Friday, February 10, 2012

Gatlinburg Day 1

I am not sure what I was thinking, but I did it... I planned another "team bonding" trip to Gatlinburg, TN with the BMC cross country team.  Last year I learned some lessons, and I was hopeful that this trip would be more enjoyable for everyone.  I think I was right!  We left Blue Mountain very early in the morning, and headed out in our much more reliable bus!  This year Sarah and my sister Hillary came along to keep me company- I was so thankful to have them on the trip!
We arrived at the campground later in the afternoon and set up camp.  Our team was quite a bit bigger this year, so we had some extra tents and took up a lot more room!  Everyone got changed and we had our first practice of 2011 on the mountainside trail... this time everyone ran to the top and hiked back down; last year the downhill run was a little too strenuous on everyone's joints.

Since it was Wednesday, we sat around the campfire after dinner and listened to "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" preached by Paris Reidhead.  Excellent sermon.  Some people listened, some slept, and others did a little of both...  Granted, it was a long sermon at the end of a long day, but I really didn't want to have just a 5 minute fluffy devotion to start our season.  Recently, I saw a twitter post that read, "People who pride themselves on getting beyond creeds end up with the paralyzing incapacity to get beyond catchwords."  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

End of XC Season

This year, Latifa was the only BMC runner to make it to nationals, which were once again in Ft. Vancouver, WA.  She was not exactly excited about qualifying or overtly thankful for the opportunity to travel (expenses paid) across the country to represent BMC at the national championships.  I love to travel and looked forward to seeing Portland again; however, I was afraid this would be a painfully QUIET trip, and the lack of enthusiasm about going made me sad to miss part of our family's Thanksgiving vacation to Jellystone.   

Unexpectedly, Emma Baxter and her mother, Stacey, decided to travel along and support Latifa.  The trip started off on Thursday morning just as I feared.  Two sullen college students sat across from me in the Memphis airport.  "Great.  This is going to be the longest three days of my life," I thought.  Things did not improve much throughout the day, and we had the longest dinner ever at Red Lobster that evening.  Thankfully, Stacey gave Emma a "talking-to," and the next day was MUCH better.  Emma's more positive attitude was infectious, and I think Latifa even started to enjoy herself!

On my run through the town and along the river that Friday, I saw this metal statue.  I have always been drawn to WWII posters (I love the colors and the drawings!), and I also like metal artwork- this combined the two into a neat "Rosie the Riveter meets the shipyard" type statue. This year we did not run from Washington to Oregon and back... doing it by myself just didn't seem as exciting as it was last year!  I did, however, stick some money in my sleeve and finish my run at Starbucks.  Walking the block over to our hotel in the drizzle, holding a steaming cup of coffee was as therapeutic as the run itself!
 I loved the statue and drove us back to take a picture of it later!  We all got out of the car and admired the view of the river and Bridge.  This is the only picture I have of Stacey!
On Friday, we jogged the course, checked in for paperwork, and had some down time.  That afternoon, we ventured across the bridge and into Portland.  Taking the advice of the concierge, we decided to explore the free public transportation system rather than chance parallel parking in the downtown area.  It was definitely the lesser, yet more exciting, of two evils.  The fall colors were beautiful, and this picture makes it look like it was actually sunny outside.  HA!  Don't be fooled- it rained the ENTIRE trip, once again.
We spent several hours shopping, and Emma coerced me into trying on formal dresses, saying that if she had to talk and be friendly, then I had to try on a dress with her.  Done deal, definitely worth it!  :)  I have officially reached the age of needing "Spanks" under fitted dresses.  Oh boy.  I'll stick to t-shirts and jeans.
We enjoyed trivia games and dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, explored Ross: Dress for Less, and then managed to find our way back to the car (using the rail system) and then back to the hotel (using the highway system).  It was a weekend of planes, trains, and automobiles!

