Monday, December 7, 2009

I raced for 140.6 miles. Yes, I said MILES!

My Official IRONMAN Florida Race Report!!!
(WARNING: this will be looong!)
So, before I get into my Ironman race report, I guess I probably should back up a little bit & explain why & how I got it in my brain that I wanted to even attempt an Ironman distance triathlon.
And, for those that don't already know, there are a few different distances of triathlons out there...starting out at a short, sprint distance (usually, 500 to 800 meter swim, 12 to 15 mile bike, and 2 or 3 mile run) then going to a bit longer, or an Olympic distance race (consisting of about a 1 mile swim, 26 mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run) and next to a Half-Iron distance race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, & 13.1 mile run) and then, of course, to the ultimate distance challenge....the FULL IRONMAN...2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike & 26.2 mile run...for a total of 140.6 miles! Well, there is actually one triathlon longer than this -- the Ultraman, I believe -- but, those are for people that are not even human! ;o)
Ok, so anyway - back to why I even wanted to attempt an Ironman distance race to start with.
Way, way, way back when I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9 years old), my parents would watch the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii every year on the TV on NBC. I very distinctly remember being in awe of the competitors and their strength. And, I also clearly remember telling my parents that I would one day do an Ironman!
So flash forward to about 4 years ago, when I began to workout everyday with a purpose (mainly to get rid of the rest of my post-baby weight!).
I found myself getting stronger & stronger & really appreciating the body God gave me. I was amazed how my diligence with workouts effected how I felt about myself emotionally & physically -- as a person, wife & mother.
Long story short, I got into triathlons around that time & have been enjoying the challenge ever since. I've been racing for 4 seasons now -- made possible by my wonderful husband, Matt, who watches the kids while I am working out, buys my training & race equipment, and supports me!
And yes, I did start out with the shorter distance races & moved up slowly every season. In fact, it was only in September of 2008, that I completed my last Olympic-distance race & told my friends/coaches, Rebekah & Chris Trevelise, that I wanted to train the next season for a half & full Ironman.
I wanted to try to register for Ironman Florida that November (2008), but knew that the registration was tough & the chances for getting in were not super-high. I did try, though, and both me & my coach, Chris, got registered online that day.
Training commensed immediately! My immediate goals were to complete several half-marathons & 1 marathon through that fall/winter. I also wanted to build a lot of base aerobic fitness. I sure did of lot running around this time last year & I did build that base I was hoping for.
By the spring of '09 I completed my first 1/2 Iron-distance race in Galveston, TX & did decently well. And more importantly, not feeling completely dead & spent after racing for 5 hours & 50 minutes. I left that race really feeling like the full Ironman was possible for me!
Still, I knew there was much more training to do. So, I pressed on through the spring & the summer -- hours of open water & pool swims, 4 & 5 hour bike rides, 12 & 13 miles runs, AND 9 & 10 mile runs AFTER 4 hour bike rides! PHEW!!!!!!!!
UNTIL...August - only about 16 weeks ago....while standing on the shore of Lake Travis, getting ready to race the Sweet & Twisted Triathlon, I had a bad pain in my left foot. I raced on it anyhow - feeling the pain while I ran - took 4th place that day & was diagnosed with 2 stress fractures in that foot within 2 days of the race.
Knowing that my Ironman in Florida was only a mere 11 weeks out, I was super-worried! Now what do I do?!?! Will my bones heal in time, will I be able to race?
I obeyed my doc, stayed off my foot, & wore an aircast (or, boot, as I called it) for 9 full weeks!
So for 9 weeks before Ironman, there was no run training AT ALL. Nada.
I missed a couple of smaller races here in the area during that time, that were going to help prepare me to do Ironman at race pace, but those got skipped, of course. Thankfully, though, I was still able to swim & ride my bike indoors (& a little outside, too) during this time to help keep my fitness up for Ironman.
However, by the time I was out of the boot, only 3 weeks away from Ironman, I was skeptical that I would be able to finish the race without having the full preparation on the run. Both of my friends/coaches said that I would be fine & that I should still go out to Florida & give it a shot.
And so, I decided to go! I got in a few short, slow runs in those 3 weeks before leaving for the race & just prayed to God that He would get me through & carry me on the run.
Fast forward again to this past November 4, only 3 days before race day, when I arrive in Panama City Beach, Florida. The town was buzzing - with triathletes all over the place...riding, running, & swimming. I, along with Chris, Rebekah & their family, stayed in a cool little RV resort at the far end of town right next to the entrance to the state park that we would be running through (twice!) on race day.
Trev & I got in a short run that Wednesday night & then Thursday, we did a practice swim there in the gulf. The ocean swim was AWESOME! Way better than I thought it would be! I was not afraid of it at all - in fact, I was psyched to get back into the water on race day!
We got a short, slow bike ride in, too, after the swim & scoped out the marathon course.
Friday was all about rest, since the race was the next day, but everyone had to get their bikes racked and hand-in their transition & special needs bags. These bags carry your needed items for the different legs of the race & are assigned a certain spot in transition based on your race number. So, after the bike & bag check-in, all that was left to do was eat lasagne (thanks to Trev's mom for that!!) and rest some more!
I got up 4am, ate some random bread products, had my giant cup of coffee & got dressed.
Went down to Chris & Rebekah's travel trailer & made myself some oatmeal. We got some warm clothes on over our race gear (since it was about 50-some degrees) to get down to the beach for the race start. We got there, got the rest of our stuff set up on our bikes & in the transition bags and then got our wetsuits on. We struggled finding Rebekah at the race start on the beach since there were so many people down there. But, we did finally find her about 10-15 minutes before the start & we got a couple pics & video.
Phew! Just enough time to get down the beach & get this party started!
We gave everyone hugs & off we went toward the water.
I was surprisingly calm at this point. Yes, there was a touch of nerves, but not because I was worried, but because I was PSYCHED! The crowd on the beach was overwhelming -- there were about 2400 athletes racing that day & at least that many more spectators all gathered on this small area of the beach. It was CRAZY! The excitment was in the air & everywhere. People clapping, dancing on the beach, and hugging loved ones. And then, of course, the national anthem. My gosh - I wanted to cry! I said another quick prayer, chatted with a few people around and calmly waited for the cannon to go off.

