Tuesday, July 15, 2014

...and then the story twists...

...and then, the story twists in an unexpected way that sent me into unpredictable (not to mention unwanted) circumstances beyond my control. 

I wouldn't have written this order of events if I was in total control of my life, but...I'm not. As a disclaimer, this blog post isn't the common "Dream Big" type motivational, "You can do anything that you set your mind to; just believe." message. In my experience, my core hope in Christ is unchanged even if everything I want to do doesn't end up the way I dream & hope for. Sometimes I feel more deeply encouraged when life throws its biggest curveballs and leaves me weeping. Those moments, (or sometimes I have to wait after the nasty storm clears), I find the Lord's sweet mercies and protection, and feel like I know another piece of Him that I wouldn't have discovered had I not been through the rotten trials. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us of this short life on earth... "16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[a] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

If you need to be kicked in the bootie to work a little harder, this blog post might not hit home for you, but if life right now is more underwhelming than sky-high-high sailing with your potential met, then by God's grace, He might let me articulate a little of what is going on in my heart that might resonate with yours.

I really wanted to win races and point to Jesus and thank Him for giving me the insane talents, abilities, & opportunities to compete at the highest level. As I've learned through the past 6 years, even the opportunity to work hard in training is a gift! Oh, the many days I would've loved to train hard but was sidelined. And to compete is a gift - it's so much fun to feel the surge of racing well. What a contrast the last 4 years of my tri career have been to the end of 2009 when everything clicked, & I won 2 national amateur championships. Those were 2 of the most fun races I'd ever had the opportunity to compete in! What a thrill. It gave me joy to train hard and compete with fierceness. 

On the other hand, the past 4 seasons, I've dealt with several serious injuries. The most recent was last October - during a race, we were delayed 10 minutes in 65 degree water. For a girl with poor circulation, ain't nuthin good about a pre-race ice bath. I finished the race, and after it, I knew my achilles wasn't well. I nursed it all winter, barely running yet making great improvements in biking...At the end of March, I raced. After the painful race, my ankle (which usually is quite bony) was so fat that I had to guess where the ankle bone was. I got an MRI, and the doctor said it'd take a year of obsessive rehab to get it back, and then after that, would take more obsession to keep it healthy while training. At that time, I knew it was time to move on. I'd already worked through 4 seasons of obsessive care.
Stephen took this right before I crossed the finish line at NOLA 5150 :)
The first couple weeks were especially sad. I let myself be sad and cry to Stephen, family, and friends. And still today, I might get teary a bit if I talk to the right person in the right moment. At the same time, though, it's also an answered prayer. I prayed that the MRI results would be conclusive. And another encouraging part is that I know that the Lord wanted me to be in triathlon these past years, and I know that it would have been so easy for Him to heal me and enable my body to click into top form...yet, it didn't happen, and I know that He always has His BEST for me, therefore....everything went as planned, and the very best happened to me (although it didn't feel like the best!!!). I know I did everything I could with the available resources to enable myself to be in a position to compete at the highest level. 

I want to be a reason that others believe in Jesus. In my thinking, I would put myself as the best in the world with a gold medal and have that platform to tell others. But it seems like an underwhelming 4 seasons as a pro triathlete who stays close to God and points to Him in the good and the bad is the ideal message that the Lord has given me...So, whether I won a gold medal or had 4 unsuccessful seasons as a pro, it's encouraging to me that my most important bottom line is the same: Jesus Christ is alive! And I know that everything that happens in this earthly kingdom (that doesn't last) refines me and brings me closer to the Lord. What a treasure that is! 

Starting a new season in life doesn't take away the sting of unfulfilled dreams, but...having a relationship with the Lord Most High sure does make the transition sweet & gives me joy although sprinkled with mourning. My new season has started with lots of fun times although a different style of life. I go on walk/jogs with Stephen...quite a change from a lifestyle that used to sort of revolve around my job as a professional, mastering 3+ sports!  I've been able to spend more time teaching ESL, helping friends, with my little nieces and nephew, calligraphy and art projects, finishing up the house remodel, and hanging out with Stephen. Also, I am excited keep the books for my parents' property in Townsend, TN, aka "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies". If you have an upcoming family reunion or executive retreat that you are planning, you should look into the Wellspring Retreat on the Little River. It's uniquely beautiful and definitely a one-of-a-kind getaway that sleeps 30!

Although I have been sad, I've been slightly surprised that it hasn't been harder. I know that many family and good friends have been praying for me when they found out a new chapter in life had started...THANKS! There are many who know how much I enjoyed triathlon, so a complete change like this is only smooth with love and prayers. I still love watching a great race or game - and I still think there are so many parallels in sport and life - lots of the same lessons! 

