Wednesday, December 22, 2010


After months and months of blood (literally- you should see Tuesdae's training shoes), sweat, and tears, WE MADE IT! The funny thing is, after all that work and focus on making it to the National Championships, I was weary. A weekend at home in my PJ's sounded even better than a trip to Oregon at this point!

Regardless, I went to work booking rooms and flights and making preparations for our trip. One preparation included finding hair ribbons for the girls. Thanks to Christy and Ellen Riley, they would have BMC embroidered ribbons! Practice was much more laid back, as there were only 5 runners now, and we were in "taper" mode.

On November 18th, we departed the BMC campus at 3:45 AM for the Memphis airport!!! At this point, my weariness had vanished and I was excited about our trip. We arrived at the airport, parked the van, and everything seemed to be on schedule.... Until we arrived at the check in counter.

The man told us our flight was delayed, and he was going to have to change our group to another flight. We were put in a line at a neighboring counter, and when we finally got to the front of the line, the lady started checking us in. She told us we were cutting it close, and kept barking orders to have out tickets, etc. Four out of eight people got checked in, and then she said that the flight was closed and the rest would have to take a later flight. There was no way I was going to leave runners in the Memphis airport with no information about when they would join us in Portland!! The lady was not very friendly, and I had to firmly convince her that it was "all of us or none of us!" I called everyone out of the security line, and we were trying to figure out what was going to happen.

In the meantime, the lady behind us started crying and begging the lady to let her on the flight. It seemed that her son was a soldier and on leave, and they were going to meet in Vancouver for Thanksgiving. The mean airline lady was quite unwilling to be helpful, and we were all trying to figure out a way to help her. Finally the manager heard what was going on and let her through to the gate. We all still wonder if the lady made it to see her son. As soon as she rushed off to get through the security line, the mean worker got on her radio and told them to close the flight. She then glared at us and said, "I don't like to be late!" Yikes!

We were then moved BACK to our original line and put on the original flight! We had been early, but now we were running late, and they were about to close THIS flight!! We rushed through the check in process, hurried through the security line, and got on the plane just in time. Whew! We made it! After a brief layover in Houston, we arrived in Portland close to lunch time!

We got our rental van and headed across the river from Portland to Vancouver, Washington. It was quite a bit cooler than Mississippi... 40 something and drizzling. Vancouver is the home of historic Ft. Vancouver... an old army post dating back to the mid 1800's. The cross country course was at the Ft. Vancouver site.

Our first order of business was to find the hotel and get checked in. As we waited in the lobby, Austin made two quotable remarks... First of all, he said, "Hey! Did you see the size of that squirrel?!" This was followed by, "Hey dad, that chandelier is bigger than our kitchen table!" Both of these statements in themselves are not that great... but when they were made in a room full of people NOT from the South, and with a THICK southern accent... Hilarious!

Our hotel was in downtown Vancouver, and we were within walking distance of the meet headquarters, Subway, Starbucks, and the course was only about a mile away. Being in a city with more pavement than kudzu was a big change, but it was a great experience!

Thursday afternoon, we jogged our way through town and over to the course. The course was a lap course... great for spectators, but horrible for runners. No cross country runner appreciates running in circles... especially in the mud! On our way back to the hotel, we jogged across the bridge going from Washington to Oregon. Now we were able to say that we had run from Washington to Oregon and back!
Austin, Emma, Magan, Richard, Tuesdae, and Page (Tuesdae's sister) ready for a jog in the cold!

When it was time for dinner, we decided to strike out and find some supper. We didn't seem to see any restaurants in the immediate vicinity, so we headed over the bridge to Oregon. Traffic was terrible, and we took the first exit with any promise of food. We ended up getting a very thorough tour of the industrial area of Portland. Finally, as we were all becoming delirious with fatigue and hunger, we found a place called Elmer's. It was the Northwestern equivalent of a Shoney's, but we did not care! We were all very excited to make it back to the hotel for the night! I stayed up for a little while, finishing up the slippers I had been working on for the girls. (I thought about making Richard and Austin a pair, but decided that they would probably just laugh at me... I was right!)
On Friday we had several things to accomplish: walk to Starbucks, attend a coaches meeting, jog the course again, check out the Nike lounge, and find a better place to have dinner.

