can across eight whole states because there are 4 kids in the car who aren't going to last more than two days in travel mode kind of trip. Although it wasn't exactly what I pictured my first cross-country road trip as being, it actually turned out to be a cool experience.
There is something to be said for the unique beauty of the vast spaces of land in this country and all of the areas that are not considered the "hip" or "happening" places. Witnessing the change; from dense forest trees, rolling hills, narrow roads, and old fashioned farms; to endless rows of corn, clear blue skies that seem to extend beyond the horizon, industrial farm equipment, and the occasional clump of houses; to desert-like rolling meadows of wild grasses and sage brush where the populous cows and horses claim the land; to the majestic mountains that rise abruptly out of the smooth open fields to stand tall as the conquering rock giants of the west; confirms my belief that this must be the most geographically diverse nation on earth. It is certainly one of the most beautiful.
Although the massive amounts of overproduced corn for the use of environmentally harmful products-- not to mention all of the unhealthy corn products we consume-- tends to put a slight damper on the open beauty that makes up nearly the entire middle potion of the country (about 5 states), I am very glad that I got to witness such a unique view of the country. Letting more than 2,000 miles pass by with a view limited to that of a car window flying down the highway at 80 miles per hour might not sound like an ideal vacation, but it certainly isn't one that should be overlooked. It was beautiful. Simply beautiful.
The next time I decide to take a road trip, I think I will leave out the four kids and try to visit some of those "hidden gems." For now however, I am satisfied to know that I had a great experience with my wonderful sister, her four kids, many mile of road, and a window with a view of the whole country!


Memories: Two Sisters and a Whole Slew of Fun

As Have I ever mentioned that I seriously love my family?!
I do. It's simply the truth. They are the most amazing people and my biggest influences!
In particular, I would like to mention how much I love my amazing eldest sister Brittani. Although there are almost 13 years between us, and she has lived in a different state than me for most of my life, she never ceases to be one of my best friends. From the time I was born, she and I had a special bond that has influenced me greatly in all that I am and all that I do.
I mention her today, because of the beautiful post she sent me on Facebook for my birthday; which reads as follows:

Happy birthday to the sunshine of my life! You were born when I was twelve, and have been the sunniest thing in our family ever since. Twenty-four favorite fun-facts/memories of you:
1. I tried to convince mom to name you Anika Aubrey. I'm glad she didn't listen to me.
2. You used to bring your stuffed animals in to snuggle with me.
3. You used to sneak into my bedroom to sleep ALL THE TIME. I loved it.
4. Mom and dad would let me go practically anywhere at any hour if I took you with me.
5. I used to choose your clothes and curl your hair for church on Sundays. Man, you had the cutest clothes.
6. I used to volunteer to "take you out" during sacrament meeting so I could go chat with friends in the foyer.
7. You could recite EVERY LINE of EVERY MOVIE by the time you were about 3. I guess mom's super-strict TV rules never trickled down to you.
8. You used to spend hours playing in the little puddles at Bear Lake, and yet you never seemed to get sunburned.
9. All my friends loved you.
10. We loved taking you to movies and to get frozen yogurt with you.
11. You had the cutest, most gravelly little voice.
12. You understand that Reading Books is serious business.
13. You understand that boys are not such serious business.
14. Your middle name is Ambition. I think. Or some other descriptor that fits you far less suitably.
15. You're the smartest sister. Don't tell the others I said so.
16. You're the most fun to talk about books with. And the only one who has a quick answer when I ask everyone about their best book of the year.
17. You're not afraid to show/share emotion. This world would be a lot more navigable if others followed your lead.
18. You always find the bright side of every situation, and you show it to others.
19. You have the best laugh.
20. You know how to make everyone else laugh.
21. You march to the tune of your own drummer (didn't you just watch Dead Poets Society? So did I--thought of you).
22. You don't waste (much) time on things that don't matter.
23. You work hard and you play hard.
24. You have great things ahead of you! I love watching them unfold.

end of facebook post

As the single subject of my college entrance essays five years ago, I think it is safe to say that my biggest sister has had an amazing influence on my life, and I am so thankful for her everyday!
Love you Brit!


Pitter Patter: Thoughts on Running as I prepare for my 3rd Half-Marathon

Running is just something that I do.
I am not crazy fast (unless sprinting a mile or less-- preferably less), and I do not by any means have the best endurance. I have never run more than 14 miles at one time and although I do hope to run at least one full marathon in my lifetime, I haven't worked up the will-power to do so... yet. Running is something that I do because I genuinely enjoy it. It is good exercise, of course, but in my world, there are a lot of things I could do and often choose to do besides running that are good exercise as well. Running to me isn't so much about the exercise part though. Although it is most certainly (especially when doing long distance runs) a strenuous physical activity, it is more about the mental side of things for me.
Anyone who has run more than about five miles will probably agree. A lot of what gets a person to run, and to keep running, is their mental ability to overcome thoughts of defeat, exhaustion, physical pains and aches, and the desire to just slow down and walk. Maybe it doesn't sound so hard, but as a person who, once upon a time, believed it was impossible to run more than two miles, I can definitely say that mental strength is at least half of the battle with running; maybe more.
I usually choose to run in the morning. I think my brain works better in the morning. When the air is crisp from a long desert night, and hardly anyone else is awake, it somehow becomes easier for my brain to overcome the negative thoughts that come along when trying to push my body to new limits. With just the sound of my feet lightly hitting the pavement one after the other, I find a pleasant rhythm that seems to put every part of my body into sync and before I know it, my brain is busy thinking through daily emotions and life problems while my body continues forward; almost as if propelled by the turning wheels in my head. In this way, I think running keeps me sane. Running gives my body the time it needs to reset itself and make sure all the different muscles, nerves, joints, etc. are still working together to keep me alive and functioning; it gives me the time I need to think, about everything that I spend my normal hours trying to ignore; it gives me a sense of accomplishment and strength; it makes me feel bold and outgoing; but most of all, it makes me feel like I am in control of my body and my life, which makes me happy.
This coming Saturday, I get to reassert my control with a 13.1 mile run surrounded by hundreds of other people who likely feel the same way I do about running. Although I don't typically like to run with tons of people all around me, there is something beautiful about so many individuals coming together and performing the same activity, mostly for the same purpose; especially when it is an activity not so easily accomplished. It may not be a Full-Marathon, but a Half-Marathon is no small feat; it takes just as much dedication, mental and physical strength, and will-power. Doing a Half-Marathon at the end of summer is something that I have begun to look forward to every year. It feels like the best way possible to bring a summer full of activity to a close and positively welcome the challenge of continuing to exercise and be active throughout the cold winter months.
I know that running isn't necessarily for everyone; but there was a time in my life when I thought that it wasn't for me, and now, looking back, I can't believe I didn't realize how beautiful something so simple and natural could be. I wish I had realized it sooner because that might mean that I would have already run a Full-Marathon and overcome a whole new level of mental and physical limits. I encourage anyone who is has a desire, or even a small interest in running to give it a try; it might turn out to be really worth it. Just remember, it will always be difficult for both the mind and the body, but the rewards will come; just keep putting one foot down in front of the other and let your body and mind find a rhythm to drive you forward.