The next morning was race day. The course was once again at the historic Fort Vancouver site, a destination for travelers on the Oregon trail in the 1800's! The runners ran around the edge of the drilling grounds, and I loved looking at the tree-lined officer's row homes. (And imagining what they would look like if it was sunny...)   Latifa was in the same starting box with her Union competitors, Allison Martin and Audrey Hazelhurst.
The start was crazy crowded, and it did not thin out much... 300 of the fastest NAIA women in the country were racing, so there was not the typical large gap between first and last.

It sounded like a stampede at the finish line, as women battled over finish place.
Latifa finished near the middle of the pack.  Nagging knee pain, dehydration, and lack of nutrition handicapped her before the race began.  At this point, I was becoming more certain of my decision to resign, and so I had decided to enjoy the trip instead of picking a fight over whether a nutty bar was a sufficient breakfast/lunch to prepare for a race at 1:00pm.   In addition, I don't know if Latifa had ever run in a race that large or crowded, and I know that she is not used to being boxed in the middle of the pack.  It was a great learning experience for her, and I think next year she will be better prepared mentally for the aggressive, crowded race.

After resting a bit and then having some Chinese food for lunch, Latifa voted to go see the ocean.  "If we were going to get that close to the Pacific Ocean, we might as well go see it," we reasoned!  This was the most amazing part of the trip.  As we drove, the highway turned into a two lane winding road.  You see, in order to get to the beach, we had to go over and through the mountains!

We got higher and higher, and we began to see some snow on the side of the road and on the trees.  We stopped in the middle of the road to take a picture of this tunnel through the mountain!

It was beautiful, and we were amazed!  We pulled over at a "scenic overlook" place and took a few pictures.  Mountain/ snow pictures are never as pretty as it was in real life, but this will give you a general idea... It was a winter wonderland at the beginning of November!

We began the descent toward the ocean, and got there JUST in time to see the beach before the sunset.  It was amazing.  The waves were so much larger than the waves in Destin!  We got there a little late, but it LOOKS like the sun MIGHT have been shining here... maybe things are different on the other side of the mountains!  Going from moderate weather... to mountains and snow... to beach and beautiful... and back, all in a few hours was a memorable experience.  Yay, for voting to see the beach!
On our way back through the mountains, we stopped for dinner at a logging camp restaurant.  When it was built, it was the base of a logging camp, and it was the largest log cabin... I don't know, in the world?  Something like that.  Anyway, it was very cozy and pretty.  It was like a Cracker Barrel type place, and we marveled at the GIANT saws hanging from the walls and at the size of the stump that the cash register was mounted on... The center was hollowed out and big enough for a person to stand in the middle, with a counter all around.  The portions were Paul Bunyan sized... after eating steadily for the duration of dinner, the level of stew in my bowl had hardly moved! 

After our meal, Emma posed for one last picture with the giant, carved lumberjack, and we headed back to the hotel.  This time, it was dark going through the mountains, and the roads had gotten icy in spots! 

 We made it back safely, backed our bags, and prepared for the long journey home the next day.  We left Portland super early, flew to Houston, flew to Memphis, and then my family picked me up at the airport and we drove to Gatlinburg, TN to start our Thanksgiving vacation!!  I made it through all U.S. time zones in one day!  Although the day seemed long, it was a piece of cake compared to the MONTHS of journeying in covered wagons to get to Oregon done by the settlers!  

Stay at Home Mom

"When I grow up, I want to be a Pediatrician."  This was my standard answer to grown-ups until I was in high school.  At that point, it became clear that I was NOT cut out to be a medical professional.  (I do not do well in emergencies!)  Next, I wanted to be a Home-Ec teacher... until my Home-Ec teacher told me I would never find a job.  Finally, I settled on being a corporate fitness agent and ended up at Lambuth University. 

At Lambuth, corporate fitness agent turned into certified athletic trainer... and that's how I met Scott!  Taping wrists, thumbs, and ankles each afternoon was one of my responsibilities, and Duley #75 needed wrists and thumbs taped... no pre-wrap, please.  

After a time, we became a couple, and shortly thereafter began to speak of marriage.  The professional demands of an athletic trainer were not exactly in line with our vision for our future family, and so I switched my major to elementary education.  We reasoned that if something unforeseen happened and I had to work, I could at least keep the same hours as our children.  We married after Scott's graduation, and I was pregnant at my own graduation ceremony one year later.  