This time we took the van to the course and just jogged and stretched there. It had been at least drizzling, if not all out raining the entire time, so the course was getting good and muddy. So muddy, in fact, that there were flags blocking it off in several places. As we were jogging, I got tickled about runners... we are a strange lot. Tuesdae and Page were running in some wild knee socks. A van full of runners drove by, and the guys were hanging out hollering, "Hey, I like your socks!" (Pick up lines for runners!)

During the NAIA Coaches meeting, I gave the runners some homework. Their assignment was to find us a place to eat dinner, including directions! The coaches meeting was a typical business meeting... voting on measures and yada yada yada. When we were adjourned, the runners met me at the headquarters hotel, and we waited for the Nike experience lounge to open.

Nike was the major sponsor of the meet... which is why the National Championship was not more centrally located! They had a section of the hotel called the Nike Experience Lounge... Richard was in heaven... Free Red Bull!! He had us all collecting cans for his stash!

They had a booth where you could make a photo flip booka booth to play wii, and a booth set up to play Rock Band or Guitar Hero... or whatever!
We all got free red shoe laces and at least one can of Red Bull for Richard before we headed out!

We had to pose with the XC symbols... I thought they were swords, but they are spikes!! Get it? Spikes in the shape of an X with the C below? XC? Cross Country? (Just in case you were wondering.)

The runners had done their homework, and we were heading into Portland again for supper. As we came into the HUGE city of Portland, we all just laughed... if we had only gone ahead two more exits on the freeway the night before, we would have been in a completely different part of town! I navigated the 15 passenger van through the traffic and streets of downtown Portland. (In the rain... because it was STILL raining!) The restaurant turned out to be a great pasta place... good atmosphere, moderately priced... definitely wish I could remember the name, because we would like to go back next year!
When we got back to the hotel, we had our team meeting and started getting ready for the races the next day. Unlike regular races, each runner had 4 numbers to get pinned on! Poor Emma, our early bird, was dozing off, so we had devotion and called it a night.
The next morning was RACE DAY!!! I woke up early and went for a long run around Vancouver. There was much more to the city than we had at first thought. I enjoyed running through the Ft. Vancouver area and the nearby neighborhoods built in the 30's and 40's... bungalow houses are my favorite!

I came back to the hotel and had just enough time to shower and get a bit of breakfast before heading over to the course. By this time, we didn't even notice the rain. It just seemed natural for it to be gray outside and misting!

We got to the course, and the air was already charged with excitement. You know it's going to be a big race when the line of porta potties is about 40 across!! There was a great PA system set up and playing music, and Nike people were giving away cow bells and megaphones. Richard had his dreams come true the night before with the Red Bull stand, and now it was Austin's turn... Muscle Milk had a tent set up, and they were giving away free protein shakes! We had to take advantage of a few photo opportunities before it was time to get warmed up!
Richard Feist, Emma Baxter, Tuesdae Rowland, Magan Wilburn, and Austin Epting... competitors in the 2010 National Championship race!

I mentioned earlier that the race was held at historic Ft. Vancouver. The open area was used for drill, games, and parades. All around the area were historic buildings... the barracks (which looked like some of the older pictures of the first BMC buildings), and Officers' Row (beautiful older homes). To begin the day's events, some men fired a real cannon after the singing of the National Anthem!
It was time to start warming up... this would take a while, because the temperature was still in the 40's! The starting line was incredibly wide. I had never seen anything like it before. 350 runners thundering across a field... It's enough to get even the most non-athletic person excited!Tuesdae led the Lady Toppers during the race. She came back from spending the summer in the Ukraine rarin' to go, and never slowed down!

After the first lap, the course was trashed. You can see how torn up the ground was, and they had a few laps to go!Last summer, Emma (the runner above) ran a 5K in Kossuth in 26 minutes. Look at her now! She worked hard all season, and I was so pleased with how competitive she became!