As for triathlon and competing again in the future....I will cease to predict that! Up until this point in my life, I have been a horrible fortune teller - ha! 

Thanks for reading and I pray that whether you are having the "season of your life" or not, (and whatever that would look like, athletic or not), you will know Jesus is alive! My relationship with Jesus is the only way I can truly walk away with joy and gratitude in my heart. Although this earthly kingdom doesn't last, events that happen here sure teach priceless lessons.

Reading the Bible every day has been the single-most comfort and piercing healing! **Highest recommendation**
Reading it with an open heart changes my life every day!

With a grateful heart,

PS: Here are a few juicy things I've come across lately:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Knowledge vs. Experience

Spiritual Parallels Physical = Great Learning Tool for Me
God teaches me about the spiritual realm as I live in/through the physical. I see the parallels all the time, and could go on..and on...but lately I've been thinking most about the similarities of having a strong core.

As I grow in my core strength physically, everything else in my body works better. It's the same with God - Jesus is my Core, and when my relationship grows with Him, I can better handle whatever happens in life.

Sure, I've lived quite a while without properly engaging my inner core. I'd heard a LOT about the importance and benefits of "having a strong inner core" and "exercises to strengthen my inner core" ...I knew about the concept and could explain it to you, I just never experienced it!  I completed (consistent!) "core workouts" - still completed the movement that my brain told my body to do, but used other muscles to get 'er dun. Now that I am getting better at using my core, my body works better, and I have a ridiculous amount more power. Even my coach commented after a workout a while back, "Was that you? :)"

Of course, I'm thrilled to learn how to have an ultra dose of power during training/racing! ...but infinitely more important to me is to have Jesus at my inner Core. When I live my life with my inner Core activated with Jesus, it does not mean everything in life turns to smooth sailing (!), it just means that He is always strong and can use my weaknesses when I live my life engaged in Him....to the point that others who know me well & know all my shortcomings might say, "Was that you?"


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My winter highlight...what's yours?

Small head cold => forced rest and....extra time to write a blog update!

The plan for the first 3 pro races of 2014:

March 30th: 5150 Series: New Orleans
April 27th: 5150 Series: St. Anthony's
May 18th: Rev3 Knoxville

Winter training is going well! I've had a few challenges with my achilles this winter, but overall everything is looking good to have a true peak in my racing season! Continuous thanks (!!) to Prompt Physical Therapy and Sport & Wellness Chiropractic for helping me get/stay healthy. I'd classify myself as "high-maintenance"...and what a huge value to work with such amazing healthcare providers! I don't take it for granted and know how fortunate I am to have found the best (& they haven't yet locked their doors on me)!

Last year, I gained a lot of experience and was thankful to get to the start/finish lines & try to be in the mix. This year, I can't wait to race. Training and racing as a professional triathlete gives me such joy! What a gift.

Probably the highlight of this winter training has been to enjoy the trainer. It was always my least favorite part of training. Lately, it's been fun, in a torturous type of way;) ...and my watts keep increasing, which is a very good thing!

What's your winter highlight? Be sure to tell someone about what made your heart sing lately, including the bumps along the way. "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Proverbs 16:24

Happy February & God bless you!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Sponsors!!

PFJ is Knoxville-born (just like me!) and has given back to this city so much support. The people I know at the company and work with are incredible! I love what PFJ is doing to help their employees and also their customer-focused efforts on healthy food and workout opportunities. On average because of the nature of their job, truckers live 7 years less than others. PFJ is working hard to add workout facilities and healthy food choices for the truckers. It is an honor to be part of Team Pilot and their concern for their customers' health. PFJ is taking care of my logistics and transportation. What a gift to not have to worry about means to get to the race to compete! Thank you!

Steve Bailey was seemingly the only person on the planet who had insight into what was going on with my chronic neck/back dealio. He's the reason that I was able to have even an abbreviated season last year, and has an amazing gift. I love going to his office still for maintenance – it's like 90 minutes worth of PT exercises, hanging out with good friends and therapy...walking out always feeling better. What's there not to love?! Thanks!

Dr. John has helped me learn how to activate my hamstrings and butt as I ride my bike and run. My back doesn't feel as stiff, so I can freely move and have a better rhythm. He has really helped my achilles recover - I had achilles tendinitis, and he used ART to break up the knots in my calf and release the tension. Adjusting my hips relieved my lower back tension. I'm feeling much better now, and so thankful for his help!

