Friday, October 30, 2009

Mile High City - Denver Half Marathon 2009

I found it easy to keep the pace with the music I downloaded on my I-phone specially for the race. The slower rhythm gave me enough time to catch up my breath and the more up beat ones helped me to pick up the pace. The Coors Field was at mile 3, I missed it because I was hypnotized by the view of the mountains, so I did not see the building uppps! Still I felt I needed to see a sign an indication of where I was, I had been running for an hour, there was the sign: I reached the 5th mile. I could not believe my eyes, my time was just like here at home!

Last year my friend taught me to write a prayer list, a prayer for each mile; so I took it out of my pocket and checked my next prayer. I had a dear friend of the family who is fighting cancer, unfortunately it has spread over his organs and the doctors did not give him much time. I have struggled in finding a way to encourage him. It is not easy, there is no comfort in words and there are no words for good-byes. There it was the beautiful scene of green, orange and golden trees, the City Park. It made me think of our life as a tree, how we too have seasons and how the Fall is beautiful but in a way sad. After the beauty the winter comes and freezes everything, it ends life for some time. Anyway the Joy that warms my heart is to know that after our lives end it is then when it begins for all eternity long with our Father in heaven. The run in the park was of 3 miles, but the view was so amazing that one could not complaint. Miraculously I did not have to use the restrooms and was feeling really good, still at mile 7 I decided to have one of those Gu-Gel, those things are terrible! But my friend had told me that I needed to replenish the energy, so I did eat one. At every water station, I took a sip of Gatorade and a sip of water.

Emotionally I was feeling heavy and anxious but I did not know why. I kept running and continued with my prayer list. When I looked up, I saw this view. At that point I saw my life like on video mode, good things, bad things and lots of blessings. A Christmas song began to play, "It is beginning to look like Christmas" and it took my mind to happier thoughts. I was able to remember many blessings and many joyful moments. It is a shame how we get overwhelmed by the past sometimes, it only takes away the joy of the present. That is one thing I will try not to forget.

Without noticing I was at the second Park, Cheeseman Park. The one complaint I have about the half Marathon is that they did not place signs of the miles, so I had no idea where I was. Half way in the park I saw the 10th miles and the time was 2:04 minutes. I got a boost of energy in me and thank God for his help in the run. Last year I had regular candy so I could eat every other mile, this year the only thing I could find was Halls. I think that helped my longs to open up and my airway to be clear and breath as much oxygen as I needed. I had 3.5 miles to go.

There was something in my heart bothering me and I could not pin point it, but I felt it was growing as I ran. Then I bursted into tears. You have to understand I was not running just to run and proof I can run. I was learning to persevere and be disciplined in my faith while I ran. I was not going to let the possible anger, hurt and frustration take away my joy of being there and allow it to slow me down. That is exactly what happens in life, we get burdened by our frustrations and we can't see the blessings in our life. God had prepared a beautiful day to run, He had given me the energy and motivation needed to accomplish it why would I put my energy on the negative. I reached mile 12, the last water station, I felt that I was right there and drank too much water. Big mistake! I felt a terrible pain beneath my right rib and I could not even breath of the pain. I was running slower of course and it was painful but so are moments in life and we just need to go on and finish strong as they say. I could not see the finish line, I knew it was right there but I could not see it. I felt the noise of the crowd getting closer and closer and then... there is was... I ran thanking God for helping me out with this personal challenge in teaching me to run the good race as if I was to win the prize. When I passed the finish line and I was hoping for yet another miracle, when I felt breaking free from all my frustrations and felt a crisp and fresh breeze clear up my heart, I had overcome the heavy feeling of my stubborn heart. I completed the Half Marathon in 2:41:16; last year I completed the Half Marathon in Philadelphia in 3:21:59

It is after you get your medal that your body starts aching everywhere! Instead of walking to my hotel I stayed around in the park and talked to other runners, stretched a bit had something to eat and something to drink.
One verse kept popping in my head:
Isaiah 40:28-31
28Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.