Magan (below) came into the race with a quad pull. It had happened right before conference, and we had spent the last month trying to walk the fine line between keeping her in shape and not making her injury worse. Magan definitely would receive the "Guts" award for the year... she showed amazing determination!
The girls' times were slow... as were everyone's. We were not very competitive at the national level THIS YEAR, but then again, I didn't expect us to be. This year our goal was to MAKE it to nationals... and we did it!!Magan, Emma, and Tuesdae with their frozen, muddy legs after the race!

Now it was time for the guys to start warming up. I love this picture (below), which vividly shows the contrast between the personalities of Austin and Richard... Austin is on the left. Every muscle tense, furrowed brow, and a look of concentration on his face. That pretty much sums up Austin. Intense. And then there's Richard on the right. A mischievous twinkle in his eyes, a grin, and hands rubbing together... because he is constantly moving! Very different individuals, but both very talented runners!
Before the men even started their race, the course was a hot mess. It was like running through a hog pen, and they had 4 laps to go!
Austin started and finished the race strong. He finished exactly halfway in the pack. He was closer to one of the Kenyans from Union than he had been all year! I think Austin was a little shocked at how competitive NAIA cross country is. He is even MORE determined (if that's even possible) to do his best for next season. I have tried to warn them about the coming increase in miles...
Richard had a great race as well. The last two laps we kept shouting, "Catch Zach!" because he was so close to a friend of his from high school! He ended up finishing just a few seconds behind him, and closer to Austin than he had been all year!
Below are Richard and Zach at the finish line... you can see how spent they were. Awesome.
Austin and Richard (below) after a few minutes of recovery time!
We took one final group picture before heading out to the pasta feed. I will tell you about our evening adventure in a separate post...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas cards

Merry Christmas from the BMC Toppers!
We had the runners over in November for an "Ugly Christmas Sweater Party." Everyone found ugly sweaters from local thrift stores, and showed up for supper and Christmas card pictures!

Qualifying Meet

The Spartan season was finished, but BMC was still trucking along. We had our regional qualifying meet in Nashville on Friday, November 5th. The top team and the top 5 finishers (not on that team) would qualify for the NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, WA!

We got to leave BMC on Thursday and head to Nashville. The weather had turned cold!! We jogged the course, showered, and had dinner at Chili's. To keep us relaxed, we went to go see a movie. We had no major bus problems, and all went smoothly. Our race was early Friday afternoon, so we did not have to get up early and get to the course. (Which was a good thing, because it was freezing!) We had breakfast, gathered our things, and then went to kill some time in the local mall.

We did not go into the race thinking that we would get either team spot. With two runners in boots (Ashlee and Mary), the odds of our women beating Union were slim to none, and girls were competing for individual slots. In the same way, the BMC men were hoping to beat Bethel, claim second place, and take several individual slots.

It was an exciting day, and I was about as wound up as I get as a coach. The girls ran first and did a GREAT job. Tuesdae, Magan, and Emma qualified for nationals! Beth and Stephanie ran good races, and improved their times for the Nashville course. During the men's race, I began to think Austin was going to beat all of the Kenyans... He ran very strong! He ended up finishing right behind the two Union Kenyans, and he got 3rd overall. Richard had a great race; he beat the Bethel runners and qualified also! The guys all had great races as well... it was just a competitive field.

BMC would be represented by 5 runners at the National Championship race! WooHoo!

After the race, we loaded up into the van and drove all the way to Clinton, MS for the MS Cross Country Championships.

It was a long day, but it was a fun trip down south. Scott rode down with the East Union team and met us at our hotel. The next day came all too soon. We got to see recruits in every race, and they all had a good day.

By the time we arrived home late on Saturday evening, I was thankful that there were only two weeks left in the season!

Josh is 7!

On October 27, Josh got to wake up shouting, "It's my birthday!!" I can't believe my baby is seven now! The girls had the kitchen all decorated for him, and we let him open presents first thing. We got him a Kung Zu (small motorized hamster) with battle armor!

