So how on earth did I end up in the Epic Rocky Mountain Relay team– July 19, 2013? That my friends is a long story. It started well over a decade ago, long before I even fathomed that I would run a marathon, or beyond. This is a story about my passion for music, a musician who deeply influenced my faith journey, running miles, and the path that has led me to where I am now, so it is not my usual race report… in fact, it is more like a faith report and a bit of history of where I have been.
“I feel like God is leading me out, so I’m kind of sleeping with my shoes on. When God parts the sea, you don’t want to say, “oh rats, where are my sandals?” Rich Mullins
The above quote has been on my fridge for years. Need to be ready for opportunity...
So perhaps this starts of sometime in 1997. I was living in Michigan at the time and had just gotten married. I ordered some CD’s from either Columbia House or similar program – remember those? Buy 8 CD’s for the price of 1? Yeah, I used to do that, cancel after I bought the one – then they would want me back and offer it again… and the cycle repeats for many years. In one of those sets of CD’s was Rich Mullins “Songs” album. It quickly turned into a favorite of mine. I remember wondering if Rich was going to be touring or doing any concerts anywhere in the area, so I looked him up on the internet (remember aol dialup??) There I found out that he had died as a result of a car accident only a few months prior. I was saddened. I started reading up more on his life and legacy and he quickly became a big influence on my life. I read some of his books, found a tribute magazine and ordered more CD’s. My most favorite songs of his are If I stand, Elijah, and Hold me Jesus… The story behind Hold me Jesus is one that makes the song even more meaningful… I read about it in the book “An Arrow Pointing to Heaven”.
“In the summer of 1996, Reunion Records released a wonderful collection from Rich Mullins, kind of a best of collection simply entitled Songs. We thought it was simply the end of a chapter in Rich's life. We didn't realize it was the end of the book. Of all the songs that he had written, Rich said his favorite was Elijah. He recorded it on his first album. He rerecorded it for his final album. When asked why he redid it, he simply said, "Because nobody listened the first time." We're listening now Rich.” John Rivers.
I really liked the 2 CD set that 20 the countdown magazine put out. It had interviews with Rich along with some of his songs. (that interview is where I am getting these quotes from it can be found here). So much of what he said in made so much sense to me:
“People say "Why do you write music?" and I always say "Well, how many of Wesley's sermons do you know?" And I've talked to a lot of good Methodists and they don't know any of them. Then I say, "Well, how many of Wesley's hymns do you know?" and most churchgoers know at least a good solid dozen hymns that Wesley wrote. Most pagans know at least a couple. And I kind of go, that is why I write music and not sermons.” Rich Mullins
Sometimes it’s tough to remember sermons week to week, but music is a big part of my life. I am always listening to some kind of tune – yeah, to me he hit the mark with that quote! I am not a music writer by any means, but I enjoy listening and playing it, and singing at the top of my lungs when no one is around ;)
Fast forward a few years 2005. We moved to North Carolina, had a daughter and a son and I was pregnant with our third child. I was active in my church in Greensboro, serving on the board of deacons, and had started up and was leading a new MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) chapter.
I can remember this as clear as day. I was cleaning a house while listening to the “songs” CD for the thousandth time. (if it is possible to wear out a CD, this one would have worn out years ago…) This time, however, one of the songs hit me with such an impact like I have never had before or have had since. It’s like reading a passage in the Bible that you have known by heart for years, but seeing it in a new light. It brought me to tears. I hit my knees and started praying… The song? “If I Stand”
After that happened, I felt led to do some sort of tribute or have some sort of concert at Alamance. I started researching on who from Rich’s band were still touring. I soon found that Mitch McVicker was recording and doing concerts. I brought this idea to the church and it was approved to have him play. The youth pastor and I worked hard to promote it and soon the date was upon us.
December 4, 2005 I had the privilege to meet Mitch for the first time. He played at Alamance, shared his story, and it was a great evening.
“I think that part of our identity as human beings is that we have work, that we have things to do. And I am gifted as a musician. I am gifted as a writer and so I have to do that out of obedience. I am not gifted as a singer. I have a weird voice. I have a terrible speaking voice and when I sing it’s not as weird as when I talk so I should probably sing more and talk less. But, nevertheless, I don't like my voice even when I am singing and people say, "Why do you sing then?" and I go, "Because it is the most reiterated command in the whole Bible." And I figure there must be a reason why it says over and over and over, sing sing sing sing sing. I also kind of go, this is a lot easier than loving my enemies, so maybe I should start with the easy stuff and maybe by the time I am really old I will have been able to tie the more complicated knot.” Rich Mullins
That paragraph alone encouraged me when I was learning to play guitar. I knew I would never win an American Idol competition, but it was something that I felt I could do and it brought me joy. Shortly after our third child was born I started playing guitar with the praise band I had been singing with for the past few years.
