lucky number 13, running on the edge of the western world and the cross has new meaning for koala

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you . . .

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

Whether you know me in real life, from the internet or we have never met in any sense of the word, this story will touch the very heart of your soul.  This verse has meant so much to me in the past, but on Sunday, November 17th, it took on a new meaning all of its own; one very personal.  I know I am a few races behind on my blogging (four if you are counting, but really now!), but I know that I need to get this story out there.  Not just for myself, but for those who need to hear it.  Whether you are a runner, a Christian, a mom or a dad, a daughter or a son, you will find something amazing about this story.  You may not believe, but I know that this truly happened and there are so many assets of this story that have continued to unfold; it seems unbelievable to me, and yet, I know my God is with me!  So, here it goes.

First, koala had this race kind of sneak up on her!  I had Big Sur Half Marathon on my calendar for November 24th!  A friend of mine pointed out that the race was on the 17th and I had to double check.  When the Final Race Instructions came on the Friday afternoon, I freaked out!  You may be thinking, big deal; it’s koala’s 13th race of 2013, but still, there was fretting.  I continued to prepare and train as usual and of course came down with a head cold the weekend before!  I taught all day on Saturday and so my mind was distracted with the questions of parents to be.  When I got home Saturday, I fretted over what to wear.  Koala is constantly having race wear drama!  I decided on a new striped New Balance shirt, my daisy Sweaty Band, Lululemon Run Pacesetter black skirt, and aqua RunLove compression socks.  The weather was set to be a cool 53 at race finish, but sunny.  I took two sleeping pills and the Bar (say bear, my husband, Barrie) set the alarm for 4:15 am.  Yikes, it was going to be an early one!  Race start would be 7 am and I was driving my two neighbors, Diana and Laura.

When the alarm went off, I quickly got out of bed, turned on the coffee pot and got dressed.  I wore a sweatshirt and sweatpants over my outfit, because it was cold!  Remember, koala is a warm weather loving gal!  I made sure to roll since my IT bands had been giving me a little strife since Morgan Hill Half.  Went down to cook my Trader Joe’s oatmeal and start on my first cup of coffee, check e-mail and FB.  By the way, I put my oatmeal in a coffee travel mug with a little extra almond milk and honey so that I could drink it while driving and it worked like a charm!  As I opened my e-mail to read the verse of the day, this is what I read:

The LORD your God is with you,

he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

The thoughts on the verse went on to say how God is with us; mighty to save, stills the storms of our hearts, sings us lullabies, and longs to be close to us!  What an amazing verse prior to running this race.  I was thankful, grateful and in awe.  Then, I opened my FB.  As I read the post of a friend with a very sick little boy, Logan, who had been hospitalized on Friday, my heart sank.  Immediately and without control, I started to sob for this family; Logan had been sick with a very high fever for over two weeks and in the hospital since Friday.  The family had no answers as to Logan’s diagnosis or outcome, and Logan was one sick, miserable little guy.  Now, I have never met Logan before and have not known this friend for very long or on a very intimate level.  I immediately messaged her and said I would be praying for Logan.  The Lord then laid on my heart that I would be running for Logan, and I again messaged her.  I quickly tried to pull myself together after posting the verse, devotional, and sadness in my heart as my status, and headed out the door.  The drive went quickly with good conversation and company of two fellow runners.  We were so distracted that we missed our exit, first to Monterey Peninsula, and then to Del Monte shopping center!  It was weird, because the koala is an excellent driver who rarely is unprepared or gets lost!  It ended up all working out; we parked in a residential neighborhood along the race course which ended up being less than a mile from the start and finish areas!  It could not have worked out better if I had planned it that way (gave new meaning to “Jesus take the wheel”).  We gathered our stuff and headed to the start area.  It was very organized.  We got our bibs, put our sweats in the bags at the sweat check, used the port-a-potty and headed into my corral E.

A gentleman sung the National Anthem, and soon the Elite runners were headed out.  The weather was cool and foggy with very little wind and the sun was starting to come out.  It was going to be a gorgeous, blessed race; I could feel it deep down in my soul.  I said good-bye to the girls, and it was our turn to take off.  I started out quick (I will post my splits in a minute), and the first mile through Downtown seemed to fly past with lots of people on course cheering us runners on.  Soon we hit the one mile marker and then were off towards the tunnel and Cannery Row.  As we came through the tunnel, there was a gentleman playing the bagpipes; how amazing and beautiful the sound!  I stopped for a minute at this point to shut off my runKeeper lady who was shouting loudly my progress.  As I started back up again, the verse, Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest; the Lord immediately reminded me that I had made a promise, I would run for little Logan.  Yes, Lord, I quickly remembered and started to pray for Logan and his family.  I prayed that I would carry his burden for the next 13.1 miles.  All of a sudden my body felt as if it was being weighed down.  This was not any feeling I had experienced before during a race; I’ve had concrete blocks for legs, lack of electrolyte zapped muscle legs, and painful, hurting, injury laden legs.  This was not like any of that.  At this point, I felt like I would need to lay down and get picked up by medical.  There was no way that I could go on the way that I was feeling.  I started to pray that Jesus would carry me; I cried out to the heart of my soul, please carry me Lord.  Carry us (koala and Logan), because I cannot do this alone.  Immediately, the weighted down feeling was lifted and my feet felt like they were flying again.  Soon, the feeling returned and this continued to happen throughout the race as I was praying for Logan and carrying his burden.  I kept praying for the Lord to carry me and two other verses came to mind which I continuously recited:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me Philippians 4:13, and but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint  Isaiah 40:31.  I was having a wonderful race, but continued to feel the weight and burden of this little boy who was so, so ill.  Having had a very sick child before, I knew what my friend was going through.  During a time when Delainey, our third daughter, was very sick with a kidney infection (when we looked back on that time and realized how we had truly almost lost her), the Lord would frequently remind me that it was her trial and that He loved her more than I could ever imagine.  Now, Delainey survived and is a thriving young lady with a faith that is unwavering since she saw her prayers answered as well as a miraculous healing!  In carrying Logan’s burden for those two hours, I was hoping that somehow he had felt some relief from his pain and suffering and through that could see the love of God.

When I reached the turnaround point at mile 7.7, I felt wonderfully loved and fully carried.  I still had moments of feeling that burdening weight, but as I faithfully prayed and cried out, God was with me.  Around the 10 mile water station, a young man said, “We are almost there!”  It was so encouraging; we were!  I just love it when my faith and strength is renewed by a total stranger who is in it, too!  As we approached the 12 mile marker, there was a couple near me.  I heard her husband encourage her that she was doing a great job.  She replied that she needed to walk and for him to continue on to the finish.  He in reply said no way, I’m with you all the way.  What an amazing moment to witness and at the same time God was reminding me that He was with me, all the way to the very end!  Here are my splits:

Mile 1  8:58

Mile 2  9:09

Mile 3  9:17

Mile 4  9:53

Mile 5  9:15

Mile 6  9:51

Mile 7  9:25

Mile 8  10:11

Mile 9  9:55

Mile 10  9:50

Mile 11  10:29

Mile 12  9:45

Mile 13  10:00

When I looked at my splits, I was thrilled!  Looking back, I can see where I was carried; this koala is heavy!  My official finish time was 2:08:04.772; a little over a minute faster than last year!  I was thrilled, but there was a part of me that started to creep in that was thinking I could have hit that illusive 2 hour half.  My loving Father quickly reminded me that this race was not about me; it was Logan’s race.  He also reminded me that this past year of racing and these 13 half marathons were in no way about me; He has used me to shine His light and to bring all the glory to him.  I am frequently thankful that I have learned to be still and listen, because He is much gentler in his reminders when I am paying attention and listening to that still small voice inside.  I came through the finish shoot and got my awesome medal and some water and found a good spot to wait for the girls.

Now, this is by far not the end of this story.  Hold on; it gets better.  After I chatted with Bar and let him know that I had finished in one piece and would be home soon, I first noticed I had a text from my sole/soul sister, Anne.  It read: “So excited for you today!  Praying for you that you will have an absolutely blessed run and precious time with the Lover of your soul.  That He will encourage you today more than ever.  I love ya sista.  You are a huge encouragement and inspiration to me to keep on keeping on.  Enjoy #13.  This journey is almost over.”  I couldn’t believe it, but there’s more.  When I went on to FB, Anne’s message to me there in response to my status that morning was:  “Thank you for posting this beautiful devo.  Praying for you this morning.  Isaiah 40:31.  May our God give u a blessed time with him out on the course.”  Wow, just wow!  If you have never heard the term “living word”, you should!  This is some good stuff.  I probably looked like a blubbering mess standing there; people probably were wondering what the heck was wrong with me.  I soon sent a private message to Logan’s mommy which read:  Please tell Logan he was with me in spirit for 13.1 miles today.  The Lord carried me. . . God works miracles and Logan needs to learn that!  This trial is going to draw your family closer to Him.  I know.  He said so.  Stay strong.  He is with you!”  I am not usually so bold or upfront in my faith, but I have felt the need and the Spirit was prompting me.  In response later, Logan’s mommy replied that he had been laughing like crazy all morning and that they had not seen him like this for almost 3 weeks!  God immediately reminded me that during that time, I had carried Logan’s burden.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  As the mornings events started to fall into place like a puzzle, I could not fathom the weight of what had happened.  I couldn’t even verbalize the story to Barrie when I got home; I told him that it had been a hard race.  I needed time to process.