Later in the day, several buddies from church came to spend the afternoon playing a game called Dimenion Splash. It is a game made up by one of the young men in our church.... The inventor, John David, has figured out a way to control all of the boys in the church... He is the game master, and his little minions do his bidding in this game!

Hannah made Josh his cake. It was a "How to Train Your Dragon" dessert made of a brownie, pudding, and Reeses' cups and Oreos to look like rocks.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

XC Season 2010

2010 BMC Toppers

After our camping trip, we went straight into school, cross country season for BMC, cross country season for the Spartans, and football season for Union County. Add some drama over dress code, stir it all up, and whatya get?

A completely exhausted, overwhelmed mom who wished she could run away to Mexico. Of course, in addition to all this I under-estimated how much time and how much of a change this job would be... making the adjustment even greater. I tend to be an optimist when it comes to how much I think I can accomplish in a day!

It came down to two options: cut something loose or have a mental breakdown and jump off a high cliff. With great sadness, I chose option one. serving as head coach of the Spartans was the only thing that seemed the least bit optional, so I turned myself into an official parent volunteer. Being a control freak and very protective over my Spartans, this was a heart-wrenching decision for me. Roan Johnson stepped in and took over all administrative stuff, and Sheri Cobb stepped up to take over the bulk of coaching duties. Graciously, she let me continue working with the varsity on Tuesday afternoons.

On August 28, BMC hosted its first 5K road race in conjunction with "Meet the Toppers" day. The day was designed to recognize the Topper athletes and raise money for our different athletic programs.

*** Just in case there is a wealthy philanthropist looking for a tax deduction reading this post... BMC is a private, Christian college that tries to keep quality education affordable... but the athletic programs heavily rely on the contributions of kind hearted people!**** (Sorry for the shameless plug!)

The 5K was fairly successful... just like all things, there is a learning curve! I learned primarily that it is good to have your course mapped out and volunteers who know where they are going before race morning!!! We ended up raising several hundred dollars, thanks to the participation of the Spartans!

Who knows how many will participate next year.... Blue Mountain is not named Blue Mountain because it is flat! I hope we didn't scare off the community too badly!

After the race, everyone headed to the gym for games with prizes, lunch, and then athletic introductions. I hate microphones. Hate, hate, hate. This is the part of my job that I despise the most. Public speaking. With microphones. Terrible.

By the time our first meet arrived, things were beginning to settle into a routine. Things were still crazy, but at least they were routine! Life would have been unbearable, except a young lady from our church comes on Wednesdays each week. This allows me to spend a full day in my office, and she does all of the elective subjects plus violin while I am gone.

September 10th arrived. We loaded up the bus and headed for Rome! Georgia, that is! Berry College has one of the largest campuses, and the buildings all look like castles! It was a beautiful place to run, and the Toppers started their season out strong.

Austin finished in the top 15, winning a t-shirt! In college, the level of competition jumps significantly, making t-shirts much more coveted! Tuesdae Rowland also started the season off right... Borsht in the Ukraine for the summer served her well!

While we were in Georgia, the Spartans ran in the Sherman Days 5K. The girls did well, and they were happy that their daddy got to take them to the race.

The next weekend we headed to Nashville for the Vanderbilt invitational. This time I got to take my girls with me! I was thankful for their company! We arrived at the course in time to jog it once through before heading to the hotel. For dinner, we went to a nearby mall where people could choose from the food court options. The girls and I walked around and spent a lot of time in Claire's (trying on hats) and looking at the hermit crabs in Earthbound. On race day, the BMC toppers had great races. Austin beat a particular Union runner for the first time, and Derek almost beat Richard! Tuesdae ran a PR, and Beth took 20 seconds off her time... even though she didn't buy my speech about the course being fast!

After two weeks of racing, we were ready for an off-weekend. Although we did not have to travel to a meet, it was not a restful week... we were preparing for our High School Invitational. The week before the 25th is a blur in my memory. I vaguely remember a crazy amount of trail work, typing in rosters, assigning race numbers, NO school with my kids, counting safety pins, and LOTS of flags and spray paint!