What a fun, knowledgeable store! They've helped me maintain my bikes and have answered lots of questions for me! Lately they gave me 5 saddles to try out. My bootie didn't like the 2 saddles on my bikes from last year. Ouch! Developing saddle sores and cysts on my bum was not a highlight of last year, but(t) (hehe)...there are other saddle options! I have since realized that if a saddle still isn't super comfy after a few months, try a different one. At this point, I've weeded out 4 saddles out of...thousands! ha. Thanks, CBC, for your patience and help!

Also known as "The Dream Team"...seriously. I'll admit, RPS is a somewhat unusual sponsor for a pro triathlete...but there are actually a lot of parallels and ways I can learn from a company like RPS. In their core values, you'll see: “Excellence: We strive to honor our God, our families, and our clients in everything that we do.” Sure, we have very different jobs, but using our God-given gifts in whatever our daily work looks like can have the same core values! I've learned so much from my dad and brother in their top-level athletic careers, their values in their workplace, and have benefited immensely by their choices to love their families well, and honor God first always. Thanks for your encouragement and support!

I am so thankful to have the opportunity to run with the UT track/XC team for some key workouts. Coach Clark lets me tag along with his speedy team, and being in the midst of a team is of such great value whenever I run with them. Thank you!

Last but certainly not least, I'm thankful for my coach! He's not necessarily a "sponsor" but has my best interest at heart and adds value every day to my triathlon career. I have data that shows what I'm doing on a daily basis is significantly faster than just a few months ago, and that's exciting! Coaching an athlete to master 3 sports isn't easy, and I really appreciate his time, energy, patience, and wisdom on helping me get the most out of myself. Thanks!

Next post, maybe I'll share a tentative race schedule....oh boy!

Thanks for reading, and God bless you today!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Old, new, life, death, seasons, years, earth, heaven...

Whether I am in a seemingly perfect season or whether it is a survival mode season, I always find myself saying, "There must be more!"

Grandma Hall
A little over a year ago, I witnessed my grandma breathing her last breaths in the house I was living in (3 generations were living in my parents' house)...and just a month before, I held my niece moments after her birth. Life is short. James 4:14 says, "...yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." C.S. Lewis said, “100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.”  

Watching/living with someone I love in the last 5 weeks of her life didn't necessarily always leave me with "Life is so good!" type sentiments. My parents graciously opened their home, energy, resources, & time to serve her as she approached the end of her life, not knowing whether it would last a month or a couple years. It was hard caring for her, watching her mind slip, teetering back and forth from a gentle, lovely demeanor & dry wit, to a grumpy, "whatever" type mentality. She absolutely loved my mom. (Of course she did! Who doesn't?!) My mom was the all-star care-giver, for sure...and I was the 2nd string; probably more like the 8th string in my grandma's eyes...So when my mom was out on an errand or busy with something then I was on duty:) I would come into my grandma's room and enthusiastically ask if she wanted me to make her breakfast...And she'd growl, "Where is your mother."  Every. time. HAHA! It took me off guard at first - like, "Aren't grandparents supposed to adore their grandchildren?!" ...But after her almost daily question, I started smiling and holding in a chuckle when she said that, although she just peered at me even more perturbed. I knew that wasn't my grandma! It's just her mind & body dying... and the filter of niceness/appropriate behavior dropping to zero and her true desires transparent. I knew she loved me but it still completely shocked me the first time she said that, and then continued to say it! But even just a few hours later, she would joke with me or say something sweet, and I knew she had snapped back into herself.

It was such a tender, heart-heavy day when she died - it took us all by surprise since she had sort of perked up and been jolly. It wasn't graceful nor elegant, but such is life sometimes. She completely lost control of her body, as it was shutting down for good, and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. My dad got to hold her hand during that time and thank her for being his mom!! I wasn't in the room, so I don't know exactly what he said, but before her pulse shut down for good, she had a tear drop from her eye. Ahh, what a sweet ending to her earthly life and such a gift that he had already come home from work and could be there with his mom! I think her tear was especially sweet because she wasn't the typical teddy-bear type grandma. She was a tough one - grew up in a family of 6 on a farm during the depression...Very loving and ultra supportive, but not gushing, ya know? I had never seen her teary, much less cry. What a sweet day the Lord gave us all. And how thankful we are for her life and love!

Death and new life are a definite part of this gig we're born into! I have no hope to share other than hope in Jesus.

I know for Stephen and me, we couldn't be more excited to start a new year. Thank you, Lord!
I'll be posting soon about my 2014 sponsors - stay tuned! 