The girls and I got our post race goodies, including a cup of hot minestrone soup, and sat in the sun enjoying the warmth and experiences of our race day.  We trudged back to the car and headed home, enjoying conversation about our children and the joys of motherhood.

I couldn’t even really process the days events until yesterday, and in the morning was able to recount the details to Barrie who just replied wow.  What could he say?  I think he needed time to process a well.  There is one more important part to the story since that’s not quite where it ended.  In our small group bible study, we have been studying the man of Jesus.  Our last study session last night was entitled “Three days that changed the world.”  It talked about the three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, at the end of Jesus’ life and resurrection.  On Friday, He died on a cross, a brutal, horrible and painful death in fulfillment of the prophecies.  He carried the cross for my sins, and yours, and bore the weight of the world on his shoulders.  On Sunday, he defeated death and rose from the grave; through the resurrection, we have hope in life everlasting with our loving Father in Heaven, if we only believe.  But what happened on Saturday?  Those who loved him had despair and doubt.  Jesus had told them that he would be raised on the third day, but I don’t think that anyone really believed it until they saw him.  What an amazing event in history!  The question in the study asked “Jesus describes taking up one’s cross as a daily choice, a habit practice int he routines of everyday life and relationships.  As you think back over the last day or two, what opportunities did you have to take up your cross-to make a loving, sacrificial choice?”  What?!  I could barely believe it, and as I finally began to process Sunday’s events, and the hope that it had brought to one family and one special little boy named Logan, an unbelievable feeling of peace and comfort came over me.  I had carried that cross for Logan for 13.1 miles; it is amazing to me the power of prayer and how when we are faithful to believe He is faithful to answer.  Wow, just wow!

You may believe my story, and you may not.  But in my eyes, the seeds have been planted.  Maybe you believe in Christ and his resurrection and maybe you don’t.  I put my full faith in Jesus Christ; I have not and do not lead a perfect life, but this little koala will let her light shine for all the world to see the Glory of the risen King!  Please share and spread some Koala love<3

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Koala running for the Dawgs and a love letter to the Ann Sobrato High School Cheerleaders; Bulldog Fun Run 10K race recap

Image  What a wonderful day for a race this past Saturday was!  Gorgeous cool and sunny fall morning!  I was excited to run my Second Annual Bulldog Fun Run.  This race was started last year in an effort by Kylie’s cheer coach and my beautiful running friend, Heather Wygant.  As an avid runner herself (see my Salinas Valley Half race re-cap), Heather started the fun run in an effort make some money for the cheerleaders to fund things like pads, uniform scholarships, and cheer camp scholarships.  As a runner myself, this run is near and dear to koala’s heart as well.  The turnout was very small, but there was official timing by South Valley Endurance and great fun and competition to be had (well, maybe the competition was only in my own mind!).

The morning started out not so well for me with tummy issues, I mean, major tummy issues!  The thought of eating was making me ill!  Please remind me next time I am running a race not to eat any sort of Taco Bell for dinner or at any time the day before!  Thanks in advance!  I downed my Trader Joe’s steel cut oatmeal with quinoa and honey and almond milk, poured my second cup of coffee, and Kylie and I were out the door.  The fall chill was in the air, but it felt so nice to have cooler weather.  I wore my last year’s Bulldog Fun Run tee shirt, my black LuLu pacesetter skirt, my RunLove compression socks, and of course, a pink sparkly headband.

We arrived in plenty of time, and Kylie and the other cheerleaders headed out to their assigned posts.  I sized up my competition.  There were only a few of us doing the 10K, and I figured I would just have a nice easy training run.  I chatted with another mom who was completing the 10K to submit a time for Tinkerbell in January.  We all started together at 8:00 am straight up.  We headed down the high school parking lot and out onto the road.  This is a beautiful course out and back on the Coyote Creek trail.  I was one of the last people through the start area and settled into what I thought was a pretty slow pace.  The wonderful weather, scenery and cheers kept my pace quick and upbeat as I would see after I finished and checked my splits!  I passed two of my Mom’s Run This Town Friends, Maggie and Christy, who were on their way back from a training run.  As we approached the 5K turnaround, I grabbed some water and quietly wished to myself that I had only done the 5K!  I plodded along, and soon came to the realization that there were only 4 of us women completing the 10K; it started to get competitive for me at this point.  No more slacking; I passed the girl that was in third place and knew I had to stay in front of her to place.  The miles and time was flying by.  I soon was approaching the model airlplane airport and the turnaround at last.  I grabbed some water and waved to the cheerleaders and Matthew, Heather’s husband, who was videotaping the whole scene.

Feeling a little tired and worn down, I soon approached the next group of cheerleaders who were just as excited and happy as ever.  Cheering loudly, they shouted and called me by name.  I almost cried.  Now, running is an emotional mind game.  Only a long distance runner can understand where I am coming from here.  I tried to explain it to Kylie later but I think she just thought I was weird (isn’t that my job?!)  So, to all the Ann Sobrato High School Cheerleaders and Bulldog Mascot:), a big thank you!  You will never know how much your cheers and words of encouragement meant to me on that day and to all the other runners as well!  Running is tough stuff, and having cheerleaders on course is one of my very favorite forms of entertainment.  When you hear someone calling out your name and letting you know you are rocking the race, it is the best feeling in the world!  You girls did such an awesome job and are going to rule Rock ‘n Roll San Jose this coming Sunday!  This little mama koala can’t wait to see you all on course and am praying for you all to take home the big prize!  You girls have come so far in the past year and have a wonderful coach to motivate you, too!  Best of luck on Sunday:)

I kept on keeping a good pace and made it back to the finish line where I was handed a Finisher’s ribbon and later a Third Place pawprint medal (I place third last year as well).  I was so glad to be back and took my picture with the Bulldog Mascot and showed Heather my splits:)  I grabbed a Gatorade and my awesome goodie bag (the highlight was a pair of socks from Paul at The Running Store)!  What a great race and an awesome cause.  Maybe next year, you will join us:)

Could not Believe it!  Carried on the wings of eagles!!!

Could not Believe it! Carried on the wings of eagles!!!

Koala tackles the Dumbo Double Dare: Part 1, the expo craziness and inaugural 10K!

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Well, there is so much to this action packed Dumbo weekend that I am going to have to break it down into two posts!  Let me start by saying, packing and organizing a family of seven for a Disneyland vacation is no easy feat, especially when five of the seven would be running, and koala was running two days!  That is a lot of running stuff and costumes.  Thanks to my amazing friend, Angelina, aka Race Junkie (please visit her site on Etsy), the girls and I all had Alice themed tutus for Saturday mornings race.  The tutus and all the other costume stuff were carefully packed away in a box, including ribbon for our hair, a princess crown, some scissors and a few other goodies.  Forecast for warm weather meant lots of shorts, tanks, and tees, but you can’t leave home without a pair of jeans and at least one sweatshirt; it can get pretty chilly at Disneyland in the mornings and the evenings (maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part!).

Getting out of Morgan Hill was also crazy!  Kylie had cheer pictures and wouldn’t be done until after four o’clock.  I wanted to just get out of here!  So, being very organized, I bought Subway sandwiches for the ride so that we wouldn’t have to stop until the Grapevine.  Kylie finished right on time and I picked her up, flew home, and everyone was waiting for her in the ‘Burb.  We headed out, finally, and even with traffic made great time down to the base of the Grapevine.  We stopped there for Starbucks, potty, and gas, and then quickly headed back on the road by 8:15.  It seemed to be smooth sailing, and then there were the road work ahead signs.  Signs saying that the highway would be closed down to one lane.  We kept cruising until traffic came to a parking lot stop.  If you know and have driven California and Highway 5, it is the main route between northern and southern California.  The Grapevine is a crazy, long road that goes through the mountains.  We have experienced a lot of traffic on this road, snow, but usually it is smooth sailing over the top and down to Magic Mountain and then through the valley into LA.  We sat for what seemed like FOREVER, just moving at a turtle’s pace.  Finally, about an hour and a half later, we made it through to where the lanes opened up again and started to cruise.  Everyone was grumpy, especially the koala and the Bar, but the kids finally went to sleep.  As we approached Orange County, again with the detour signs; the 5 was closed and detoured to another highway.  I quickly called the hotel and asked for directions, because of course both of our iPhone’s had died and the teenager was hogging the charger!  Long story short, we made it to the hotel right before midnight.  The night manager was very kind and promptly got us our room keys.  I was never so happy to be out of my car!  The weather was gorgeous; it was still in the mid 80’s when we arrived!  We settled in to our room and after snacks and settling down, we all were asleep in preparation for our big Disneyland day on Friday.

We got up early on Friday (I felt like I barely slept, but isn’t that what a Disney vacation is all about?!) and headed into the parks.  We had so much fun just riding rides and eating and enjoying the emptiness of the park.  At lunchtime, we headed into Downtown Disney and went to eat at the Taqueria (at least I think that’s where we ate!)  After we were done eating, we headed over to the Disneyland Hotel for the EXPO and to get all our bibs.  The bib pick up area was not bad at all.  Both the lines we had to go in were mostly non-existent.  When I went to pick up my bib, the “BARRIE” bib, they did not give me my pins, and so I asked.  I always buy the race pins; I have a growing collection and have a pin from every Disney race I have done.  I was trying not to get hysterical, but I was, inside at least.  I think either in the chaos of registering, I didn’t buy them, or in fixing my crazy bib situation, the pin purchases were lost.  Of course, it wasn’t just one pin; it was three!  Barrie tried to calm the koala down from the hysteria; I was just trying not to cry.  It’s ridiculous really, but if you are like me, you totally know where I was coming from.