LAST year was the muddiest cross country season EVER. You can look back at pictures and see mud in just about every picture, and I can still remember the smell of sour running shoes in the laundry room. This year was quite the opposite. After an extended period with no rain, courses had been hard caked, dry, and dusty!

The BMC trail was looking good, although definitely primitive... even when dry. We had obsessed over the little tripper roots, painted everything that couldn't be cut, and gone over it with the leaf blower several times!

After months of draught, it rained the night before our meet. Of course it did.

Talk about a race director's nightmare! Our trail was a slippery tunnel of doom, and parking "Plan B" was a failure. We were supposed to have shuttle buses ferrying people from campus out to the course (about 1/2 mile). However, the road was too narrow for the traffic, and one of our bus drivers was late! People ended up walking all the way out there and then back to their cars. Fortunately, there were no broken bones... just a kid with a busted face from running into a tree!

We had a bit of a delay in the scoring, but overall the coaches were very kind and understanding. It was clear which coaches had hosted meets before... they were all very gracious!

This was my first opportunity to see the Spartans run, and they did not disappoint! Hannah ran STRONG in the JV girls race, and it was great to see the JV girls coming together as a team and getting excited about cross country. In the Varsity races, Forrest did very well and stayed competitive throughout the race. Nicholas, Forrest, Jesse, Andy, Josh, Landers, and Cale

As for the Varsity girls... THEY ROCKED the place, winning the meet overall and getting to bring home a trophy!
Hannah/ Margaret, Claire/ Kirsten, Catherine/Olivia

Raeley, Emily, Danielle, Me, Martha, Julie, Catherine, Olivia-

In the open division, Sarah ran a GREAT 2 mile race, winning a "Top Finisher" t-shirt!After the race I was ready to crash. No such luck. Tuesdae, Page, Richard, Casey, and I went to Memphis to recruit at the Twilight run. It turned into a perfect evening for a cross country meet, and it was great to see some runners have fast races.

Insert sigh of relief here. The 5K road race was over. The high school invitational was over. My training plan was completed. Now things really would settle down into a manageable routine.

October 2nd was a remarkable weekend for the Spartans and the Toppers. Union University hosted its invitational, and both teams were there to participate. We drove to Jackson on Friday in order to jog the course and be prepared to run.Hunter, Derek, Richard on the bus

After dinner we made a quick stop at Wal-Mart for some chapstick. Then, it happened. The inevitable... Our bus died.

It didn't just go dead, though. Oh, no, it started smoking... Large billowing clouds of smoke poured from under the hood! I sat staring in a panic, and Richard started calling for everyone to evacuate the bus! "This is not a drill!" We got out, and then rolled/ pushed it down the hill out of traffic.

As we sat waiting on the mechanic, some Union runners pulled up in their jeep. It was like a scene from Grease... They cruise up slowly, roll down the window, and ask, "Do y'all need some help?" (with a completely smirky expression, of course!) We assured them that all was under control, so they pulled off. As we waited on the mechanic, we tried to start the bus again, and it worked! We drove back to the hotel and prayed that the bus would start the next morning!

On Saturday the weather was absolutely perfect. For real... absolutely perfect for running cross country.
The college races were first, and 12 out of 13 Toppers ran all-time PR's! Nathan running hard

Tuesdae broke 20 for the first time, which is a major accomplishment for a female! BMC got 3rd for the men, but we gave Bethel and Union a run for their money. We got 2nd for the women, and for the first time really competed with Union.

The high school races were next, and the Spartans came away with a LOT of T-shirts! They all had great performances also! Hannah ran a PR in the JV 5k... 27:22!

After a trip to Steak N Shake, Starbucks, AND Baskin Robbins, we headed back to Blue Mountain. We had not been on the road for 5 minutes and guess what? The bus started smoking again. As I waited for the signal to turn green, the temp. gauge was steadily rising... We pulled into the gas station, smoking and spraying water everywhere! Coach Driskell asked if there was a lake anywhere and instructed me to just kill it! When the mechanic arrived, you guessed it, the van cranked right up. We made it home just fine... but kept eyes on the temperature gauge the whole time!