Seek him with all your heart and you will find him; put your hopes in Christ and He will renew your strength; Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed!
Thank you for running along with me, for your prayers and encouragement, together and against all odds, without stopping not even once, we ran the Mile High City Denver Half Marathon 2009, Thank you Jesus, thank you my Friends!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The First Mile!

So I felt as sleep at around 11:50 p.m. and had no dreams, I woke up sometime at 1:00 a.m. and went back to sleep. But when my alarm went off, I did not want to get up; I thought what if i just don't go. Yes that crossed my mind, shame on me. But I decided to pray and get up and get ready to go. I began running around as if I did not know where my stuff was. All was carefully placed together so I would not forget anything. I had ti return to get my gloves cause I forgot them. I got to the lobby and it was a mad house, I felt I wanted to trow up because of the emotions. I got outside and it was not cold, it was about 40 degrees, I was expecting the chilly breeze I experienced last year in Philadelphia but it was nice outside. I checked in my bag and I realized that I was missing my tag to check it in, but the lady made an exception and helped me out.
At that time I was thinking: " what was I thinking", " why am I here?", "I am crazy!". And I guess I am. Now I was waiting for the organization to open the corral and started talking to a lady who was also participating ans was by herself. I was already getting many encouraging messages through Face Book from you and I wanted to share how the mood was but how could I ask the lady to take my picture, that is very narcissistic of me, right?
So I did anyway, look at my face, Yeap, I was insecure.
They finally opened the corral(start-line)and I went right in it. They have the line up by the minutes per mile you think you will keep. So I moved to the 13 minute per mile. I met some more ladies who participated, they were from Colorado and they were telling me how difficult it was going to be for me because of the altitude. That was great encouragement! At 7:00 a.m. the wheel chairs that participate in the event got the go. O that point I look at my left and I saw the peak of the church tower in sight, you see next to the red light? It was beautiful, I was praying and talking to God at the same time, asking him to be with me all the way through, that I could never do such thing without him, that he is my strength in the times of perseverance. I begged him to hold my hand and to run next to me. I felt ready with my friends word in my mind, win as if to get the prize....And I dared to ask someone to take a picture and posted it on FB. After that I pushed on the play button of my I-phone and the music began to play. I marked my pace with music and the first song was "Can you hear the mountain tremble" by Mark Redman. It begans "Could this be the land of the free?". The crowd was shouting, the announcer was screaming and welcoming the brave who came from sea level states. My heart was pounding very fast and finally we got the Go! I took a second to take the picture of the go moment and I started my first mile. I wanted to cry, I felt a huge stone in my throat, I fell like I could not breath and it felt as if I was not moving as everyone else was passing me by. I could God whisper "don't cry Julie, I am with you, you are not alone, let go" and I took off. I was overwhelmed, I had two difficult months behind, two months of training and hardships and it all came to surface. The second song began to play "How great Thou art" by Paul Baloche a more modern rithym and I kept my pace just as when I was training on the streets of Coconut Grove. With the sun in my face and with your words of encouragement in my heart I kept running one step at the time. A smile awaited for me just after the tears dried up and I felt God's presence so close I could high five with him. It was 7:35 a.m. and no sight of the first mile but I trusted that I had run that mile twice at that time; I did not worry and enjoyed discovering the city of Denver, Colorado.

Acts 20:23-24
23I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The day before the race