We headed upstairs to the actual EXPO and shopping area to get our tees.  Barrie and the girls got theirs and I got my three Disney tech tees.  The pictures on the tees are cute, but I hate the shirts.  They are cut weird and I know I have a big head and all, but the neck hole is super small.  One day, they are going to be part of a really great race tee shirt quilt!  Barrie took D and the other two littles back to the hotel while the girls and I explored.  I could focus on not much else but those pins.  I bought a new sparkly skirt from Sparkle Athletic (formerly Team Sparkle) for my race on Sunday.  We headed over to the runDisney race merchandise area and quickly came to the realization that it was utter chaos.  We had to wait in a line to enter the shopping area and then there was a two hour wait to pay!  I quickly found the end of the line and sent Madison to hunt down those coveted pins; there was not guarantee that they would even have any left at this point!  Madison found the pins and the charm for her runDisney vinylmation at the front near the registers.  I was so excited but the thought of the line was killing me!  I started talking to a couple in front of me.  They were really nice and from Washington; they were originally from Long Island and had the accent to prove it!  They were very sweet and when the boyfriend found out why I was in line, he gave me his Disneyland Half Marathon pin!  I literally almost started to cry; I mean, who does this?!  Right?  I thanked him and he said it wasn’t a big deal, he didn’t really want or need it and it would spend the next 10 years in a drawer!  Silly boy!  He was tired of waiting in line and so the girlfriend sent him off and soon her mom came to join her in line. It was good chatting and entertainment for the nearly two hours we stood in line.  The weird part was that it would have been so easy to just walk away with whatever you were holding; no one was watching or paying attention.  But, everyone patiently waited their turn in line.  This little EXPO crazy experience was really proof to me that there are actually still good people in the world (and not just the angel that gave me the pin) and that I still do have quite a bit of patience!  It soon was our turns to pay, and we said our goodbyes and good lucks and have a great race (they were also getting Coast to Coast medals).

Once I paid, I left the craziness of the EXPO behind me and headed out to find my girls who had headed into Downtown Disney for shopping.  We headed back to the hotel and then Madison and I headed over to the Holiday Inn for the Endurance Sports Connection Bacon Meet Up.  Barrie, Madison, and I received an awesome medal with three little pigs and the big bad wolf for eating three pieces of bacon at some point prior to our race.  The goody bag was in the shape of a piggy also and was filled with many awesome goodies.  If you ever have the opportunity to complete one of these challenges, it is totally worth it!

We headed back into the park for a while and had dinner and rode some rides before calling it a night.  It was going to be an early morning (we would be up by 4 am!).  Kylie and Madison asked to stay in Disneyland for a little longer by themselves; it was that sad moment as a parent that they were at the Happiest Place on Earth and exploring on their very own, but also that proud moment that they even wanted to!  Reluctantly, Bar and I agreed and they headed into the park on their own.  Back at the hotel, we organized costumes and bibs and safety pins and running shoes!  Wow, that was a lot of preparation.  I took two sleeping pills after the girls arrived back to the hotel and crashed into a wonderful drug induced, air conditioned slumber.  I slept wonderfully until that four am wake up call of the barking dogs on the iPhone alarm!  It’s like “who let the dogs out” gone bad.

I got myself up and mostly dressed before I woke up the growly Bar and three sleeping beauties.  No one was very happy to be waking up but once they were up and getting into their awesome tutus, they started to have that pre-race excitement.  We all dressed and did our hair (not Barrie) and make-up and ribbons, etc., quickly ate a bite of something and had some water and ran out the door.  Now, let me tell you just how warm it was; at 4:45 am the temperature was 78 degrees and the humidity was about 87%.  I started to feel like I was in Florida all over again, and let me say if you have not read me Princess Half race recap, then you probably should!  We all looked so cute; you can see the picture above; I am the Mad Hatter, Barrie is the caterpillar, Madi is the Cheshire cat, Trista is the Queen of Hearts, and Delainey is Alice.  This is the only picture that I have of myself, and I am so sad, because my tutu is amazing:)  We walked through Downtown Disney with all the other racers and saw just some great costumes.  When we arrived at the pre-race area, we all said our goodbyes, and Barrie and the girls headed over to the 5K starting line area.  This was Trista’s very first 5K ever!  So exciting!  After using the port a potty one last time, I moved onto to the street with the rest of the 10K racers.  And, it was not just a plain old 10K for me, it was the inaugural 10K as well as the Dumbo Double Dare!  My excitement was building.  the 5K started at 5:30 and 10K was set to start at 6:15.  It was the one time in any runDisney event so far that I felt like there was a lot of disorganization and no one really knowing what they were doing going on.  They would tell us to stand here or there.  As we were waiting on a side street, guess who I saw?  In all those thousands of people, I saw my friend from the EXPO line from the day before!  Nothing is by chance, whoa, total God Thing!  Then, there was a woman dressed in a full on Jedi outfit who told everyone where to go and so everyone started listening to her like she was some sort of authority, and it was a total waste of time.  When the 5K had cleared out, the runDisney staff quickly moved us to our Corrals for the 10K start.

Did I mention I was in the B corral?!  It was exciting to be so close to the start.  Wow, my brain is all over the place right now!  I played Candy Crush and opened the mail, and totally lost my train of thought!  Oh, koala of little brain!  Anyway, the nice part was there was really no waiting around.  It was starting to get light already, and did I mention that it was quite warm and humid?  My oh so cute knee socks and Mad Hatter hat were just making me pour sweat.  I kept telling myself that it was only 6.2 miles, right?  Soon, it was time for our corral to start, and we were off.  Yes, there were many people walking right out the gate.  Was it annoying spending the first half mile dodging walkers, yes, it was!  Anyway, I settled into my groove.  I didn’t even have my runKeeper app set.  I wanted to totally listen to my body.  My body was telling me that it was hot and humid and just lay down!  I kept at it.  The first part of the course took us through the Anaheim Convention Center and then we were back to the parks.  It was cool being on a brand new and totally different course.  We went through California Adventure and then into Disneyland.  The feeling was so different since I knew that the race would be over much sooner than the half courses that I had become so used to.  After running through Disneyland, we came out into Downtown Disney and there in the sidelines, cheering me on was Barrie and the girls!  I was so excited to see them and that they had waited to see me.  I gave my loving and supportive man a great big hug and a kiss and continued on flying through Downtown Disney toward the finish line!  It was such a fun race and fast and flat course.  Knowing I had to run on Sunday, I didn’t push myself and finished in 1:02:51 with a pace of 10:07 min/mile!  I was thrilled with my time and couldn’t wait to see my girls and Barrie and see how their race had gone.  The medal is really awesome and koala made it through the first half of the double dare!  To be continued . . .

Salinas Valley Half Marathon, not really Salinas at all?! Koala and Coach in wine country:)

image Wow, I can’t believe what a slacker I have been in getting this race recap up!  School has started and the mama koala is in full swing with carpools for three schools (will be four after Labor Day!), lunches, practices, and the crazy blessing of a home with five kidlets in it!  Right now, I am eagerly counting down the days until Dumbo Double Dare!  Our family is in dire need of a Disney long weekend, and I am hoping that God will bless our time there with good health and fellowship.

Okay, back to the blog at hand!  I just have to start off by saying this was by far one of the most beautiful race courses I have ever encountered albeit challenging!  I started off planning to run this race on my own (no amount of my trying to coerce my running friends with wine waiting at the finish line could convince anyone to join in on my madness!).  But wait, enter Heather; my daughter’s cheer coach who has also become a running friend of mine.  I get a message from her saying she had gotten a free race entry and would be running Salinas Valley with me!  I can’t tell you how excited I was; I have gotten used to running these races by myself but I am always more than thrilled with the blessing of someone to keep me company.  Koala gets quite lonely in her craziness:)  We began planning our excursion which included leaving quite early in the morning to make the drive down to the Soledad Mission.  We decided to pick up our bibs on race morning instead of making the hour and fifteen minute drive twice.  This was also a Saturday race day, which I love, because that means that my family and I will not have to miss church due to my crazy running schedule.  This also meant that I could test out my Dumbo Double Dare legs by getting in a 10K on Friday! My Friday run went very well.  I had a hard time remembering that I was running on a Saturday and needed to keep reminding myself that I should really be watching what I was eating the day before a race!