Fast forward 12 years... After 10 moves, 4 children in 5 years, and several career changes... Scott is a teacher and football coach, and I am a stay-at-home mom who homeschools our children and coaches the Northeast MS Homeschool running team, the Spartans.  Thanks to the Lord's provision and the generosity of our parents, we are making things work with one income.  The budget is TIGHT, and there is not any breathing room, but we are making it work.  On the side I clean houses, make aprons, and sell bread.  I had these business cards made to attach to gifts...
Out of the blue, I am approached about coaching cross country at the collegiate level, and I accept the position of head cross country coach at Blue Mountain College.  (I posted the details of the situation about 2 years ago when it happened.)  The Apron Strings cards would be packed away, and this was my new business card: 
It was an exciting new challenge, and I have worked hard to build and improve the program over the past two years.  I love the school, the science of sport, training athletes, and the people I work with.  It is truly a wonderful work environment. 

 For those who have never coached a sport, it is important to understand that coaching is not a 9-5 type job.  It is all about relationships, and my runners become like extensions of my family (much to their chagrin at times).  Coaching is a job that is never done; there is always one more thing that could be done to make the program better; one more letter that could be written; one more article to be read on the latest research; one more recruiting database to be searched; one more t-shirt to design; one more night to stay awake praying for the freshmen girls who hate you... it's not a job that you can just check at the door. 

Over the last two years I was overall successful at my job, but my success came at a cost.  My parenting, my housekeeping, the education of our children, laundry, and my cooking all became more than a little haphazard.  (Oh wait, I suppose my cooking has always been haphazard... well, I had an excuse the last two years, anyway.)  I was treading water at my FIRST job, my IMPORTANT job... being a wife and mother.  

Circumstances occurred to make me see that the runners at BMC did not want a mother, but my children were desperately in need of one.  I began to see just how quickly time was passing... Hannah was about to turn 13, and two blinks ago when I started my job, she was only 11!  

Scott and I decided that probably the best thing would be for me to come back home.  In fact, he admitted that he would be delighted to have me back home but did not want me to give up something I loved.  The funny thing was, in keeping my job I was giving up something I loved... my family... and I wanted it back.  In making that decision, I feel like the Lord has given me a second chance with my family... I have seen how important my job as a wife and mother really is, and I have a renewed purpose in parenting.

Although I am eager to become a full-time mom again, I truly love Blue Mountain College.  It is a great school, and I want to see the cross country teams continue to grow and improve.  In fact, I could even see myself coming back here one day when our children are out of the home.  In order to avoid putting the athletic department in a bind, I worded my resignation to say that I would stay until the end of the spring semester if needed.  

For now, our family is in a holding pattern.  It is the off-season for both cross country and football, so the time demands are not quite so intense.  In a few short months I will pack away the BMC business cards and unpack the Apron Strings cards. 
 I will still need to clean a house or two and occasionally make aprons or bread.  Having to live on a tight, tight budget will once again be difficult.  However, this time around, I understand that the tight budget is a burden much lighter than the one of a full-time working mother, and I hope I will bear it quite cheerfully. 




Saturday, February 4, 2012

Josh is 8!

Happy Birthday to Josh!!  
This year Josh wanted to have friends over to play for his birthday.  We had a group of boys come home after church on Wednesday night and then house full of boys for the next day.  Josh requested donuts for breakfast,  and the boys had fun eating cake (Hannah made Josh this football cake!), opening gifts, and playing games.  

Back row: Brayden, Ben M., Jon, Andrew, Miles, Will  Front Row: Ben B, Neo, Josh, Qiao

 All the boys got large balloons and played with them on the patio...

 We also had several relay races... The weather HAD been nice, but it was a CHILLY October day to be playing outside!
 Having fun in the pillowcase race!

XC Season Continues...