October 28, 2007 Mitch came back to Alamance for a second concert. This time he had someone open for him – his name was Ted Filhart. Again, it was another great event.
In the spring of 2008 we moved to Raleigh. We did not have any friends or family in the area so it was a completely new start. We searched for a church for several months. We visited just about every denomination, but were pretty animate about NOT visiting Baptist churches. We had a bad experience with a Baptist minister in Greensboro, and because of that, we avoided the denomination. Every church we visited didn’t seem “right”. Either it was too big and there was not a spot for us to fit in, or we were not welcomed, or there just was not a good vibe. This continued for a few months as we searched. There was one church we enjoyed attending. Thing is, we did not believe all the same doctrine they did, but the folks were friendly and it was fairly close to our house.
I received an e-mail from Ted Filhart saying that he was going to be playing a concert at a church in Raleigh on Saturday night, June 28, 2008.
The church? Leesville Baptist. It was outside on a warm night. The church folks who were attending the concert were VERY friendly. They welcomed us and our kids with open arms. I remember pushing the kids in on the swings and chatting with someone while I pushed one of my kids and she pushed the other one. Thought it was pretty cool.
Well, news travels fast… soon the music director was sitting next to me during the concert saying “I hear you sing and play guitar and your husband plays bass! We are starting a praise band and would love for you all to be part of it!” wow. It took a concert on a Saturday night to get us to visit, otherwise we never would have set foot through the door of the church, just because of the name…
The next morning we attended another church at 9:00am. I was not “feeling the call” to be there, so after that service, Kayla and I attended Leesville’s 11:00 service. Just like at the concert, the congregation was very welcoming and the preacher was spot on with his sermon. I went home and told Andy that Leesville just might be the church that we need to be at. We started attending regularly, and after a while we knew that this is where we needed to be. We both joined in the praise band right away, and about a year later I was baptized into the church.
The pastor knew that I was involved with MOPS (at the time I just became a council coordinator for the Raleigh/Cary/ WF area) and he asked me what I thought of having a MOPS group at Leesville. I said “well, there are no other moms at the church with preschool aged kids…” yeah, that was an issue. Then he asked me “what do you think about having a moms morning out program?” I laughed (remember Sarah laughing in the Bible? Yeah, kinda like that…) What he didn’t realize is I was one of those moms who LIKED to drop off their kids in the morning to have those few hours ‘on my own’ to grocery shop, clean the house, run errands etc. I was the mom that was there right at 9:00 and picked up right at 1:00. I was not the one to be the director of a preschool – lol! Here is where it gets crazy… within a half hour I knew that starting the preschool was what I was being called to do….
What happens after this truly gives me chills when I look back on all the steps it took to get me to right here, right now. I accepted the challenge of starting the preschool . I worked starting in January 2009 with the goal of opening up September 2009. All I had to start with was 2 cribs that were 20+ years old, a broken changing table, and a milk crate with a half dozen broken toys in it. Essentially I was starting from scratch on something I knew very little about, but felt led to do. The church gave me $3000 to start with and their blessing.
“God does not always call the equipped; he equips those who he calls”
It was a lot of hard work, granted I enjoyed it. How does the saying go? “Do what you like and you will never work a day in your life?” That is what it was like. I started by going back to my home church in Greensboro and contacting the director of their MMO program. I worked with her and took notes as to how they ran things. I came back to Raleigh and wrote up the handbooks, forms and all the other paperwork needed to start the program. I used a lot of the information gathered from Alamance MMO as well as doing research online with other MMO programs. At the same time I was painting walls and purchasing furniture and other items needed for the school. Other members of the church were helping out with the painting and making of the cubbies. It was a busy summer. In September 2009 we opened our doors. By the end of the school year we had a waiting list. In 2011 we went from having 8 children attend per day to 12. Currently we have about 9 staff members and 40 children who come through the program per week. It is indeed a huge blessing to be part of such a great program. It is all a God thing, because I could not have done it in and of myself.