On race morning, I got up quite early at 4:45 am to make sure that I had enough time to get dressed, get my food together, and be ready for Heather’s arrival at 5:30 am!  Did I mention that I once again wore something new for this race?!  Call me crazy, but I finally bought a LuLuLemon Pace Setter Skirt; it came highly recommended from my running friend, Cake (she makes some amazing cakes and so that’s what we all call her!).  I must say that this skirt looked quite cute on and had some little grippy tape stuff on the under shorts to hold them in place.  Did I say it looked cute, and it looked super cute on:)  If you have never checked these skirts out before, you should!  I picked a second one up at the outlet mall today because I liked it so much, and it was a great deal!  Anyway, Heather and I headed out on our trek/adventure, whatever you could call it.  I have not driven that far down Highway 101 in a very long time; it was far to Soledad, and I was very grateful for my iPhone and Google maps accurate directions, because like I said, the race wasn’t exactly in Salinas (or even close to it for that matter!).  Soon, we were in farm country and our exit was coming up quickly.  There were signs once we exited the Highway clearly directing our way to the parking area which was in a huge field!  This race was not an out and back, and so they were providing buses at the end to take us back to our cars.  We parked and got out and grabbed all our stuff.  It was foggy and quite chilly, but I know how warm a koala can get, so I opted to leave everything in the car!  We took the short walk to the bib pick up area which was at the actual Soledad Mission.  I checked a bag with sweatshirt and flip flops for afterward in case it was chilly and we had to wait for a bus.

We used the infamous port a potty and went to find a place to stretch.  Soon, it was time to head over to the start line area.  I was quite cold by this time and there was a chilly breeze.  I kept reminding myself how I would never again complain about the weather in California and already knew that the Lord had smiled on this day with near perfect running conditions.  Standing around in line, body to body, I quickly warmed up.  We had a short 5 minute delay and then we headed out.

I had decided after a discussion after my last race (the Jungle Run) with my main Bear a new race strategy.  I would try to pace myself more evenly, slowing down a bit in the beginning to avoid the crash I typically have at mile 10; what a great idea;)  I told Coach that I would let her pace me and we would finish together; her with a new PR and me finishing strong without a crash!  Soon after we started, Coach announced she needed to use the bathroom one more time; there were port a potties located where we had parked.  She headed over and told me that she would catch up.  I was a little sad thinking that was probably the last I may see her:(  I settled in to my pace and headed out the farm country road.  Soon, here comes Coach, flying up next to me!  I was shocked, surprised, and thanking God all in the same breath!  I looked over at her and asked if she wanted to walk, and she said no, let’s keep going.  And we did just that!  We settled in to a course which was gorgeous; we were running up against the west side of the valley foothills.  With the hillside to the left and green hills of sprawling grape vines to our right, I was feeling blessed.  What an amazing creation God had blessed this farming community with.

My splits for the entire race were as follows:

Mile 1  9:34

Mile 2  9:30

Mile 3  9:55

Mile 4  9:42

Mile 5  10:04

Mile 6  10:01

Mile 7  10:24

Mile 8  10:45

Mile 9  10:05

Mile 10  10:38

Mile 11  10:01

Mile 12  10:41

Mile 13  9:44

The toughest part of the race was a giant hill between miles seven and eight.  I lost Coach somewhere around mile 10 ish.   The rolling hills continued until about mile 10-11 where it was mostly downhill and then a big down hill to the finish.  Official finish time was 2:14:06, and Coach headed in shortly after me with her own PR!  I was so excited and happy for her.  This was an amazing race with a beautiful course and great aid stations with plenty of on course refreshments and fuel.  When we got to the finish area, we received our long sleeve tech tees and a wine glass for tasting if we wished to do so.  They also had several beers on tap and tri tip barbeque sandwiches for purchase.  We picked up my sweat bag and headed to the bus to go back to the car.

Looking back, the day turned out to be an amazing one.  With perfect running weather (the fog started to break and the sun came out right around mile 11) and wonderful running company, this was a day that Koala would not soon forget.  This little Koala made it through race number 9 with God’s blessings of good health, friendship and surroundings.  I remember at one point as I was up high on the mountainside how beautiful the view was and how God had handcrafted each foothill and mountain; amazing stuff!  We made it to the car and both hobbled out of the bus.  Thank goodness again for our smart phones which would find the closest Jamba juice for the ride home!

With number nine down and Dumbo Double Dare only days away, I am excited to head on to number ten and some new inaugural race medals!  Oh, forgot to mention, The Salinas Valley Half Marathon medal is a super cool wine stopper!  And my Pace Setter skirt, it worked out amazing!  The other thing I did was cut the feet out of my Run Love compression socks and wore my regular running socks; worked like a charm!  All in all, a blessed and successful day:)  See you in Disneyland!

in the jungle the mighty jungle, koala sleeps tonight; Jungle Run Race re-cap:)

imageI know, I’ve gotten you singing now, and maybe a koala doesn’t even belong in the jungle, but I guess I didn’t realize that a panda did either!  I have to start by saying that I was not motivated AT ALL to run this race.  Let’s all face it; running in the summer months for training is tough, let alone running a half marathon!  I guess, I didn’t really think this half a month thing through when I signed myself up for this non-sense!  The other thing is that I am just having a hard time concentrating on anything but the Dumbo Double Dare at Disneyland in a month.

As always, God would bless my time, this race and the morning!  The crazy part was that Barrie was flying home from the Dominican Republic on Saturday; long story short, after Miami airport closed due to a Tropical Storm, their flight was diverted to the Bahamas!  He finally made it home around 2:30 am and my alarm was set for 5 am!  Ugh, but geez, after a week of my bear being gone, I was so glad to have him sleeping next to me!  I had taken two over the counter sleeping pills, and so continued sleeping through to my alarm!  I showered the night before, and so got up and dressed quickly, grabbed the usual mini bagel and water and all my “stuff” that I had very carefully organized the night before, and headed out the door at about 5:30 am (race start was at 7 am and I had to get my bib still!).

As I got into the car, I was overwhelmed by a feeling a gratitude and thankfulness.  It was strange.  It was a glorious, sunny morning in Morgan Hill, which meant it was going to be a warm one!  I was very worried about the heat for this race and had been conscientious in drinking well over a gallon of water and coconut water on Saturday.  The one song that stood out during my drive was by Mikeschair, and the lyrics are as follows:

I could write a love song
Tell You what I think You wanna hear
But it wouldn’t be good enough, no
Yea I could try so hard
To give it everything I’ve got
But I’m not ever gonna measure up

[Chorus]
All I can do is thank You
For this life I never deserved
Wanna thank You for the grace
I know I don’t have to earn
You love me, You love me
Your mercy is proof
All I can do is say thank You
All I can do is say thank You

It would have been easy
But I’m glad You never walked away
Cause Your love runs deep for me
And I see this beautiful world
And it brings tears in my eyes
And I think it’s beautiful to be free

Totally how I was feeling this morning!  Wow, humbled and in awe of the goodness of my God!  I drove to Los Gatos in no time, parked the car, and walked down to the track to get my bib.  Smooth and easy with plenty of time to spare.  I was tickled to see my race bib had the photo of a panda bear on it; I think it may just be one of my all time favorite bibs!  As I walked back to my car to get my stuff organized, I received a text from my girlfriend, Heather, that she was also there.  I told her I would see her shortly and just as I was walking down to look for her, she was calling my name.  We went to use the infamous pre-race port-a-potty and as we were waiting in line, I saw my girlfriend, Kim!  Crazy how God works!  Whenever Kim and I are at a race together, somehow, God always brings us together, even in a see of hundreds of runners!  Kim’s husband, Sanford, was also there and running his very first half marathon!  I felt very excited for him.  We waited around for the short time until race starts.  I felt a little unprepared in that I had not studied the race course like I normally do at all; I think it was my denial in general over this Jungle Run!

Now, Kim is much faster than me, and Heather just a tad bit slower (but gaining ground on me quickly) and so we said our good-byes and waited for the race to start. I forgot to mention Jungle Dude!  There is this older man who I have seen at many races who was dressed in full on Tarzan garb!  He is like a celebrity; people were waiting to take their picture with him!  So, off we went!  Oh, one other thing, yet again, I was committing the cardinal sin of running and wearing a new running skirt for this race (mainly because I found it at TJ Maxx for 20 bucks and it looked super cute!).  Well, as the race started, we headed out the high school parking lot and immediately up a fairly steep hill!  My skirt started to slide down over my hips, and I remember praying that it didn’t end up at some point around my ankles!  I spent the next 2 miles adjusting and pulling up that oh so cute running skirt!  After that point, I think my sweat made that skirt stick, and I rocked it!  It is an amazing lightweight running skirt, but a little on the big side!  Despite the running skirt debaucle of the Jungle Run 2013, my first 9 mile splits were rocking!

Mile 1  9:35; Mile 2  8:45; Mile 3  9:04; Mile 4  8:57; Mile 5  9:29; Mile 6  10:14; Mile 7  10:35; Mile 8  10:09; Mile 9  9:56!

The first about 5.5 miles was on the city streets of Los Gatos and Campbell.  At that point, we turned around and headed back on the trail.  The weather until I hit the turnaround point was perfect running weather:  foggy and cool!  Once the sun started to come out, it was warm, but the trail is mostly shaded with trees, and so it continued to be nice.  There were only 700 registered runners for the half, and so there were points when I was on the trail that I felt like I was alone, just out on a training run:)  I love that feeling and was feeling blessed and loved!  The weird part about my music was that my shuffle kept pumping out the fast tempo tunes; hence, my fast (for me) pace!  Usually, I am blessed with a great mix of fast and slower tunes to keep me focused and on target pace; clearly, God was keeping me going this morning!  As we headed into mile 10 and back near the high school, we headed out the trail toward Lexington Reservoir.  This was mentally a tough part of the race for me and physically as well.  I took water at the water stop and then headed on.  This trail is dirty and dusty with very little shade; it also reminded me of the Dammit Run, a tough race that did my leg in in August of 2012!  I plodded along, tired and thirsty.  The top of my quad started to hurt around mile 11.  As I saw Kim heading back the other way, I was hopeful that the turnaround was close.  I made the turnaround at last.  I wish there had been water at that turnaround point in the worst way.  I passed Sanford and then Heather.  Soon, Sanford passed me.  We continued back and onto the high school property.  The last part of the race was a lap around the track to the finish line where my sister in Christ, Michawn, would place my medal around my neck!  What an amazing feeling; definitely goes down as one of my most cherished racing moments:)  Finish time:  2:14:16!  My last three miles were, 10:47, 11:23, and 11:26 respectively.