View the slide show and you will see all that I delighted my sight with. Nature displayed the most astonishing views from Pikes Peak. I truly had an amazing day. At my return from the mountains, fire trucks were surrounding my hotel- false alarm- what a blessing!
I turned in my car to valet and walked to Denver's convention center to pick up my goody-bag with my bib number and many other stuff. For dinner I had a great burger with fries!
Saturday morning I got out of bed quite late but right on time to have a nice buffet breakfast. Had lots if starch, tons of proteins and much potassium. The morning was gorgeous and so I went out for a walk and returned to the hotel. The weather was so nice that I went to the pool; yes I had my swimming gear with me. I knew that I had to go running but I was feeling afraid to go running. The altitude was going to impact my breathing and I was afraid that I might lose my confidence if I would go running and realize that I could not even run a mile. After some at the pool I decided to find my way to the gym. My pace here in Miami was of 12.14 minute per mile, so I would be happy if I would do at least 13 minutes per mile. I programmed the machine to 13 miles per minute and it was hard to keep up but after half a mile my body reacted better and better. I pushed the programming faster and I ran the second mile at 12:30 p/mile. I shot down the machine and got outside. I let the wild horses run loose. I ran around the city enjoying being able to breath with no problem what so ever. The city had a very peculiar energy, everything was in set up mode. The streets were closed and people were working everywhere I turned. The park was being transformed into the start and finish line. The signs for the drop/pick up place for the check in bags was already in place. The next morning I had to bring my personal belongings to this post, my Bib number was 7509. I was so excited and confident I would run and enjoy the race. I felt like I could have run the half marathon that same afternoon. But, I had to wait and save my energy, so I returned to the hotel and after a shower jumped into bed. I watched the Gators vs Arkansas, pfff poor Arkansas they thought for a moment they would win. was a great game and it felt good to be a Gator fan! After much delight it was time for the famous pasta night. It was not a fun dinner as the official past dinner was at the hotel and the setting was just as if you would eat at a restaurant and so I ate alone. As the night was setting in, I put all my gear in place and got myself into bed early and miraculously I felt as sleep too. Before going to bed, I read all the messages on Face Book and my emails; I prayed and thank God for all of your encouragement, for allowing me to spent such a great time on the mountains and making my dream of running this race come true. At that point, I was missing my dear friend who was not with me, the one who inspired me to run in the first place, Francisco. during the training there was not one day that I did not hear his voice in my mind, coaching me on what to eat and what to drink. Step by step I followed all the instructions he once gave me; thank you Francisco for having shared the joy of running in a race. With the memories of last year's Half Marathon in Philadelphia and a tear in my eye I felt as sleep. "Run Julie run, you can do it"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On the top of the Mountain

Matthew 4:8-11

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."

11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Today when I was at the summit of Pikes Peak
the lady who sat next to me in the train, was taking pictures next to me on one of the ramps. It was just the two of us on that spot, I asked her to take my picture actually. I forgot my headphones at the hotel and the moment and place was perfect to hear the song How great Thou Art, so I took my I-phone and just played it. The wind calmed down so we could hear the music louder, I thought she would walk away but she did not. She sighted and leaned over the bar and we contemplated the beauty around us. She did not say a word, neither did I. It was as if we both just had to Be Still and Know we were in the presence of the Lord. It was the most beautiful moment of the day. I closed my eyes and told God how much I love him and gave thanks for the beautiful trip he allowed me to have today. When I opened my eyes I could see the bigger picture before me, I cried and walked back toward the train.

By the way I had no reservations for the train trip, I had to drive an hour and a half to Colorado Springs, I have never been there of course and the train was supposed to depart at 9:30 a.m. At 7 a.m. is rush hour, but today Friday, there was no traffic, when I got to the railway station they put me on standby, and guess what the last seat was assigned to me; today they had the best temperature of the entire year up there almost no wind, visibility was also the best, Bold Eagles are rarely seen, today we saw it twice! I have no doubt that God was up there and I felt his tender whisper and his softly hand, showing me the way, guiding my steps and healing my heart.

Hardships can make us feel weak and meek and sad, but do not allow those feelings to turn you blind of the good things God pours in our lives. We are humans and just as we cannot change the snow from being cold and the fire of being hot, we cannot control feeling sad or restoring a grieving heart; but we have the hope that we have our heavenly father that will comfort us and he will restore us, he will lift us up again and make us fly like eagles, I saw that eagle fly by today and I though I will fly like that, I know God will restore my wings. When I saw it the second time, I knew in my heart I will grow strong again.