October 8th was the MC invitational. In order to prevent early peaking, we did not back off training too much during the week. We drove down to Clinton the day of the race (it was an afternoon meet), and it was hot and DUSTY! All things considered, it was no surprise that the Toppers did not all run PRs this week. However, they had a great day! Once again, Tuesdae and Austin got T-shirts, and the girls got second in the non-D1 school division!Austin and Tuesdae

Ashlee, Magan, Emma, Tuesdae, Beth, and Stephanie (Mary was injured)

After MC, we had another weekend off before conference. It was just what Mary needed in order to get her foot healed. However, Magan pulled her quad during speed work, and Nathan got a stomach virus! Not the ideal situation!

This time the boys got to make the trip with us. The school got a new bus, and we got to take it to Jackson. It is huge, and I was nervous! It turned out that it was actually easier to drive than the old bus... I can actually reach the gas pedal on this one! The boys had a good time watching a movie on the bus, visiting with the runners, and staying in the hotel room with me.

The Spartan season was winding down, so we got to have fun at our last week of practice. Tuesday was crazy hair day....

And Thursday was the annual shaving cream fight! I just had to participate!

The weather for conference was good, but not as perfect as last time... windy enough to make a difference in times. The women ran first, and did not make it an easy win for Union. We finished with 3 all-conference women! Tuesdae finished second, Magan showed a crazy amount of determination and finished 5th with a quad pull, and Emma Baxter came out of NOWHERE to finish 7th! Mary was a little disappointed with her race, but she did well, considering she was coming back after two weeks in a boot. On the down side, Ashlee injured her leg during the race and possibly has a stress fracture.

In the Men's race, Austin finished 3rd (first American in the race!), and the men finished 3rd behind Union and Bethel. Nathan's stomach virus came back to haunt him, causing him to run 2 minutes slower than usual. Richard, on the other hand, had a great race and missed all-conference by 2 seconds!

Back at home, the girls ran in Race for the Cure. Sarah had her PR of 23:38, giving her the state 5K record for 10 year olds!

Hannah ran just over 28, which is great, but she was disappointed. They had fun staying with the Johnsons and wearing giant pink hairbows during the race!

That afternoon we all met back up at the Spartan end of the year party. We had pizza and played at the Saltillo City Park. It was a fun afternoon that lasted into evening! It was a little sad, because for the first time we had seniors! I was blessed with many cards from runners, a gift card from all the Spartans, and several hand made treasures.

Cale made me a birdhouse... I love it! Hannah says I am like an old lady with a bunch of stuff in the flower bed, but I like it! I need to get some gnomes next! :)

The Spartan girls started on a secret project for me back at Spartan running camp... they all worked individually on knitted and crocheted squares... different colors and patterns. Then Julie and Olivia stitched them all together into an afghan! I love rainbow, I love patchwork stuff, and I love thoughtful gifts... This is one of my all-time favorite gifts EVER!!!

The Spartans had a GREAT season, and I am looking forward to seeing what these ladies accomplish as they get more mature and stronger!

In the midst of all of this cross country reporting, I almost forgot to mention the UC football team!

Coach Scott Duley had an adjustment season as well. He was saddled with the responsibility of developing a fledgling football program.... This would be a big job at any school, but his task involved bringing 4 schools together to unite on one team. They only had an hour and a half each day for practice, and he was the coach of junior high AND high school! Did I mention fundraising, building weight rooms, getting kids to come out and participate, ordering equipment, making a practice field.... OK, if you know anything about athletics or coaching, you understand what a HUGE task this was!

He has done a great job, and it has been nice for him to be at a school where he can bring the kids with him to practice. (Part of our routine has involved the kids going to football with daddy twice per week.) The UC football team finished the season 5-3 at Jumpertown!

The team doesn't have a mascot yet, so we just call them the "Union County whatevers!!!" So, "Go Whatevers!"