The best part of the post race treats was sno cones!  Yum, nothing like frozen ice after running 13.1 miles on a very warm morning!  Great race with great friends; I love that God blessed this morning run with some wonderful fellowship thrown in.  There are two morals to this race story:  1, do a test run on a new running skirt that has no drawstring before wearing it in a half marathon, and 2, maybe I should start carrying water with me, despite my hatred of carrying something in my hand or wearing a belt!  Enjoy the pics, and next race on the horizon, Salinas Valley Half Marathon, August 3, 2013!

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koala running miles for a dream . . . Vibha Dream Mile race re-cap

sorry it has taken me so long to get this post up!  Wow, the last week since the Vibha Dream Mile Half Marathon has been crazy!  The kids are done with school and mom and her appointments with therapists, doctors, etc. has made my life extra crazy.  One thing remains constant:  Gods presence and love for me.  If nothing else was true of this race, this is the one thing that He was reminding me.  To be honest, I only ran not quite 7 miles total between Capitola and Vibha!  Memorial weekend, Barrie and I took the kids for a much-needed long weekend to Disneyland.  It was wonderful to be at Disney and not have to worry about what I was eating because I was racing!  We had a great time and even rode Radiator Springs Racers twice!!!  The baby bear, Blake, hit the big forty inch milestone and was able to ride all the bib rides; it was the first time all seven of us rode many rides together.  What a wonderful blessing and time we had.

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We arrived back home from Disneyland at 11 am and I immediately hit the pavement.  I think I eeked out 3 miles in the warm, humid, overcast weather.  It felt so good to sweat!  The week began with new challenges and adventures in that we found out mom would be staying with us for a while as she is not safe to live alone at this point.  I wondered how on earth I would ever be able to get my training in?!  Running is a huge stress reliever and my alone time with the Lord.  God reminded me that He alone was in control; that He would guide my every move and free up my days for my time with Him, even if that meant getting up before the rest of the family!  Those of you that know me well know that I am not a morning person at all!  Coffee has made me tolerant and tolerable in the morning, but I am still not a morning person.  See koala before coffee and after!  Big difference.  But, I knew that God would guide my way.  I also bought much-needed new shoes which were long overdue and needed to break them in prior to Sunday’s race.  I don’t generally run the day before a race, but I had no choice.  I had worn my current Asics at Disneyland and discovered after walking around the park for two days what horrible shape they were in!  Anyway, I needed to put a few miles on my new shoes which I got a smoking deal on through Running Warehouse–$80 with a %15 Facebook Discount since it is the old model Gel Nimbus 14 and free overnight shipping, can’t beat that!  My running buddy, Leila,  and I headed out with her chocolate, Riley, and ended up running 3 miles and about .83 miles of walking.  My shoes felt pretty good, and I was glad to log the extra miles since I hadn’t run all week!

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The Vibha Dream Mile was a benefit for children in India; I believe it was the 15th annual event and sold out at 1,500 runners!  I chose this race for June since it was close, for a good cause, and it was basically the same course as the Hellyer Half Marathon that I ran in March.  Although warm weather was predicted, I knew the course was nice and shady and the 7:30 am start time would also work to my advantage.  The theme was green for the race; definitely not even on koala’s radar of anything near a favorite color!  But, give the koala a theme, and she will take up the challenge!  I chose some lime green Old Navy running shorts, my I Can Fly! Team-Sparkle race legs, a lime green sports bra, and my trusty gray running tank.  I purchased a green Halo headband at Road Runner Sports at bib pick up just for the occasion;)  I carefully put all my stuff out the night before to ensure that I would not forget anything.  Feeling very organized, I got a great nights sleep!  I was up before my alarm went off at 5:30 am, dressed, and food and coffee pulled together.  I left the house at about 6 am and arrived at Hellyer Park in plenty of time.  As I sat in the car for a bit, praying and enjoying the scenery, I received two texts from dear sisters in Christ.  This was right after I had realized that I had forgotten yet again one crucial thing:  my Honey Stinger Organic gels!  Ugh, foiled again!  I prayed at that moment that God would carry me and that I would be at the mercy of His creation and my course.  The first text from Anne read:  Prayer and love for you!!  My Hope is in You (Aaron Shust)  AWESOME SONG!!!!  Run with God mama.  He’s with you!!  The second text from Tracy read:  Good luck today . . . enjoy the beautiful morning and rejoice in his glory as you run the course today.  I couldn’t believe how my God had given just the right words, yet again, to my sisters!  What?  It sometimes just makes this little koala’s head hurt when I try to fathom how the Lord of all the earth holds me in the palm of His hand and cares about even the silliest details of my inconsequential day!  Wow!

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Rejoicing and smiling, I emerged from my car to find a sea of green most everywhere I looked; I love a good theme, but I love it even more when 98% of the runners are actually participating!  I walked over to the start area and used the bathroom a few more times since I had drunk more water than normal knowing it was going to be a warm one!  It was 60 degrees already when I left the car.  While waiting, I met a woman who was 62 years old and scoping out her competition; she had just started racing and had placed 2nd in a Mermaid race two weeks earlier!  Wow, what an inspiration!  The race organizers had a little stretching/warm-up session and soon it was time to head out.  As in usual fashion, I could not get my RunKeeper app to start until I was through the gate.  We ran a little loop out and back before we headed around the lake and were already at mile 1; I hit this split at 8:57.  Not too bad.  My GPS was obviously behind at this point.  The next 5 miles were as follows:  mile 2, 9:13, mile 3, 9:05, mile 4, 9:32, and mile 5, 9:59.  I made sure to take Gatorade at every aid station and my tummy seemed to tolerate well.  The race was very friendly with people smiling and having a good time all the while pounding out the miles.  At mile 6, 10:28, my RunKeeper caught up with the course which I thought was odd.  The next few miles were mile 7, 10:29, mile 8, 10:38, mile 9, 10:13, mile 10, 10:21, and mile 11, 10:50.  Sometime around mile 10 or 11, I lost some major time fussing with my Arm Pocket; I thought I loved this thing, but now began to hate on it!  It was not staying in place and felt so heavy all of a sudden on my arm.  I tried adjusting it and even stopped to place it on my ankle.  Total Fail!  Had to stop again and decided to just carry it in my hand.  I loathe running holding something in my hands.  Mile 12 was 11:06, and I knew the end was close.  Other than the fact that it was really warm and sunny and my entire body was covered in salt crystals, my body felt amazingly great!  I hit the 13 mile marker at 10:59 and was puzzled because it was still way out on the trail and not really anywhere near the finish line!  When you run, you know distances, and a tenth of a mile when you have already ran 13 is not that far!  It seemed forever!  As I crossed the finish line and shut off my RunKeeper, my mileage read a big fat 13.45 miles!  What?!  And this was after I had started my app late.  Official finish time was 2:16:50.  I was at first puzzled at my time discrepancy from the consistency of the last four races, but taking in to account the Arm Pocket issues as well as the possible course discrepancy, I am content with this time.

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I forgot to mention the fuel situation.  They had GU Chomps on course, and so I grabbed a packet of those and ended up only eating one the entire race!  I think I had an amazingly blessed race and glorious race all around!  I received my finisher’s medal and didn’t care to eat the food at the finish, so I headed back to the car.  Feeling accomplished, I made it home and back to the Daily Bagel for a delicious Egg Salad Sandwich, yum.  At this point, this mama koala is happy to be injury free with 7 half marathons down for the year, and with less than 80 days to go until Disneyland, this little koala has her sights set on the Dumbo Double Dare and some serious bling!  Next race up is the Jungle Run in Los Gatos; I’m looking forward to spending some of that run with my long-lost running friends Kim and Heather, can’t wait!

just one week can change everything; capitola half marathon details

As i look back on the past week, i feel as if i am watching a bad movie that or having a bad dream that i can never wake up from.  God has reminded me many things this last week including:  life is short, trust me, I alone am in control, every good and perfect gift is from me, and His faithfulness in love and provision in even the smallest details.  It was last Tuesday morning.  I was driving Madison home from Gilroy from her orthodontist appointment and dropping her off at school.  I had my 7-8 mile run all planned out and couldn’t wait to get home and hit the pavement.  The call came that no daughter should ever get.  It was my mom’s doctor; the words came out of his mouth that dropped my jaw and changed life as we know it forever-“Your mom is here with me.  I believe she has had or is having a stroke.  I am calling the ambulance.  You can meet her at the ER.”  He asked if I had any questions.  I couldn’t even think straight and Madison had heard the entire conversation.  He did say that he felt she was stable; I wanted to know would she be okay, I mean, you know, really okay.  I could barely keep myself together as I started to go through the motions of checking Madison in at school.  I had already called Barrie; his reaction was also shock and disbelief.  As I left the school, I called the BFF; again, shock and disbelief.  I was glad that I was not the only one feeling this way.  I tried to get in touch with my brother who is a Ranger and was unable to reach him.  I decided to go home and shower since clearly I would not be running or home anytime soon.  When I finished, I quickly headed to the hospital not knowing where my five kids would be going after school or what but feeling confident it would all work out.  The music on K-Love of course was reminding me of God’s faithfulness as well.  When I arrived at the hospital, mom had just gotten there.  My girlfriend was working in the ER admitting and also in shock and disbelief told me I could go back in a few minutes.  As I waited for what seemed like hours, I started to think, how could this be happening?  My mom is a vibrant, strong, woman; she is a breast cancer survivor, a Nonie, a bank manager, and very independent.  She watches our dogs, our house, our children, takes vacations with us and by herself.  Why this and why now?