Engrave the Word in the tablets of your heart and remind yourself of it so you do not forget that the Lord is the owner of all the beautiful things and owner of all riches and everything else that is on this earth, he alone is the one who gives and takes away, He is the one who truly loves you!

Do not be tempted to quit, do not be tempted to leave your brothers and sisters in Christ in the cold, pray for them, seek them, visit them, allow God to guide you and obey. Rebuke the evil one with authority and with self confidence because Christ is with you, he will never leave you or forsake you. If you allow Him, he will use you to make a difference in the life of some one near your. Once we begin with his ministry, big or small, we are never done with ministry. Focus on the family reminded me that today. Dr. James Dobson quit his job and began a small ministry focused on the family in a small office but God blessed him and doubled the size of the ministry and moved to another facility they were four hundred and something and today they are more than thirteen hundred employees. Their facilities are huge. Dr. James Dobson just followed the guidance God gave him. I wonder what God has in store for us??

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Half Marathon Count down

I am only four days away from running my second Half Marathon, I had a 10 week training, well... actually eight week training. I kind of injured my knee and was not able to run for two weeks. Honestly I didn't think I could run again, the pain was severe at one point and my knee felt really weak. Friends and family, all prayed for me and God heard the prayers I believe.

Tomorrow I will prepare my bags and take my flight in the afternoon, getting out of town to the mountains before running the Half Marathon. Can't wait to smell the fresh crisp air on the top of the mountain.

Last year I ran the Half Marathon in Philadelphia in a 21 degree weather, but I had my friend by my side so the cold was not so bad. This year it will be warmer weather in 40 degrees, but it will feel colder as I will cross the finish line without the cheer of that friend. My other friend told me not to worry, he promised to never leave me or forsake me, he loves me for who I am and he is coming along, his name is Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Christ healed me and we are running the Half Marathon!

By the weekend of September 13 I ran 19 miles that week and the average was of 12.98 minute a mile. On September 15 after finishing mile 7.5 of the week, I felt some pain in my right knee; it was making crunchy sounds. I stopped running and waited to see the specialist. I felt frustrated cause I thought I would not be able to run the race I have been looking forward to. Some of you prayed for me, I prayed and prayed; all I wanted was to have time with God during that run. Just him and me. I have been left to run alone, so that is what I was training for. I thought, well maybe God just wants to spend time with me without having to run. I felt it would be fun and challenging to run but I could settled for a quite time with him in a beautiful setting as long as his presence is with me. My ticket is already paid for so if I run or not, still I will take that plane. Two weeks after on September 29, last Tuesday, I was at the specialist and they gave me green light to resume my training. I jumped and praised God for his kindness in granting me the race! On September 25th I was coming back from South Carolina and had to connect in N. Carolina but my flight was delayed. Guess what? I ran and I felt no pain, but on Tuesday I got professional confirmation that I could run. God did a miracle for me and cured my knee.
Last Wednesday I was at the gym helping my legs to do some exercise and make sure I got no pain. On Saturday, I ran my first 3 miles and today I ran 5 miles, so this Sunday I close a good 8 miles with an average of 12.15 minute the mile. God is great!

Perseverance has many faces; we can overcome the valley of death when we go through it, only if we persevere in our faith and in our hope. Quitting is not an option. It is not an easy process for sure not a fun one, but there is an end to that valley and the green pasture is just at the other side. Sometimes hard to see it, but we must have faith that it is there. Out of the valley we will come restored, cleansed and strong again. Until then, we need a hero to hold our hand, to heal us and protect us; Christ our Shepherd and Savior.
In our brokenness he will comfort us and he will carry us for the time that we cannot walk on our own. Because we all grow weary and we all will feel weak at some point, we need to fix our eyes to these verses, no matter how difficult it is to feel them, we should hang on to them for they are promises for God's children, for you and me, we are his children. Believe...

1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Isaiah 40:28-31
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

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