And....WE'RE OFF!
I started my watch & walked with a massive group of people into the water. We ended up walking for probably 2 minutes or more before we could even begin to swim! And then, when we did start IS what they say...a literal washing machine! A sea of flailing arms & legs & other various body parts. I was kicked multiple times (naturally), got my goggles knocked several times, & got swam over more times than I can count! But, BOY! Was it fun!

I finally found a nice little rhythm & thought to myself so many cool is this?! I am doing an IRONMAN! Here I am, swimming in the ocean with 2400 other people, doing an IRONMAN! Getting to the first bouy was moderately challenging, but I appreciated the draft & pull I got from the other swimmers. And one of the best moments of my day happened at the first turn bouy. As anyone that has ever swam in a race knows, the turn bouys are always a crowded CLUSTER. Mostly, it makes me MAD on race days....when I'm all like: "grrrrrr.....move outta my way....why are you stopping right in the middle of the course....grrrrrr" etc, etc. But, this turn bouy was different. Well, it was a cluster of people, but it just so happened that the entire cluster of people I was with at this bouy all stopped swimming (what seemed to be simultaneously) and looked around happily at each other. In fact, everyone was smiling...I was smiling. Then all of a sudden one of the swimmers yells out to the group...."HEY EVERYBODY - WE'RE DOING THIS! WE'RE DOING AN IRONMAN!!". And then, the group of us broke out into a chorus of cheers! It was AMAZING! Then the same guy said: "ok now, everybody, BACK TO WORK!" So off we went again! So hilarious!!!!
So, I made the 1st loop of the 2 loop swim course in decent time. Got back into the water again for my second loop, still feeling amazing.
When I came back in for the 2nd time, though, my loop was slower...but, I was still cool with it & happy to done with the water & getting ready for my favorite part of every triathlon -- the bike!
2.4 Mile Swim Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes, 32 seconds
Transition 1 (or, T1) was pretty uneventful. Got my wetsuit stripped off in a jiffy & I flew up to the fresh water showers very quickly. Made my way through the hotel tunnel and into the T1 bag area. Some sweet volunteer handed me my bag & pointed me in the direction of the change building. Although, I was not changing, I still had to enter & get all my bike gear on, before I could exit & get my bike. Did that & then flew out to my bike rack when another lovely volunteer was standing at the end of my rack waiting to hand my bike over to me. Now, that was cool!
T1 Time: 9 minutes, 12 seconds
Getting onto my bike was thrilling! I always get so excited in a race when I get to get on my bike. It really is my favorite! I had a plan of going out nice & easy & not pushing at all for the first 12 miles. I stuck to my plan. The 1 loop course then took us more inland & then shortly dead into the wind. Where I had been averaging about 21-22 miles/hour without even trying for those first 15 or so miles, suddenly, I watched my computer read out about 16-17 miles/hour. This direction of the course & going straight into the wind (although, the wind was really not that strong that day, but it was definitely noticable) was for the next 50-some miles (I believe).
I passed up every rest station, still feeling really great - lots of energy & no need to use the port-o-pottys.
I stayed on top of my nutrition that I had brought on my bike & only took hand-ups of water as I rode through those aid stations. So thankful that I never really felt fatiqued on the bike & that I never had to get off at all. My goal had been to do a 6 hour or less ride for the 112 mile course. And, as luck would have it...I met my goal! I came in right on time & still felt amazing! It was really unbelieveable, actually. As I came through the chute to the dismount line, I mentally prepared myself for the long, slow run ahead, but I was optimistic about it since I was not in any pain at this point.
112 Mile Bike Time: 6 hours, 0 minutes, 37 seconds
Getting off the bike was actually surprisingly easier than I had thought. I had anticipated lower back tightness & other general muscle distress -- but, thank God, I was feeling great! T2 was way quicker, the bags were just right there waiting for us beyond the dismount line. I quickly ran into the change building this time - only to throw on my visors & shoes & run right back out the door.
T2 Time: 5 minutes, 9 seconds
Right outta the gate I did get a side cramp. Luckily, it worked itself out quickly & I began to settle in for my long journey. My run plan had always been to to just keep foot in front of another. I had guessed (based on those 3 or 4 runs I had gotten in right in the weeks leading up to the race) that I'd be able to maintain an 11 or 12 minute/mile pase for this marathon. Slow & easy. And I did this for about the first 13 or 14 miles or so. I began to slow then, though, simply because I could now really feel the fatique setting into my leg muscles. But, I pressed on, slowly shuffling & walking through aid stations. Really loving every moment of my journey. I thought about so much on this much I loved my God, my life, my family & friends & how thankful I was to be able to physically, emotionally, & mentally endure a race like this.
Around mile 15 or 16, though, deep pain set into my right leg & knee. It made it very difficult to keep slow jogging, so I switched to a very, very slow shuffle walk. I could still feel the pain doing this, but it just wasn't as intense.
I saw Trev a few times on the run course -- he was looking great at every point & he would ask how I was feeling & how my foot was feeling. Everytime, I would say..."I'm doing great, my foot doesn't hurt at all!" And while I really was beginning to feel the fatique set in all over -- it was really true, I was still feeling good - I still had adrenaline & I knew that I was definitely going to be able to finish & I KNEW was gonna be an Ironman that night!
Around mile 22 -23, I tried to guestimate my finish time -- thinking that I only had just about 4 miles to go & normally, I can do 4 miles in under 40 minutes. But, with my walking now, I figured it would probably take me almost double that time. So, with that in my mind, I guess my finish time to be 13 hours & 30 minutes. From there, every spectator I saw along the road, I would yell "13:30". Some would cheer for me, others would ask me what that meant & I would tell them that that was "gonna be my finish time" or that's "when I'm gonna be an Ironman"!
It kept me moving. Those numbers 13:30 kept me moving to the finish line!
I made the final turn off the main road, down the final back street towards the finish line. Probably, the last mile of the race, I prayed & thanked God again for the gift He had given me that day & thanked Him that my foot did not get re-injured. I came closer now to the finish line & heard the music blaring, Mike Reilly announcing the finishers & knew my time was near. I took off in a dead sprint to the finish line!
I rounded the last corner & then u-turned towards the finish line. I got my race number out & ran through the chute, holding it over my head! I was SO EXCITED!
CHRISTINA BARKLEY from Cedar Park, TX.....YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I heard my name & those words & couldn't believe it!
Run Time: 5 hours, 47 minute, 44 seconds
Total Ironman Time: 13 hours, 35 minutes, 14 seconds
My journey was finished! And, as you can see by the clock in the picture, I didn't make it in 13:30. I did make it close enough, though!!! And no, I wasn't disappointed that I didn't hit 13:30. It wasn't my goal time before the race. My goal was to finish! The 13:30 did keep me going there at the end, though...and that is all that matters!
And so......I am now an Ironman!
If you really bothered to read all this, I am thoroughly impressed! I know it was long, but it is hard to make short something that was really big & monumental for me. It was my big journey - a journey I will never forget!
Thanks especially to Matt for loving me & helping me follow my goals & big dreams & thanks to all my friends who listened to me drone on & on about this race for a full year straight! You are good people!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Update #1 from Florida