I felt better once I went in the back.  She was chatting away.  She could not see anything out of her left eye but had full use and strength in all extremities.  The next nine hours there were gruelling.  CT scans, blood work, IV’s, admission to the Medical/Surgical unit, phone calls to brother, my aunt, friends, organizing five children to be picked up, meals brought by wonderful friends to us.  Through it all, God again reminded me that He was there; even though I felt very alone, I knew He was with me.  As a got home that night and my wonderful husband held me tight and I chowed the amazing chicken nachos that my dear friend had brought me, I recounted the days events to him.  Again, how could this be happening?  The next day brought more visits to the hospital.  Both my aunt and uncle were there for their sister.  Mom’s MRI showed a severe stroke to the parietal lobe on the right side of the brain.  Dr. K. her neurologist took all five of us in the back room and showed us the MRI; what a blessing to have such a wonderful individual take the time out of her busy schedule to explain to us what had happened and answer all of our questions. The one question that no one could answer though was what would her level of functioning be?  No one could answer that.

Thursday morning after I dropped Trista at school, I decided to run.  I needed it.  My body craved it.  I ran a short and quick 3.4 miles to get some sweat on.  My Pandora station belted out the Christian tunes.  God reminded me two very important things:  this was mom’s trial and mom needed to know that He was in control and always has been.  That’s the one thing that I didn’t mention about mom; she likes to be in control, and to her credit, she has done a pretty good job at that!  I felt refreshed and ready to take on another day at the hospital.  BFF and I arrived at the hospital to find my aunt and uncle also there.  Mom was having a severe headache and had puked from some Vicodin.  Later that night, she moved to the ICU due to a bleed in the area of the stroke.  It was disheartening to say the least.

During all of this I remembered I had a half marathon scheduled for Sunday.  What should I do?  Barrie encouraged me to go and run; it would be good for me.  I had not eaten or drank properly all week.  By Friday afternoon, mom was moved back to her old room and stable enough for me to go run on Sunday.  I knew it would probably not be my best race or a new PR, but I was convinced that God would bless my time.  I went to see mom on Saturday evening and told her I was racing in the morning; she just asked if I was crazy!  I should have replied, yes but only half;)  Barrie and I went out for sushi for dinner and talked about our week and how crazy our lives had become.  I came home and pulled my stuff together; my heart just wasn’t in it, but I decided I would run for mom.  I picked out my new aqua Asics runnings shorts, a grey tank, and my pink sparkle headband in honor of mom (she wasn’t very happy that she was missing the Relay for Life:(. )  I took two Tylenol PM and went to bed; I had a good sleep.  When the alarm went off at 4:45, I was already awake.  I dressed, made my coffee and breakfast, made sure I had my iPod shuffle and ear buds and headed out the door by 5:15.  As I started to drive over the hill, God began to remind me yet again, that He was there, He was with me always.  I remember the Kutless song came on which goes like this:

When the path is daunting

And every step exhausting

I’m not alone

I’m not alone, no, no

I feel you draw me closer

All these burdens on my shoulder

I’m not alone, I’m not alone

You pull me from this place

You carry me every day 

You carry me every way

At this same time, I received a text message from a dear friend, sister in Christ and runner; purely seeing who had texted me and the tears started to flow.  I couldn’t read the text until I came to the stop sign at the bottom of the mountain and couldn’t believe what I read:  Praying for you this morning that you will have a wonderful run/race and God will bless your alone time with Him and give u strength beyond what you are able.  Praying for your mom to continue to improve so they can move her tomorrow.  Much love to you!!!!  God gives strength to the weary. 🙂  I couldn’t believe it, and the timing with the Kutless song was impeccable!  He knows just what we need, and when we need it.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  It always hurts my head when I think about how He knows the number of hairs on my head!

I arrived and parked in Santa Cruz at a little after 6 am.  I headed over to pick up my bib and then back to my car to get everything pulled together and stretch.  At about 6:30, I headed over to the start area and place myself a little back from the actual start line but not too far back.  The weather was gorgeous; about 55 degrees and sunny.  I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to get warm, so I had left my long sleeve in the car, and I was really glad that I had.  The race started right on time at 7 am, and we headed out.  I did not spend the entire first two miles dodging people.  It was nice and I think small enough and well-self seeded enough that it was great.  Soon, I was passing mile 2 at about 18 minutes; a little too fast for me and so I started to slow my pace a little.  As we came along Cliff Drive, the view was breathtaking; the sun glistening on the ocean and surfers waiting to catch the next wave.  The course was a little hillier than I had remembered but as I headed for the big downhill into Capitola Village, I sped up a little.  Mile 6 was at the end of the village and I was somewhere around 1:01.  Not too bad, but that subconcious dream of the PR was for sure out of reach!  I headed back up the big hill and am very proud of the fact that I made it to the top without stopping!  Somewhere around mile 9, my knee started to hurt, and I was reminded of that old IT injury:/  I had taped my IT band but did not put any at my knee; error number 1.  I continued on trying to just focus on my music and the fact that I knew I was almost done.  At about mile 11, I really started to slow; I had to walk quite a bit and my knee was really sore.  I plodded along, running and walking, and soon the Boardwalk was in sight.  I ran the final straight away to the finish and finished strong down the slope and onto the sand.  Official race finish time: 2:11:46!  If nothing else, my last four races have been super consistent!

I asked about my tech tee and was told that they had run out of all sizes on Saturday!  Totally the pits when I had registered almost a year in advance:/  I was so happy to be done, blessed with a great race, and headed home to my family.  The kids favorite thing to do now when I get home is first see the medal and then be the one to hang it on the rack with the others:)  Oh yes, error number 2:  forgetting to shave my armpits and put body glide on my arms:/  I have a very nasty chaffing situation under my left arm due to my neglect of that area.

Yesterday as I drove around multiple times in my car, I kept hearing the same two songs:  The Afters, Every Good Thing and Francesca Battistelli, Strangely Dim.  I encourage you to listen to both songs.  I was reminded that every good thing is from God; there are days that He gives me more that I can take, but I am reminded that He is using the trial to bring change in me and glory to Him!  He has shown me so much love and faithfulness through all the love and prayers from family and friends both near and far!  Mom is recovering in an acute rehabilitation facility for right now is moving in the right direction!  Continue to pray for a complete recovery.  Looking forward to my next race, in oh, 11 days!  Half Crazy, baby:)

Half numero cinco for 2013 on Cinco de Mayo! Divas Half Marathon San Francsico Race Re-cap

imageWell, yes, this race was not really on my radar.  It is something I had been tossing around in my head for a while. The thing is that it has been tough for me to find a half marathon to run for the month of December.  Divas Half Marathon series has a new West Coast Challenge, San Francisco and SoCal.  The SoCal race is on December 8th.  I figured if I am going to do the SoCal race, I might as well do SF since it is practically in my backyard! Yes, that makes two halfs for the month of May, but to be honest, I was craving the race!  I haven’t run one in a month, and my little Half Fanatic koala body just couldn’t resist it!

After discussing it with Barrie, he decided it was pretty easy for him to hop off the train on Friday afternoon and go to the expo and get my bib.  What a great husband!  I know, and I love him for it:)  It was a fairly painless process for him until another train hit a vehicle and delayed his coming home by an hour; on a Friday evening, this did not make for a very happy Barrie!  He still said it was okay, because it would have been a nightmare for me driving up and back to Burlingame on a Friday evening.  Not to mention, I would have had to drag the kids with me so that I could have the carpool lane!  Well, it all worked out.  the shirt and swag bag are cute and bright pink, but there was nothing in the bag.  We received a link for a virtual goodie bag that I still have not looked at.  It seems to me that the bigger and more expensive the race is, the less goodies you get in your bag.  I have taken home some wonderful and yummy stuff from some of the smaller races I have done, but this was definitely lacking in that department!