Ok, I need to back up just a little bit. So where does running fit into this? Well, you probably need a little background… I ran varsity cross country and track in high school. I had the opportunity to be a walk on member of the cross country team at Western Michigan University, but I didn’t pursue it (one thing I wish I could go back and change!) I ran some during and after college, just a few miles a week at best. Then we started our family and I ran some in the years between kids, but averaging about 2 miles per workout. Before I started getting into the preschool I had the idea that I could run a half marathon. There was a challenge on the weather channel where one of the meteorologists was training for a half marathon in Atlanta. I thought, I can do that… but instead of running the half in Atlanta, I did the half at the OBX which was about the same time frame as TWC challenge. I did some training for it. This is when I first met Joey at the NCRC August series. I ran the half, thought I was going to die, my knees felt like there was sandpaper in them so I thought that was it. Yep, I was happy with it. I ran a half, met my goal, now time to get back to life. Right? Well, no…. 2009 brought another year, more goals and the dream of running a marathon. Training ensued – this is when I started running with Joey and the angels more. I signed up for City of Oaks Marathon. Race day was 54 degrees and rainy. Joey was there running with me for the last 7 miles and helped me through. I finished! My littlest one was there at the finish and said “hold you” with her arms up and I just cried. Marathon done!
In October 3, 2010 Mitch came to Leesville for a concert. We talked some and he said his sister in law was a runner. I am not sure if he made the friend suggestion on facebook, but somehow we ended up ‘becoming friends’ on facebook. She lived in CO.
So, marathon done, goal done, right? Well no again… 2010 included another marathon. No rain this time. In the sun, at the beach, AND I took 30 min off my time. 2 weeks later I ran my first ultra – Derby 50K. 2011 held my first 50 Miler and with a time good enough for a Western States Qualifier. Later that fall I finished 100K at Hinson Lake. That winter I completed 83 miles at crooked road. 2012 held my first 100 miler. After the 100, I backed off for the summer, started speed training in the fall, and started on the path for a BQ marathon.
So over the course of just a few years I went from running just a few miles a couple times a week, to running 1000 miles plus 2 years in a row, completing a 100 mile race, and later gaining speed and strength for Boston.
So, when this invite comes up on Nina’s wall post in January 2013 about the relay, I was IN!:
"Ok friends, I'm looking for 5 awesome, non-whiny females to run 191 miles with me on July 19-20. Colorado Springs to Crested Butte. I can guarantee no sleep, sore feet, tummy aches, insanely gorgeous mountain views and LOTS of fun. Who's in? http://epicrelays.com/rocky-mtn-relay"
Those words might sound crazy to a non runner, but to me it sounded like an AWESOME time!! What a way to celebrate the year I turn 40! I sent in my buy in fee, booked my hotel, and am now 3 weeks out from the race, looking forward to running with 5 women I have never met in my life. We are the “Purple Cobras” ultra team.
One more God thing that happened was my kids were attending Awana at Providence for several years. They were shutting their program down May, 2012. I had such a desire put in my heart to keep the program going that I went out on faith to see if we could move it to Leesville’s new building. I asked Providence about it, they gave us their blessing (and all their Awana materials). After a summer of hard work and leadership training classes, a new Awana chapter was formed. It was here that I saw a mom each week, we always talked about her child, but I did not know that she was a runner. One night in March 2013 we started talking at length about running. Her name was Kelcey Carlson. We talked about what happened at my BQ attempt at Tobacco Road, what my racing plans were, and she suggested that I look into the Sunburst Marathon for another BQ attempt. She said it was fast and flat and would be a great one to go for it. So a few months later, my sis and I ran into Notre Dame Stadium and finished our races at the 50 yard line. No I didn’t BQ. I came close, but I managed another PR and learned a lot!
Long story huh? I am impressed if you made it this far into my non-race report – lol! It is amazing looking back at every step in this journey which has brought me to right here, right now. It gives me chills. Some may think its fate, or coincidence, but I think that God had his hand in all of this. What if one of these events didn’t happen? What if I would not have had that moment listening to that CD cause I was listening to something else? What if I never pursued looking into a concert? What if Ted wouldn’t have opened for Mitch? What if I wouldn’t have attended Ted’s concert in Raleigh? What if I would have laughed off the preschool idea? What if I would not have pursued Awana at Leesville and sent my kids to another club? My life would be very different… It is very much of a butterfly effect going on where one thing leads to another. Lives and events intertwine like a web. In the short term it is tough to see how it adds up, but over the years it becomes clear.
So music and running? Yeah, they go together. A lot like circuit training and yoga. Strange combo, but it works for me. I know that this is still an ongoing story, my journey if you will, but it has long been on my mind to write this up. This epic ultra is not the end to this timeline, just an event in the continuing story.