Ok, so - on Tuesday morning (11/3) I drove from my house in Austin, TX to just east of Mobile, Alabama - trying to make it most of the way of my long drive to Panama City Beach in one day. Mapquest said that my total drive time would be around 14 hours & it took me about just around 9.5 hours to get from home to east of Mobile.
As it turned out, though, it was only 3 more hours from outside of Mobile to get here to PCB. So, the drive time total was just over 12 hours. Not too terribly bad. Glad I broke the drive up over 2 days, though.
Got here yesterday (Wed. 11/4) around noon & checked into my condo (very nice place, BTW) which is at the Panama City RV resort.
Trev & Rebekah also pulled in behind me & have a little trailer that they've got the whole family in - very cool little rig - and got set up next to my condo in their space for the trailer. They are traveling with their girls, Madeline & Antoinette, little man Cannon (who is just over 1 year old now & walking!) and Trev's mom, Karen.
Driving around the town on the beach road - the town is buzzing - tons of triathletes around - running & riding the roads of PCB & I was itching to get out on my bike or run - just seeing everyone else.
After setting up at the rv resort all of us ladies & little Cannon had a great lunch at Liza's Kitchen. Cool little hole-in-the-wall cafe & they had some yummy sandwiches. You should check 'em out if you are ever here.
Then, of course, no trip anywhere is ever complete without the all-important stop at Wal-Mart....right? All of us ladies and little Cannon did our shopping & saw our fair share of "people of walmart".
We got our necessities & headed back to our was now time for me & Trev to head back up to the athletes check-in area & pick-up our packets.
I guess the check-in area is what is called the "athlete's village" ??? There are tons of tents set up - with all kinds of vendors - bikes, shoes, clothing, compression gear (who the hell really NEEDS compression socks???? geez).
It was kinda cool, though. Then off to the check-in tent. Boy - is this a procedure. First, we'll check take your driver's license & USAT (usa triathlon) card, next you'll sign your life away on this injury/illness waiver, next we'll completely humiliate you & put you on a scale to weigh you IN FRONT OF ALL OF YOUR CLOSEST FRIENDS, and then we'll give you a cute little Ironman bracelet to wear all week & a race packet (in your very own Ironman Florida commemorative race bag) that contains everything you need to know & have for racing.
All in all, though, check-in wasn't bad - just a lot more than I am used to doing at races. The Ironman store, outside of the check-in tent, was pretty cool, too. Lots of things you really don't need but can be kinda cool to have. I got the kiddos a little gift, but restrained myself from more financial damage.
After all this, I got a quick & easy run in before dinner with the Trevelise family. Which was really yummy, by the way...thanks for cooking Rebekah!
Day #2 here in PCB will probably just be a short swim in the ocean and a ride on the bike to check out the marathon course.
After that? Who knows....maybe just some relaxin' on the beach!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