I was definitely excited for this race.  I may have mentioned before that I love racing with all women.  It is just a little less serious and little more fun; I’m sure it has a lot to do with all the sparkle, pink, fluffy tutus, fun socks and other girly things!  Let me tell you, there was a serious amount of girly stuff going on here!  But, let me get back to the preparation and that morning.  So, Saturday was a busy day with softball and Madison’s team pool party at our house.  My day was consumed with teenaged girls and pool time!  I  made sure to stay hydrated and taking in a good mix of water and electrolytes throughout the day.  Major downer was that I woke up with the head/chest cold that the kids have had for weeks now; I was not a happy camper.  My head felt a little like it would absolutely explode every time I bent down to pick something up.  Blech!  And the worst part is that I had no time to get to the pharmacy to buy some decongestant (you have to sign your life away for the good stuff they keep behind the counter now).  Dinner ended up being half of a carnitas burrito for me, which I never do, so I wasn’t sure how the Mexican food was going to sit in my stomach.  I made sure to have all my stuff put together early, laid out, coffee pot ready to go, and went to bed early with the help of two sleeping pills:)  I felt like I slept well during the night, but I kept waking up with pounding sinus pain.  My human alarm clock, Blake, was up about ten minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off at 4:15 am  I shuttled him back to his bed and laid down.  Don’t think the thought of rolling over and going back to sleep did not cross my mind; I knew Barrie would be furious after what he had done on Friday afternoon to get my goods!  I rucked up and rolled out of bed.  Once I was up, I felt a little better.  I started to pray that I had some kind of decongestant in my medicine cabinet that I had not seen before; low and behold, there it was, like a shining star!  Generic tylenol cold and sinus pain medicine!  Hallelujah!  I put two in my pocket for after I ate.  I dressed in my black shorts, pink Team-Sparkle skirt, black tank, pink glitter headband and black zip up jacket.  It was actually quite warm out.  I got my coffee, made a whole wheat english muffin with peanut butter, honey and banana slices, grabbed my stuff and headed out the door about 4:50 am.  I was a little anxious that I was not going to make it to the Hyatt parking garage in time to get one of the 700 close to the start line parking spaces.  As I looked in my e-mail, the Lord was again tracking with me.  Both of my daily verses dealt with anxiety!  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139: 23-24  and Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7.  Wow!  As I got on the road, I started to pray that God would carry me and relieve the anxious feelings I was having.  You know that I have never felt so much at peace before or during any race I have ever done?  It was a very supernatural feeling that I felt wash over me.  I had no nervous stomach and did not get nervous at all before the start of the race:)

I forgot to mention, as I got on the highway, I came to the startling realization that in all my organization and preparation the night before, I forgot two very crucial things:  my iPod shuffle and my earbuds!  What?!  Immediately, I started to rationalize how I would function without my music.  The calm, peaceful feeling seemed to wash over me; I could do it.  I just needed to keep the devil out of my head.  The drive went smoothly and I arrived at the Hyatt Regency parking garage in Burlingame at about 5:45 am!  Whew, plenty of parking still available.  I pulled in to a spot and sat and organized my thoughts and my stuff.  I bought a new armband for my iPhone by ArmPod.  It is really cool and has a zippered pocket with enough room for keys, ID, and chews, etc.  It is very soft and comfortable but I did not have a chance to give it a test run.  Anyway, packed up and ditched my jacket and started to head out.  Parked next to me was a gal who’s name was Edie, running her first half marathon and also a nurse.  Things that make you go, hmmm.  We walked over to the finish area and said good-bye and good luck.  I headed over to use the port a potty.  Now, as a rule, I do not eat Mexican food the night before a race, but it seems my burrito did me well.  No tummy issues to report here!  I headed over to the start area where it was situated along the San Francisco bay just south of the airport.  The first picture above was of the sunrise, really a beautiful reminder of God’s glorious creations.  I began to stretch and just take in the scenery.  I had plenty of time and enjoyed the peacefulness that had taken hold of me.

Soon, it was nearing 7 am and start time.  We had a moment of silence in remembrance of the Boston Marathon runners and then the National Anthem.  Then, we were off.  I had placed myself somewhere between the 9:00 and 10:00 minute/mile pace time, but we all moved up to accommodate the growing crowd in the start line area.  For 6,000 runners, it seemed to be a very well self-seeded race.  I did not spend the first mile dodging walkers and there were actually times where I had absolutely no one around me.  As I headed out, I had that familiar feeling of dread during the first mile; why had I done this, I felt like crap, I am going to die.  You know, the self-pity and self-doubt was setting in.  With no music to soothe my woes, I started to spend time in prayer; just asking the Lord to continue to bless my morning, and thanking Him for my ability to run and for giving me the breath of life one more day.  I spent most of that first mile just being grateful for everything.  I started to get in my groove.  I tried not to pay too much attention to my runKeeper and really just listen to my body.  I knew that the way I was feeling, this race was not going to be a new PR for me, and to be honest, I felt really okay with that.  As I started counting the miles down, I tried to enjoy my surroundings and in an attempt to tune out the counseling sessions that I couldn’t believe were going on during a 13.1 mile race, I tried to fill my head with positive thoughts and verses that motivate me.  The headwind was very strong; around miles 4-6 there were times that it was so strong I felt as if i was running in sand.  It would seem as if I was barely moving at all.  We reached the San Mateo Bridge and the turnaround and after that the miles seemed to just fly by.  Right before the turnaround, there was a young girl holding a sign that said “7.5 miles to go!”  and that was quite encouraging.  I remember looking down at my runKeeper and realizing at some point it had paused and I was about .60 miles behind, and I had lost that time as well.  Oh well, no reason to fret!  I plodded along and busted out my Organic Honey Stinger Chews, fruit punch flavor.  I think that I ate about three and continued along.  I will have to say the encouragement from those around me as well as the bystanders was just awesome.  There were several DJ’s on course as well as cheerleaders and many happy volunteers with water and gatorade.  This race was certainly well staffed and I was feeling very well hydrated.  For as crappy as I felt when I woke up, I was feeling pretty good:)  The course ran all along a trail on the bay the entire way back.  Much of the time, I spent running in the dirt to ease the pavement pounding.  My right IT band was feeling a little tight, but nothing too bothersome.  Just before mile 11, the trail got very narrow and uneven with a lot of cracked uneven pavement.  As I went to pass a diva that was off to the right walking, she pulled out right in front of me and I rolled my entire right knee.  Ouch!  That smarted, and I had to walk it off for a bit; I was aggravated but knew that I was very close to the finish.  Less than two miles to go; I’ve got this!  Sometime after the mile 11 marker, a gal ran up beside me and said nice skirt, go Team-Sparkle.  She also admired my Team-Sparkle tattoos Madison had placed on my calves the night before.  She was a sparkle girl and told me this was my photo opp moment!  This is the picture she snapped:)

imageIt was pretty cool, and I love that I have an action photo that I didn’t have to pay for!  Soon, I was at mile 12, and I could smell that finish line.  My knee was reminding me that it wasn’t very happy but I just kept moving along.  At mile 12.8 was the Tiara and Boa station; I was given a princess tiara and  a hot pink feathery boa which I wore both proudly.  Coming into the Finisher’s shoot is always such a rush and as I sprinted across the Finish Line, I was grateful that God had given me the opportunity to enjoy this race with it’s amazingly flat course and scenic views, it was definitely high on my list of best races.  At the finish line, I was given my huge Divas Half Marathon medal (I mean, this is some serious bling!) by a very scantily clad gal!  There were also firemen without shirts on, if that’s your thing; totally not mine!  I was handed a bottle of cold water and grabbed half a plain bagel and headed out of the crowd.  One of my main complaints of these bigger races is the food at the end leaves something to be desired; plain bagels and very brown bananas and oh, champagne; I don’t know about you, but I can barely stomach food after running 13 miles, let alone alcohol.  Many women were enjoying it:)  All in all, this was a great experience and I think that it will be great fun for this to be my final half for 2013 in SoCal.  I almost forgot; my time was 2:11:31, not too bad for not feeling so hot!  Can’t wait:)  Anyone want to join me?

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what does koala eat? fueling, pre-race food dealings, gels, Payday bars and chews, OH MY!

I can honestly say that there is really no rhyme or reason to what I eat prior to runs, night before a race, morning of a race, after a race.  Just when I think I have figured out what “works for koala”, it doesn’t really work the next time.  I guess part of the problem is consistency in what I am eating and when I eat it.  Follow along with me on this little fueling journey set for somewhere, hopefully!

During my regular weekday runs, which tend to be 4-6 miles (except for this week, I ran 8.25 miles on Tuesday), I have two Disney travel mugs full of coffee with almond milk as well as one of the following:  whole grain mini bagel with peanut butter, honey and banana (about 1/2), Trader Joe’s organic flax-seed oatmeal, with honey, 1/2 banana and 1 tsp chia seeds, or whole grain toast fixed the same as the mini bagel.  I usually eat this an hour and a half to two hours prior to my run.  This seems to fuel my short runs, and even the 8.25 mile run on Tuesday, just fine.  I try to drink at least 8 ounces of water before as well or more depending on how warm it is.  I do not carry water or fuel with me on my “short” runs.  I usually feel well fueled with this intake, and it has seemed to work well thus far.  The exception is my very early morning runs at 5:30 am which I slam 8 ounces of water, roll out of bed and into my running clothes and shoes, roll and head out the door!