I'm thrilled with how 2014 is already starting out. Thanks for reading, and God bless you today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When life gives you rotten lemons...give thanks:)

More-than-gutting a house is the most challenging thing we've ever accidentally signed up for! We're truly thankful for it...and PS: not every moment has been a giving-thanks-type moment! That refining fire has singed a few hairs! ha;)

Hey, when life gives you rotten lemons, throw 'em out in the compost, mix it around, plant some seeds, water it and you'll get some juicy fruit [eventually]!

...thankful for my parents' generosity since we've been livin' the dream in their basement (hahaha. Well...one thang's fer sure: inside jokes will last through eternity after 1.5 yrs in the basement!)

...thankful for reaping the grandiose benefits of having them on our work crew! ...they've renovated [a few] houses;)

Here's a pic of our front yard...I love how Kaitlyn is looking at "Uncle Steebin" & Andrew has his feet up as they all laugh at Pappy being silly. :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013 race season: 4 pro races: Check!

Lifetime Fitness Oceanside, CA
Swim: 65 deg water temp, delayed ~10 mins in the water at the start which numbed my hands & feet to the point of no return; there's nuthin' good about a pre-race ice bath, but everyone had the same conditions to deal with; had a decent wetsuit swim
T1: Not swift - couldn't feel hands, so had trouble clipping bike helmet & taking off wetsuit
Bike: So cool literally; not so much figuratively! Thick marine layer fog; freezing; no function in hands...close to not being able to brake/shift; fog felt like a constant ice-water mist room...the cold cloud layer was a complete surprise to some others as well. I felt like I belonged in DumbnDumber with snot freezing down my face - I couldn't wipe it off though because my hands couldn't squeeze my nose - haha. (Sorry, too much info) ;) Every once in a while I'd put my hands in my mouth to try to regain feeling, which didn't really help my aero position. Another bummer for the non-functioning hands on the bike was that I couldn't grasp my water bottle, so I didn't drink a sip of it but rather carried it as cargo for the whole 40K.
T2: Not swift but I was so thankful to get my helmet off and running shoes on! I'm still not sure how I did that! This was a huge answered prayer going into T2.
Run: I felt like I could run off the bike for the first time! Fun stuff. Every other race, I've felt like death after biking. This time I felt decent & it's always fun to catch & pass someone!
Overall: 11th out of 14 girls who started, 13 finished. No part of it was incredible, but I made good progress.

That's a wrap!
I haven't had an impressive first-year pro season with my race results, although I have made steady progress that isn't necessarily immediately fruitful. It's been a goal to reduce the amount of mistakes each race weekend rather than being upset if I make a mistake! Hanging out in the lower tier of all 4 races is the reality of where I'm at right now. And that's fine; I won't stay there, but I knew going into this season it was going to be about managing expectations. I'll target weaknesses & build on strengths this off-season & am excited to continue my momentum into 2014.

It's absolutely true to say that I wouldn't have been able to be a pro if it wasn't for my sponsors. THANK YOU!!! And what an unexpected gift to be able to meet and work with such amazing people and companies! It's so easy to get excited about my sponsors (check 'em out on the right!!).

By far the most tender & meaningful take-away this year for me is how the Lord has gone before me and been with me through the details...Clearly, (if you've checked any results), I don't mean that the Lord went before me and I beat all my competitors! I mean that my relationship with the Most High God has become more intimate through this year's chaos, quiet, & everything in between. It's the sweet, secret moments in relationships that are the most special - the ones I can't fully describe that grasp the total multi-dimensional packed beauty that exists. Do you know Him?! Isaiah 55:6 says, "Seek Him while He may be found; call on Him while He is near."

Friday: After we drove the course, ended w/ a gorgeous sunset - perfect timing!
Oceanside harbor: swim start...no sign of fog yet, but...it's a comin'!
Just out of T2; this fog was nuthin' compared to the bike!
The run!
Succulents = so pretty & unique
Went to a cute outdoor coffee shop after the race & succulents lined the entire space.
I swam with the seals! So cute, fat, & friendly. ARRR, ARRR!
Post-race chillaxin' w/ the best massage therapist in the wooaarrald! (& ma) ;)
Wetsuit: 1 Me: 0
Forgot to use lube for my neck... Doh! I'm pretty sure (from the looks I got) that more than a few people on the day-long trip home from Cali thought I had been involved in some extra-curricular activities...ie, they probably didn't guess wetsuit chaffing...aNyhoo...
:) bethany