HOLY CRAP PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Only 2 weeks to Ironman! In just 2 more Saturdays, I will be swimming, riding, & running a total of 140.6 1 day! Eeeeeeeeeeeek!
So obviously, my running is not where it should be (because of the stress fractures in my foot & only just having those healed for a couple weeks now), but I am crossing my fingers that I can get through the 26.2 miles of running/jogging/walking without collapsing.
I feel good about where I am at with my swimming & riding, though. Two out of 3 ain't bad!
I actually did get 2 short runs in this week -- my first runs in the last 9 weeks. They went pretty good....slow, of course, but not like complete death as I had imagined. My body (foot, legs, hips) have felt ok since those runs & I hope to get at least a few more short runs in before race day.
Most importantly, I hope my foot (that may still be in slight recovery mode from the stress fractures) holds up during the marathon & that I don't re-injure it.

Still have race prep & packing to get done over the next week & a half, too. This could be a monumental task, as I always feel like I need to take more & have it if I need as opposed to not take it & then wish I had. Not to mention, being gone for one week means (well, at least for me) at least 1 giant suitcase. I can pack with the best of 'em! I know Matt always thinks I take too much when we go away - but I like to have options with clothes. So, me packing for a 1 week trip actually appears like I am packing to be away for over a month!
My first step to packing for Florida will be to start making lists. Heaven knows I can't remember ANYTHING without a freakin' list!
Anyone that has packed to go away for an Ironman have any must-have or must-take items that I should add to my initial list??
Any suggestions are appreciated!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tiny Update

No video this time, I am sitting at the VW dealership while the van is being serviced, but I thought I could write about some of the latest things going on.
Still have to spend a bit more time in the aircast. I'm a bit bummed, but I know that I have to keep being patient about letting the healing continue & finish. It will happen sooner or later. It will happen. It will. (really trying to convince myself here....)
The time is closing in on Ironman - the thought of doing all the distances in one day is really starting to sink in. I am anxious yet looking forward to it all at the same time.
2.4 miles of swimming.
112 miles of riding.
26.2 miles of running. (God? Will I run? Will my foot be healed? Will I be able to actually RUN at all?)
I really want to be able to run!
The next cool update is that Matt did so well at the Ft. Davis hill climb race this past Sunday. He got 2nd place out of more than 100 men! It was so cool to see him do so well! He has worked so hard training over the summer to be able to do well here. The training has paid off!
Finally, Jonah & Ella are losing teeth LEFT & RIGHT! Ella finally lost her 2nd tooth over last weekend & Jonah his other top front tooth! So cute!!!
Ella is now being called "Gappy" & Jonah is called "Gumball" for obvious reasons!
They are both now in gymnastics - Ella loves it & Jonah will be starting this week. Hoping Jonah likes it as much as Ella does.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Video Blog #1

First video blog post:
OR just press play down below...
or directly on my blog (if you are viewing this on Facebook):

Update 9/15/09 from Christina Barkley on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Update, folks:

52 days to Ironman. Just sayin'.

ps - I am thinking about doing a vlog (video blog) from 50 days out: getting my thoughts, plans, & excitment about my journey to Ironman on video - also getting some video of the actual race itself so that ultimately I can put a video/picture collage together.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The more challenging the course, the more rewarding the victory! newest fashion accessory...the AIRCAST!!! SWEET!!!! (yeah - not really)
But hey - I'm gonna do my best to keep a good attitude through this. It is only (hopefully!!!) for 4 weeks & it is NOT the end of the world.
So, how the heck did this happen??? Well, after seeing the podiatrist this past Monday, August 17th & getting an X-ray & then an MRI on Tuesday the 18th, I was told that I have 2 stress fractures in my left foot (in the 3rd & 5th metatarsals). Basically, they happen as a result of overuse -- repetative pounding & being on your feet all the time.

The doctor did say, though, that we caught them early enough that only 4 weeks in the boot should be enough to get me back going again.
During that time I am allowed to swim & be on the bike trainer (with no/light resistance & no standing up out of the saddle). So, YAY! That is good!
Making the best of it, yesterday, we went to Lake Travis & I walked on the sandy shore in the boot! I did take it off so I could get in an open water swim while were you see the boot sitting there next to me on the left?
A girl & her boot...

So what does this mean for Ironman training? I have NO CLUE! HA!
I know it means I am obviously not running for 4 weeks. I know it means that I will not be doing the races I had planned for September:
The Austin Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

The PrairieMan 1/2 Ironman
Matt & I also have planned to go the Fort Davis, TX for a bike ride/race the 3rd week of September & I am hopeful to be able to do the ride & race (since I sould be out of the boot right before that weekend). Just crossing my fingers for that!
But again, I have no idea how this will play out in terms of Ironman Florida (race is on 11/7/09). I am basically in "trust God will work out the healing & details" mode.
This is a good place to be in, though, right???? :o)
I could be in stress out, anxiety mode & be getting NO WHERE fast!
If I do heal quickly - after 4 weeks in the aircast - I should still be able to get in 4 or 5 weeks of training for Ironman.
Do I see this whole situation as a hurdle or challenge? Absolutely. But, the doc said had I not come in when I did, I would have, without a doubt, completely broken the bones in my foot & consequently, would not have been able to do Ironman at all (or worse yet, been completely out of the game {working-out-wise} for months or a year!).
Probably a good thing this happened when it did & God willing, I will still be able to give 100% at Ironman in November.
And, when I do get through this challenge, the reward of finishing Ironman will be my victory!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yes, it is official.....