Prior to a long run, I aim to do the same thing.  The only problem with long runs, which usually have been on Saturday or Sunday for me, is that I like to try to sleep as long as possible so I maybe get half of a banana and a cup of coffee going in, mainly out of my own laziness.  Have you ever tried to wake a snoozing koala?  Just sayin’:)  In case of long runs I have tried the gamut of fuel, including, but I am sure not limited to:  GU, Honey Stinger Organic chews, Cliff Blocks, Sports Beans, Honey Stinger Waffles, Pretzels, Gummi Bears, Payday candy bar, etc.  I am sure that I am forgetting something!  I used the GU for a long time, since that seemed to be what runners use, I mean, they hand them out around mile 9 during most half marathons, right?  I never really liked the consistency and realized it was fueling me but then I was crashing and bonking hard!  Never liked the Cliff blocks; very big, on the firm side, and difficult to get down without gagging (I probably haven’t mentioned I have a very strong gag reflex;) )  Honey Stinger waffles are brilliant and tasty; I like the idea of eating some type of “real” food, but my main complaint is that they are very difficult to open and remove from the package.  For example, last year during the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, I was attempting to remove my waffle from my belt around mile 7 and got it out, struggled to open it, took out half, was holding it in my mouth, all the while running, and while putting the other half back in my belt, the waffle broke off and went flying out of my mouth; I just looked at it on the ground and for a second actually considered picking it up off the ground and eating it, but it would have caused a major pile up!  Aggravating to say the least!  I like pretzels because of the salt, but those are very difficult to chew and get down when you have a dry mouth.  The PayDay candy bar I recently tried and it is very yummy but I am not sure if it is exactly the answer to my fueling dilemma.  I also just tried the Honey Stinger Organic chews, Pink Lemonade on a 7 miler in 80 degree heat.  I wouldn’t normally fuel during this short of a run but they seemed to help with the electrolyte loss from the high heat.  I will say the taste was very pleasant and the consistency was easy to chew and did not cause any gagging issues.  I only used about two, but I think those may work.  i did try Gummi bears during my last 10K race and for some insane reason, I ended up running with them in my hand for more than 4 miles.  Needless to say, the bears were melting and tasted like salt (I had no idea my hands were quite so sweaty, blech!) and my hands were sticky, ick!  Sports Beans are okay too and the flavors are yummy; they are small and very easy to chew, but difficult for me to find locally, so it is not something that I have made a habit of using.

My pre-race day fueling process typically starts on Wednesday before the race with lots of whole grains and brown rice to stockpile all that fuel for race day.  I try to eat very clean and healthy.  I cut out alcohol two weeks before (not that I drink a lot, but I do enjoy a Corona light now and then with some Mexican food).  Morning before the race, I eat a hearty breakfast with easily digested foods:  for example, pancakes, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, french toast.  This has been the best advice that has worked for me; eating that big Denny’s style breakfast, minus the greasy bacon and sausage.  I snack on fruit, nuts, maybe a protein bar throughout the day, eating light, and make sure my water intake is around a gallon.  My meal the night before varies, but I have found what works best is a light meal with protein and easily digested carbs, like a small steak and baked potato, chicken with pasta, or a sweet potato and protein.  These all seem to sit well in my stomach and fuel well the next morning.  Again, eating at home for me is more ideal because I can actually plan and control what I eat so as not to do my stomach in; morning of a race tummy issues are so not fun!

 

Now, race mornings are a little bit different for mama koala.  I am very particular and almost superstitious about my race morning routine, but aren’t all runners?  I still get nervous and unsure (see the God Powered but the Devil can still get me down), and I absolutely have horrible sleep typically the night before.  Sometimes, i will take a Tylenol PM to help me sleep, but it doesn’t always work.  I will say that if a race is an hour or so away from home, it is totally worth it to me to stay home and sleep in my own bed.  My routine is much more consistent, and I know that I have exactly what I need (most of the time, unless someone eats my last mini bagel or banana, doh!)  I eat usually the same as I would eat for my long run days.  I typically have some driving to do so I will prepare my food and coffee and then hop in the car and eat during that hour and a half prior to race start time period while en route.  I sometimes will eat a little something maybe a half hour or fifteen minutes before race start, especially for a half, like the other half of my banana or some banana chips and almonds.

I have been reading a lot about what other runners eat during races and have recently seen that some people eat boiled and salted  potatoes or a burrito (not sure exactly what is in the burrito, but it sounds yummy and definitely portable!).  I would love to try the boiled potatoes and may do that on my next long training run.  Another wrench in the old wheel is packing for traveling, by car or plane.  I have found that this creates a lot of issues for me, especially for hydration and race morning food preparation.  I have had several races (Princess Half this year being the worst) where I didn’t even get coffee in the morning!  This koala needs coffee; I am just miserable without my coffee in the morning and especially before a run!

 

So, what is the final fuel verdict anyway?  I’m not sure if I have a definitive answer.  I can tell you that my favorites of the moment would be the PayDay bar and the Honey Stinger Organic chews, mainly for the taste and palatability:)  I am thinking though that maybe this little koala should just stick to what she is used to:  eucalyptus leaves:O)

putting things in perspective; mama koala’s thoughts on Boston

Yesterday, I started to type a post regarding my recent addition to the Half Fanatics; yes, there is an actual organization for people even nuttier than this koala about half marathons!  But as my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with news of the bombs going off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday and I took it all in and began to process what had happened, I immediately started to cry.  The first thought that occurred to me, as probably many of you, was who would do such a thing?  The Boston Marathon is world famous.  As a newbie runner and for many runners, Boston is merely a dream of something to achieve one day.  To even qualify to run Boston is a really big deal.  I wondered how many were hurt and what the impact would be on those runners who had not finished yet.  The race was stopped and the finish area was evacuated.  Horrible stories and images flooded my MSN news story lines.  Yet, at the same time, runner friends from around the country, called out to those running, checking in, making sure each and every runner was safe.  Prayers were going out and unity was already beginning.

Until yesterday, I had no idea what it meant to be a runner.  As a runner, I am adopted into a huge family; a family where everyone cares about each other, offers advice, and no one gets left behind.  This terrible, evil person tried to ruin something very American and on Patriot’s Day no less!  Evil has no idea what it is up against, because we are Americans and we are runners and we will NOT be shaken.  Again, my newsfeed flooded with the idea to run today in any race shirt in honor of the fallen and injured as well as those who were serving.  It touched me to read a story this morning about a mom who was running yesterday, and for whatever reason needed to take two potty stops along the way.  She was about one minute from the finish line when the bombs exploded.  It quickly occurred to her that had she not taken those potty breaks she would have been in that finish area when those bombs went off!  What a reality check and a gratefulness for having angels watching over you.  I am sure that there are many other similar stories out there.

I have not run since Santa Cruz.  I took a much needed break last week.  I was really looking forward to my run this morning, craving the quiet and solitude, alone time with God.  As I started out into a very strong headwind, the grumbling began inside my head.  Immediately, God reminded me that I was alive, I had legs to run with, and I was breathing.  I should stop my whining.  In the grand scheme of things, sometimes our complaints seem so small and petty.  God cares about us, even in the mundane, everyday dealings of our lives.  His gentle reminder sent me into a time of praise and quiet prayer in remembrance of those who had passed and those who had lost someone in the bombings.  I quietly plodded on and the wind seemed not so bad anymore.  Let’s face it; it could have been any one of us.  At any race, at any given time.  It could have been anyone’s wife, husband, mother, father, son, daughter.  Life is short; picture a spray of vapor and how quickly it disappears and you can no longer see it.  That is how short our lives are to God and in the grandness of eternity.  Blink.  Gone.  Hug those you love tightly today and let those around you know that you care for them.  Time is very short.

Continuing on my regular route, I began to wonder how to react or what could I do.  The Lord has been giving me a sense of urgency lately regarding the need to bring people to Him.  As my shuffle belted out the next few songs:  Mark Shultz “I Am,”, Mercy Me “You are I Am,”  Philips, Craig and Dean “In Christ Alone,: and Chris Tomlin “How Great is Our God.”  If you are not familiar with the songs, I urge you to listen.  If you are familiar with these songs, I urge you to listen closely to the words.  It was amazing to me that these four songs came right at that moment.  God’s message to me became quite clear in those moments.  He is the healer of the broken.  He is the one Messiah.  In Christ alone, my hope is found.  This cornerstone.  This solid ground.  Strong through the fiercest drought and storm.  He wraps Himself in light and darkness tries to hide.  It (darkness) trembles at His voice.  How great is our God?  All will see how great is our God!  He is the one constant; the one thing that has always been and always will be.

Where was God yesterday?  As a Christian, I understand that there are spiritual battles going on every day.  Seen and unseen.  This is a very evil world that we live in; ruled by the evil one, Satan.  But, we cannot forget; God is ultimately in control.  He is allowing His own fallen angel to have his fun, but God will ultimately and quite literally crush Satan underneath His feet.  Satan knows full well that his time here will be put to an end, and while on earth, he needs to bring as many souls to darkness and destruction as he can.  So, my question to you, dear friend, is are you in the light or the darkness?  If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, if you have not believed in Him, you are in darkness.  You do not need to get things right or have things in order to come to God.  He loves you wherever you are and no matter what you have done.  He loves every human being.  He even loves the person that caused those bombings.  He does not want to see one soul perish.  If you have questions, talk to someone; call someone.  There is help and people who will love you and bring you in.  God’s love is never ending.  He loves us so much that we cannot even begin to comprehend.

Christian friends, I urge you to share this message and share the gospel.  Shine your light bright.  Light and good will ultimately prevail.  Beauty will come up from the ashes.  

I ran my 10K today in honor of Boston sporting my Disney Princess Half Marathon shirt.  I pray for those hurting and those who have lost a loved one and those who do not know God.  This little mama koala will let her light shine bright in this fallen world.  My prayer is that this world would shine bright with the light of His love and bring the peace that passes all understanding to those who needs it<3