On this blog, I post a LOT about coaching.  I coach two teams, and my children participate on one of them... and I love to run.  Naturally, most of my posts are about cross country.  However, I am also married to a coach, and for the record, he is THE coach, and I just happen to be in charge of two teams.  Although I haven't posted as much about the Union County team as much as I should, Scott has done amazing things at his job, and he is an amazing coach.  It's like the Bad News Bears meets... well, I don't know... fill in the blank with your inspirational movie about a coach who loves the players and turns them into athletes.  He is not afraid to share his faith and sets such a great example for his players.  I love him... Mr. Coach Duley rocks!  
   On September 9, Sharon came to town and took the boys to see Scott's football team play.  The girls and I stayed home because it would have been too late of an evening with traveling.  The boys enjoyed being there, and the girls were certainly excited to have Grandmama come and watch them race.   I got to race with Hannah, and she ran a PR at the beginning of her season.  Sarah also had a great race, and we could tell this was going to be a good year for her. 

After the Sherman Day 5K, a group of girls came over to work on crafty projects and enjoy snacks and coffee punch.  The girls were working on things to sell at the Riverfest to raise money for the Kids of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.... I LOVE my Spartans!!!

On September 17th, the Spartans and Toppers were racing in different locations.  Kay came to stay with us for a few days, and she and Scott took the girls to their race at Saltillo High School.  One of the best things about Scott's new coaching job is his ability to set his own schedule and make himself available on Saturday mornings when necessary- the kids love having their daddy get to come to races.

 Hannah and Sarah ran the JV race.  The race start was very crowded, and the girls fought being boxed in.
Hannah was trapped in the very back behind a girl who fell, and her time suffered.  Sarah rallied and finished in the top 15, receiving a top finisher shirt! This picture is a little far away, but if you could see Sarah close, you would see that she races with her tongue sticking out!

Both girls worked hard and we are very proud of them!

The BMC team raced in Starkville at the Mississippi State Invitational.  The women's team finished 3rd, right behind MSU and LSU!  Their times continued to improve.

The next weekend was the Tallahatchie Riverfest 5K in New Albany.  This 5K has grown to be a large race, and most runners in our area come to participate.  The Spartans came to compete, and the BMC runners came to serve as timers/ course monitors... it was nice to have both teams in one place! 

Some of my BMC runners kindly agreed to run paired up with Duleys... Kacie ran with Hannah, Bryan and Brian ran with Josh, and Jose ran with Will.

The day was perfect for a 5K... clear, cool... nice!  All 4 Duley kids ran in this one AND Scott!  He postponed his football meeting until afternoon so that he could be there to see the kids and run with them.  I just love this picture of Josh and his friend Jon below!  

After the race, we  went to a booth at the Riverfest craft fair and displayed many things that the Spartans had made to sell for the kids at St. Jude.  Everything sold went directly to St. Jude through Preston's Pit Crew... Our St. Jude marathon team.  Over $100 was sold, and the leftover items were sent to St. Jude to be given to the kids there as gifts. 

These were wire crosses donated by the Sanders' girls... very cute!
Hannah made fabric drawstring bags... This was a great project, because she gained a great deal of independence and confidence while using the sewing machine for these.
Sarah and Leslie Howe made a variety of cute tote bags- There were many other darling items... from baby slippers to pillows to Christmas ornaments to stuffed animals- the generosity and creativity of the Spartan girls was amazing!

The first weekend in October was the Rhodes Invitational at Shelby Farms in Memphis, TN. The BMC women had to run a 6K race, and the BMC men kept their standard 8K distance.  (The Spartans had an off weekend.)  Before the Ladies race, a group of runners from another team asked runners to join in prayer. So many teams were eager to participate that there was a sizable circle of athletes at the starting line.

 I just love the new BMC uniforms... Had to get a good front and back shot of them!

In the women's race, all of our ladies were faster at the 5K mark than in the previous races... and they still had a kilometer to go... on a legit cross country course.  It was interesting coaching a group of runners on the course that was considered our "home course" in high school; we practiced at Shelby Farms several times each week.  This was also the course that I ran with a broken foot in college- I definitely know that it is much easier to tell girls to pick up knees and push up a hill than to actually do it!    