...I have fallen off the face of blog-earth.
Quite a bit has happened since my last post...including a 5 hour 52 minute HALF-IRONMAN! WOO! Here's a link to my pics from this race on Facebook:
Lonestar Triathlon 2009
We also got a new roof on the house and a new fence in the back yard.
So....thanks to the flood this past fall (that forced us to gut practically the ENTIRE inside of our house), the hail storm a few months ago (that destroyed our roof), and the crazy wind storm a few weeks ago (that completey obliterated our fence) - we practically have a brand new house!
I'll tell you what -- 2008 & 2009 have certainly provided us with some craziness!
So many times I repeated Romans 2:28 to myself:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
And now that we have weathered these storms, I can really see all the blessings that God has provided to us in them. Even during our challenges - He is so good to us!

Let's see...what else?
OH! My girls that have been training since March for their first triathlon (TEAM BOOTY!) did finish their first sprint-distance race - THE ROOKIE!
I was so thrilled for each & every one of them -- Melissa (who I have been working with for over a year now & who has gotten to be super-fit), Angie (who has so much spunk & determination & who just got her very first ROAD bike from the great guys at Spin City Cycling), Lizzi (who I've also been working with for a year & who has completely TRANSFORMED herself into a NEW human being!!), and last but not least Kristi (who, unbenounced to herself, has had a fierce athlete hidden inside her for God-only-knows-how-long!! She managed to take 10th place in her age group at her very first triathlon! WHO KNEW?!)
Anyway....bottom line....I am so very proud of each & every one of them on their hard work, determination, and their commitment to get healthy & strong!
You are being excellent role models for your family!
Here is Team Booty:

I also did The Rookie myself....coming very close to my goal time (I did 1:01:31 & was hoping for 1:00:20), but manage a PR (personal record for this course, none-the-less & came in 6th out of 67 in my age group, so I was happy about it.) That is always a fun race!
I did a Splash n' Dash, (a 750m open water swim & then a 3k run right after) too, the other night & had a decent swim (for me) and a decent run. Finishing 1 minute faster than my last Splash n' Dash, so that was good.
Finally, I am starting to be in "prep mode" for the summer. The kids have just 9 more days of school left & I am trying to think up some fun things for us to do during their time off. It will be so nice to let them stay up a bit later than usual & sleep in! I am looking forward to the summer!
For those of you that will read this today, have a GREAT Memorial Day loooong weekend! Enjoy the time off & be safe!
Also - good luck to everyone that will be racing the Cap Tex Tri this weekend! May the force be with you!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What my God does for me...

I was reading this Psalm this morning. It is, of course, one of the most well-known passages in the Bible, but it is one that I think we pass over very often simply because we have heard it so many times before.
But recently, our pastor gave a message and talked about this Psalm & it inspired me to take a look at it closer.
In it, I found what He does for me...

He is my shepherd - my leader.
~ He shows me the way and protects me.

He is my provider.
~ He gives me everything I need.

He gives me rest.
~ He gives me times of peaceful refreshing, if I will slow down & listen.

He restores my soul.
~ He is faithful to renew my body, my mind, and my emotions when I seek Him.

He guides me in righteousness.
~ He alone gives me the desire to love & serve Him and others.

He is with me - always.
~ He never leaves me, even when I am at my lowest low.

He is my protector.
~ His embrace helps to keep my fears away.

He guides me with his rod & staff.
~ He shows me the way, disciplines me, and sets boundaries for me.

He comforts me.
~ His soft words and forgiveness show me the love and acceptance that I long for.

He is my advocate.
~ He vindicates me when I follow after Him and love others.

He annoints me.
~ He has blessed me abundantly so that I may share those blessings with others.

He has imprinted goodness & love in my heart and life.
~ His gift of grace enables me to give grace to others.

He has prepared a dwelling place for me with Him for eternity.
~ His sacrifice has given me all that I need.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

15 YEARS!!


After being together for 15 years, Matt & I know a LOT about one another!
We started out as naive teenagers and now, here we are in our mid-30's...still a bit naive perhaps, but still sharing our lives together. We have certainly grown & now have 2 children, of course. So much has changed...but, on the other hand, a lot has stayed the same.
I continue to love those things about Matt that drew me to him all those years ago - his personality, his heart, his looks. And, I love the man he has evolved into.
Recently, we shared 15 things that we love about one another. What Matt gave to me was the most precious thing he has ever given me.
Here is what we shared:

Me to Matt -
15 Things that I love about you, Matt Barkley

1. You are very smart. I really admire how intelligent you are. You have always had a strong desire to learn and to educate yourself. I have always loved that about you.
2. You are gorgeous! From the first moment I saw you at Penn State, I thought you were beautiful. I still do! You have the most beautiful blue eyes and the perfect nose!
3. You take very excellent care of your body & physical health & you have an awesome body to show for it. You have been this way for many years and I appreciate that you care about your health. I want you to continue to be healthy so that we have many, many more years together.
4. I love that you love to exercise & workout. As silly as that may sound, I am so glad that I am married to a person that enjoys being outside and physical activity. You have never been lazy.
5. You love God. I know that you really do. It is important to you to put your faith first and make God & church a priority for yourself and our family. I am watching you everyday evolve into the man/husband/father God has called you to be. I am so thankful for that!
6. You are an amazing drummer! God has given you the gift of music & I am proud of your talent and your desire to share that with others and in praise to God.
7. You are a man of integrity. You have always been this way. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are trustworthy. You also do what you say you will do. I never wonder if I can count on you. There is never a question.
8. You are a great provider for our family. From the day you started your career, I knew that you would go places! Very few people give their employers 100% -- you do this & more!
9. You are incredibly funny! Your sense of humor has always been one of my most favorite things about you. You can make me laugh even when I am grumpy! And, yes, I do love & appreciate your sarcasm!
10. I love the way you love me. You are “into me” and I can totally tell! You show me that you love me with your words and your actions.
11. You are an awesome dad. Not only because you provide for our kids financially, but because you provide for them emotionally and spiritually. You are one million times the dad you had. I also love how you love to spend time doing fun stuff with them! Those are the memories that they will remember forever!
12. You are respectful of me. You realize my needs and always you do your best meet them. You are understanding & love me even when I am not-so-nice, sad or quiet.
13. You are a great friend – to me & to others. I am always impressed that you keep friends for the length of time that you do. You still have relationships with people you’ve been friends with for decades. This is because you are thoughtful and caring.
14. You are a wonderful protector. You always make me feel safe – physically & emotionally.
15. You are, hands down, the most loyal person I have ever met. You have loved me & stood by me for 15 years. That takes a very strong, loyal person!

Matt to me:
15 Things I Love about You Christina Barkley
1. Your imprint on the lives of our kids. Every day I see things in Jonah and Ella that I know come from you. From a certain look, to things that they say, to their love for other people – I see you.
2. Your drive for results. Over the last several years I’ve watched you come alive, dream and chase those dreams with unwavering dedication and determination. When the going gets tough you find a way to not only keep going but to keep going with joy in your heart and a smile on your face. It inspires me.
3. Your dedication to our home. Laundry, groceries, dinner, cleaning, dogs, kids to school, paying bills, decorating, rearranging, ironing, landscaping, working, etc. - The stuff life is made of that gets little attention and few thanks. Consistently and without complaint you take care of our house and all that comes with it.
4. Confidence in yourself. I’ve seen you grow into a confident woman repairing damage done during your younger years. I know that confidence and your faith in God can see you through even the most difficult circumstances that life offers.
5. Faith in God. You’ve grown so much in your faith over the last several years. I admire you faith and it gives me strength when I am weak.
6. Kindness to others. I watch how you treat other people - imparting what you know to help them overcome their challenges and struggles in life – genuine concern for others. Love is kind.
7. Pure, natural beauty. A gorgeous woman when we met, a gorgeous woman now, and a gorgeous woman in the future – time seems to only improve what I think is impossible to make any better.
8. Your patience. You may not think of yourself as patient but I see your patience with other people, our kids, and most often with me. Love is patient.
9. Commitment. Till death do us part, through good times and bad, through sickness and in health – thoughtless, rehearsed words to the vast majority but to me they mean what they say. Your commitment to me and us makes me strong, confident, and secure even in the worst of circumstances.
10. Integrity. You do what you say and say what you do. I know where I stand and I know where you stand – we stand together.
11. Your willingness to let me be me. I am far from perfect but I expect perfection - you deserve more and I give you less. I am me – a changing person, a different man - a work in progress. With you I am better today than I was yesterday and I will be better tomorrow than I am today.
12. Your understanding. You understand our children, my family, and you understand other people. You understand me, how I work, why I am who I am, and why I am changing. You understand my perspective and make me want to better understand your perspective and the perspective of others.
13. Your strength. To do the right thing all of the time, to suffer for gain, to sacrifice self for others - you live strong.
14. You compassion and passion. You care about yourself, other people and are passionate about what you do.
15. Your love for God, our family, and me.

Honey - when you read this - please know that I love you more than words can say. Thank you for being you!
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Seriously - one of my best days EVER! Completing my 1st Marathon!

And, I got to see SPACE DEBRIS, too!! Check it out:

I actually did see this while I was running. I think I was around mile 20 or so.
I thought..."what the hell was that?!". And, one spectator alongside the road had the same look on his face. We then looked at each other & shrugged our shoulders in bewilderment.
Many people have run a marathon before, but not many can claim they've run a marathon under a flurry of flashing space debris! 2009 Austin Marathon Race Report!!!
Simply put, I had an incredible day!
It started out early, 4:30am wake up. A bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar & coffee immediately & a little downtime on Facebook.
I felt calm & somewhat prepared (Trev assured me I'd be fine, that I had enough "base miles" under me) - and, I just had a peace around me. I really felt like I could go out & give it my best, despite having only had run 18.7 miles as my longest run ever.
I got dressed in my super-cute Beef Running Team jersey & Laura & Karen met me here at my house at 5:30am.
We arrived downtown without problems & parked with ease. I worried a little about traffic & parking ahead of time, but all turned out good.
Trev called to check in with me & tell me where the bag check in was.
Walking to the start, I still felt calm & got another call from Trev. I was actually amazed at how good I felt! I did have a twinge of nervousness & I told Trev that, but it wasn't bothering me at all.
I made my way up to the bag check & hung out with Trev until the start. Talking with him kept me distracted and still totally calm.
Eventually, the start was upon me & I was slowly inching my way up to the start with the hundreds of others doing the marathon & 1/2 marathon.
We made it up to the line around 7:30am, I believe. I started my watch & off I went!
Very, very slow start - on purpose. Made my first mile an 11 minute mile, "respected the early hills" as my new friend Noelle told me to & got to the 3mile mark around 31 minutes.
I wanted to gradually pick up the pace & my goal all along had been to have a negative split - where my 2nd half (13.1 miles) was faster than my first 1/2.
I eventually got to mile 10 in 1 hour 39 minutes - right around where I wanted to be at that point - around a 10 minute/mile average.
I felt GREAT & nothing was hurting - not my legs, not my hips, NOT MY STOMACH -- thank God!
My nutrition plan was to take in sips of watered-down gels consistently, take 1 electrolyte pill every hour & sip on my very concentrated drink mix (Cytomax) and grab water as needed at the aid stations. Based on how good I felt the whole way through, I'd say my nutrition plan was a full-blown success.
At mile 13, the half-way mark, I called Trev because I had my phone & I felt great & wanted to let him know that! I got to this point at 2 hours, 9 minutes & was psyched because I was on pace for finishing under 4.5 hours, which was my goal all along.
When Trev answered he said "uh, oh - what happened?" I said "nothing - I'm just at mile 13 in 2:09 and feeling great!". He asked my why I was carrying my phone & I told him it was because I was on-call and have a mom who is due to go into labor at any minute! He thought that I had left my phone in my bag, DNF'd the race & was calling to tell him that! NOT SO! I was rocking it!
At this point, I felt so good that I really felt that my goal was doable.
I kept my pace - slow & steady - made every effort to be in each moment and really love it for what it was.
My music was awesome & really kept me entertained, too & I had so many people along the way cheering me on & cheering for "Team Beef". I felt like I was almost floating along at so many points.
Around mile 20, or so, I think - I saw my new friends, Noelle & Brian, & saw them cheering. They are so awesome! I am so glad I have gotten to know them & I was totally not expecting to see anyone I knew along the, to see them out there cheering was really cool!
By mile 22-23, I did feel the fatigue setting in. I could sense that my hip went out and it was a tad funky, but it didn't really bother me. I just felt the exhaustion of being on my feet for 3.5 hours! I would say that this was where I hit the proverbial wall and the mental game ensued. But, honestly, the exhaustion & mental game were not even as bad as I had imagined in my mind ahead of time. I had a few quick thoughts about how I wanted to be done and how I was tired, but I knew I had it in me. I really knew it. I looked at my bracelet (which reads: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13) and I felt renewed and pushed on.
By mile 24, I knew I had it in the bag! I had gotten myself just under the 10 minute/mile mark around mile 17 & I knew that if I just kept going, I would be able to hit 4 hours & 15 minutes. Despite some rough final hills in those last 2 miles, I kept pace. I crested the final hill and then turned the corner onto Congress Ave - to see a downhill & the FINISH LINE!!! My heart leaped & I looked at my watch - 4 hours 13 and some minutes & then the sprint was on! I took off down the hill & knew I could make it under 4 hours, 15 minutes. AND, I DID!!
I sprinted & crossed the line in 4 hours, 14 minutes, & 45 seconds!
The feeling at the finish line was incredible! I found Trev, got a big hug & showed him my watch & my finish time.
I was so psyched! The goal had been to stay & average under 10 minute/miles the whole way & I did what I set out to do.
This race & my outcome was seriously one of the best days of my life! This understandably sounds cheezy and quite possibly the most ridiculous thing anyone has ever heard, but it was really that intense and special for me.

Primarily, it has given me the confidence to tackle the serious Ironman training that is about start. More than that, though, it has really given me the confidence that I can accomplish what I set my heart & mind to when I plan, prepare, train, and give it my all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Meaning of least for me....

Reading through Colossians in the Bible the other day - I came across this passage that I have read before many, many times. But, it struck me in a different way this time.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God...
Colossians 1:10
I thought - "you know, this is really the ultimate meaning of life. The true meaning of why we are here on this Earth."
Often I think about and ask myself - "why am I even here?" "Is there a point to our day to day life & the struggles that we endure?"
So, I read this scripture and find some answers to these questions.
First, what really is a life worthy of the Lord, what pleases Him?
Well, we get all the direction we need from the Word as to what kind of things please the Lord. We have Jesus as our ultimate model of a life worthy of the Lord. We have the Holy Spirit living inside us if we are a believer in Jesus & if we humble ourselves and quiet our spirits, we can actually hear the Spirit speaking to us -- giving us living directions at almost every turn in the road. But, the key here is really listening and being obedient when we know the Spirit has given us guidance.
Lately, I have been trying hard to do that -- to quiet myself & listen. And, to commit to being obedient. If we take each decision one at a time, living a life that is pleasing to God seems easier.
Second, what is the fruit that grows when we do good works?
I think good works are a natural outpouring of humbling ourselves before God & living a life that is pleasing to Him. As we strive to do this, good works come naturally!
Another scripture says..."do everything as unto the Lord". When we have our focus on God, I believe He gives us the ability to get our eyes off ourselves and onto others around us. He will give us the desire to love & serve others!
The fruit of the Spirit cannot be contrived or worked up. They grow out of a life and heart that seeks God. Remember the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness & self-control. We need to be doing constant self-checks to see what kind of fruit we are bearing. If we are not bearing the good fruit, then we must ask if we are humbling ourselves before Him & if we are living that life that is pleasing to Him.
Third, how do we know God & grow in the knowledge of God?
I think this the easiest of these 3 points that help us to know the meaning of life.
I really believe knowing God is easy. Easy if you are taking the time to do that, that is. Initially, before we become Christians, we don't know Him at all. We may believe there is a God (or not) but, the Bible says we can't really know, know Him until our spiritual eyes of understanding have been opened. Spiritually, we are dead before we come to know Him. And, to truly know Him, we must first accept that He exists and accept that we are sinners. From there, we can then know and understand that in order for us to have a relationship with Him, we must be reconciled back to Him because this sin that we carry does separate us from Him.
And the Bible says that there is only ONE WAY to have that reconciliation. It comes only from our belief in Jesus Christ. Believing that God sent His son to be the sacrifice - the bridge - we needed to get back to Him.
Finally, how do we grow in our knowledge of Him after we come to initially get to know Him? That's simple! We need to pray, to read our Bibles, and to worship Him. Simply put, we need to get our eyes off of ourselves and on to Him.
The answers to & the meaning of life are all found in Him. He really is the way, the truth and the life.
He is my meaning for living!

Monday, January 26, 2009

3M Half Marathon Race Report: The Hi's & Low's

Two words: PERSONAL RECORD!!!!!
That sounds kinda stupid to say, given the fact I've only done (now) 2 half-marathons, but it is a personal record, nontheless. WOOHOO!
Here are my hi's & low's from the race yesterday:
I think I'll start with the low's first - to get them out of the way...
1) It was FREEZING! Literally freezing at the start line. 31* to be exact. I had worn tights under my running shorts becauseI really didn't want my legs to be frozen while running, but after a short warm-up before the race, I realize I could shed the tights & be just fine. My legs were fine waiting at the start & then, of course, once I started running they were warm.
2) I had gastro-intestinal distress almost immediately after starting. It sucked so bad. I kept cramping & feeling the need to go to the bathroom. It wasn't until just after mile 7, that the cramps became overwhelming & I then had to stop to go. Man! Was I pissed about that. But, I went & did feel better momentarily. Just when I thought I would be home-free, though, the cramps came back again & I ended up stopping AGAIN just before mile 10. GRRRRR! I knew I needed to throw the hammer down after that to make up for my lost time with my potty stops. And, I did.
3) My sports bra scraped my chest during the run & caused a lovely little open wound that feels craptastic today. :o( Note to self: do NOT wear that bra on a long run again.

Now - for the HI's!!!
1) I got good rest the night before - which, is sometimes an issue for me before races. I tend to think too much about the race before going to sleep & then wake frequently through the night. Not this time, though. My sleep was great & uninterrupted.
2) I rode to the race with Mary Jo & Laura & we had fun talking in the car on the way.
3) I had a great playlist on my iPod and had exactly 2 hours worth of music to motivate me to finish under 2 hours so that I didn't run out of tunes.
4) I ran with Governor Rick Perry for about a 1/4 mile & got a picture of him with my phone while we were running together. My picture came out blurry, though. He does run with an entourage.
5) My legs & heart felt great while running. My hip got slightly sore after the half way mark, but it didn't hurt bad enough to keep my mind on it.
6) I hit my 4 mile mark in 34 minutes & then the 10 mile mark at 1 hour 26 minutes (which, my 10 mile time at the San Antonio 1/2 marathon was 1 hour 33 minutes). I was so psyched when I say those mile markers!
7) The downhill nature of this race felt great - I felt fast!
8) I got a burst of energy when I saw the 10 mile mark & knew the end was near!!
9) I had energy left to sprint to the finish line & finished the race in 1 hour, 52 minutes and 44 seconds.
10) My overall run pace was 8:36/mile (!!!!!!!!!!) For me, this is AWESOME!!!

And, no, I don't want to even think about what my pace would have been if I didn't have stomach issues & didn't have to stop TWICE to go to the bathroom. >:o(

Anyway, overall, it was a great race for me. I am so glad I did it!


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tomorrow is going to be a BIG day!

After exactly 12 weeks of living in an apartment....we are finally getting to move back into our house!!
So, tomorrow our carpet is going in & our POD is being delivered to our driveway.
I have been cleaning at the house all this week, getting prepped & ready to get the boxes out of the POD so I can put our stuff back in place.
One nice thing about having a flood that destroys the inside of your house, (and wipes out a lot of your personal belongings, and puts you into an apartment for 3 months....) is that once you get your salvaged personal belongings back, you can PURGE what your don't want, can't use, or haven't seen or touched in years!
I think this is really the perfect way to start out 2009. A good cleansing & purging never hurt anyone.
I am thankful that God has seen us through all this. And, I am proud of our family for weathering this storm. It has been rocky at times, but it is these things in life that make us stronger & ultimately bond us more closely to one another.
Next Christmas we can look back & smile & say...."remember when our house flooded & we had to move out for 3 months?"