On October 8th, We had the second "Meet the Toppers" day with a 5K race, plate lunch sale, games, and athletic introductions.  There were several races scheduled for that weekend, so we had a fairly small crowd.    However, the Spartans showed up and had another good race... on another beautiful morning!  The BMC runners hosted a face painting table, a coffee table, and a 4-square game. 

The next weekend, the Toppers would hit the road again... this time we headed to Owensboro, KY.  In my mind, I thought Owensboro was right across the TN border... WRONG!!  It was about a 7 hour trip!  We had a great day, though, and here is the press release concerning the meet:

OWENSBORO, Ky. -- Austin Epting and Latifa Swims led Blue Mountain College to respective fourth- and fifth-place finishes in the Fast Cats Invitational here Saturday.
     Epting powered his way to a sixth-place finish out of 107 runners with his 8k time of 26:58.73, and Swims cruised to a 12th-place finish in the 107-runner 5k field with a time of 19:24.38.
     Austin Peay State University won the men's competiton and the University of Southern Indiana captured the women's title.
     Southern Indiana took the top four spots in the women's race, led by Jackie Henderson at 18:26.60. In the men's race, David Baker, running unattached, led the field with a time of 26:01.99.

BMC WOMEN: (12) Latifa Swims 19:24.58; (34) Kelsea Posadas 20:16.65; (38) Tuesdae Rowland 20:31.72; (52) Emma Baxter 21:16.33; (73) Kacie Harris 22:37.30; (82) Beth Goolsby 23:01.59; (93) Keira Mayfield 23:56.86.

BMC MEN: (6) Austin Epting 26:58.73; (28) Richard Feist 27:59.03; (45) Hunter Flanagan 28:55.58; (48) Brian McDonnieal 29:00.91; (54) Nathan Young 29:15.80; (55) Jose Valle 29:17.0; (58) Riley Bennett 29:32.35; (62) Derek Scott 29:42.90; (65) Bryan Cook 29:52.12; (79) CAsey Bales 20:49.30; (99) Drew Bruce 33:50.99; (103) Zack Brock 35.00.92.

Congratulations to Latifa and Austin, who were the TranSouth Runners of the Week!

After the Owensboro meet, the BMC runners were mid-season and ready for a weekend OFF.  It worked out nicely, because the Homeschool national championship meet was October 22 in Springfield, MO. 

The Spartans met and caravaned from New Albany to Springfield... caravaning with 1-3 cars is one thing.  Trying to caravan with about 20 cars is a whole other ball game, especially when bathroom stops are made and 50 people are trying to use 1 potty! Sarah rode in the Cobb van, and had fun with her peeps!
Richard Feist went with the girls and I, and we enjoyed his company!  On the way, Richard drove and I watched a preview copy of the movie, October Baby on the laptop.  I think he was a little uncomfortable when I cried for a solid hour during the movie!  It was really good, but a real tear-jerker!  (Below:  Precious, Julie, and Hannah at our CiCi's pizza lunch stop!)
When we finally arrived in Springfield, we jogged the course.  Whoa.  The course was abounding in hills, but NOT abounding in marker flags or arrows!  With the help of some other homeschool coaches, we figured things out and had a pep talk for the next day.
A surprise was waiting for us at the hotel.  No room at the inn.  Somehow the hotel had gotten overbooked, and we only had about half our rooms that we had reserved.  A less than ideal ending to a LONG day... we crammed Spartans into parent rooms and then packed about 6-9 runners in the remaining hotel rooms!
The next morning came too soon!  Everyone was excited and ready to go, though!  The races went well, and the winner of the girls' race was amazing!!  Don Cobb brought a group from AFA to film the race and do a documentary on the meet.  It was fun seeing the four wheeler with camera crew out in front of the leaders... it was just like flotrack!

Sarah ran a PR of 21:38, finishing second in the JV race/ 13th overall (6th grader!).  Hannah ran a PR of 25:48, stepping up and running as the 3rd JV Spartan!  It was a hilly, hilly course, so they did AWESOME!  I don't know if I can keep up with Sarah anymore!
On the way home, everyone mutually agreed to find their own way back!  We had lunch at the mall food court and then headed back to Mississippi!

The week after homeschool nationals was "fun week,"  Since we were not worried about injuries, we had our annual shaving cream fight on Tuesday and then Crazy Hair Day on Thursday.  Thursday was also Josh's birthday, so I had to miss crazy hair day this year.

 Above:  Sarah, Me, Hannah, Will, and Josh- thought I better write it down, because we are not easily discernible under all the shaving cream!  It was a beautiful day for our group to get yucky in the park!
This year I was not the only coach to get dirty... Mwahahahahahahaha

For crazy hair day, Sara went with a crazy punk theme, and Hannah made her bun look like a ball of yarn!

Now it was time to wrap up the BMC season... We ended October with the Conference championship meet.  Our runners did a great job and finished well.  Here is the press release:

Jackson, TN- Led by Austin Epting and Latifa Swims, Blue Mountain College captured a pair of second-place finishes in the TranSouth Athletic Conference cross country meet here Saturday. Union University captured both team titles, followed by BMC, Bethel University and Freed-Hardeman University.

Epting, a junior from East Union, and Swims, a freshman from Carrollton, each finished second in the men’s and women’s races. Swims was named the Newcomer of the Year among the TSAC women runners.

Epting ran the 8k men’s race in 26:23, second to Union's Alex Bett at 25:32, and Richard Feist of Saltillo was fourth at 26:47.

Swims ran a 5k 19:12 to finish behind Union’s Allison Martin in 19:02. BMC’s Kelsea Hendrix of Corinth was fifth at 19:56, and Tuesdae Rowland of Ripley was seventh at 20:34. Epting and Feist were named to the men’s all-conference team, and Swims, Hendrix and Rowland were named to the women’s all-conference team.
BMC RESULTS (overall finish in parenthesis)
WOMEN 5k -- LaTifa Swims (2) 19:12; Kelsea Hendrix (5) 19:56; Tuesdae Rowland (7) 20:34; Emma Baxter (10) 21:01; Kacie Harris (15) 22:01; Beth Goolsby (18) 22:21.
MEN 8k -- Austin Epting (26:23); Richard Feist (26:47); Brian McDonnieal (12) 28:15; Hunter Flanagan (28:25); Jose Valle (14) 28:45; Riley Bennett (19) 29:17; Casey Bales (21) 29:20; Bryan Cook (23) 29:35; Derek Scott (26) 30:17; Nathan Young (27) 31:03; Zack Brock (30) 32:54; Drew Bruce (31) 33:41.

Above: Bryan Cook, Drew Bruce, Jose Valle, Brian McDonnieal, Riley Bennett- Freshmen Toppers
Below:  Seniors Hunter Flanagan, Tuesdae Rowland, Richard Feist, Nathan Young- I will miss this group of runners!

Two meets remained on our race calendar... Regionals and then Nationals.  Going into Regionals, we knew that it would be very difficult for any BMC runners to qualify for nationals.  Our grouping this year was MUCH more competitive, but at least we got to go visit St. Louis!  AND, Scott and the girls got to go with us, making it much more enjoyable for me!  (We dropped the boys off with my parents for the weekend on our way to Missouri.)  After checking into a NICE Drury Inn, we jogged the course and then did some downtown sightseeing.  It is probably a good thing that Scott stayed in the hotel room during this time, because me driving the bus in downtown St. Louis was a little frightening for all parties involved.

Beth, Kelsea, Tuesdae, Kacie, LaTifa, Keira, and Stephanie under the arch
 Senior guys- Richard, Hunter, Nathan
 Here they are again with Derek... He is not a senior, but definitely one of their group!

The race went about as I expected.  The runners gave it their all, and Latifa ended up being the only one to qualify for nationals.  Most everyone was relieved that the long season was over.  After the race, we went to the St. Louis Zoo and then to Lambert's in Sikeston, MO for some throwed rolls on the way home.
 Sarah and Hannah at the zoo

 The runners were being silly in front of Lambert's... Thanks to Austin's dad putting our name on the list early, we had a little bit of a wait... but it wasn't 3 hours!!