Saturday, July 20, 2013

Upcycled Vintage Table Cloth Skirt

Technically speaking, this post would have been better if I had taken pictures along the way, but sometimes I get so excited about what I'm attempting that I have no time for things such as photographs. In order to explain what I mean, I used a paper. I know it makes it less believable, but you'll just have to trust me on this. 

If you've ever cleaned out the house of someone who lived during the era when people actually had company over for dinner because they weren't afraid of being robbed blind the next day by the dinner guests who were scoping out the house, a time when dinner was a family affair and not just a way of joining together to make sure no one had died during the day, a time when one needed a linen closet or cabinet because linens were actually used, you probably have come across some small square tablecloths. Many of them are edged in lace or embroidered or a combination of the two. 

I happened to inherit two such pieces from a coworker. Without the sentimental attachment I would have had if it had belonged to my grandmother, for example, I felt at liberty to cut them up, especially since both were stained. Imagine the orange square of paper is one of the tablecloths.
 The first step is to find the center of the piece. This can be done by folding the corners together in either direction and marking the center with a pin.
 Once the center is established, measure out and make marks at an equal distance from the point so that you make a quarter of a circle. The size of the circle depends on two things: 1.) how much of the design you want to preserve 2.) your size. You can't expect to cut a circle with a circumference of 17" unless your hips are 17" or less. It can be larger than your hip circumference, just not smaller if you have any hope for regular movement. Too small and you'll walk like you're in need of a bathroom. I am certain there is a mathematical equation for determining the size of the radius of your circle. I struggled in Geometry. To give you an idea though, if the radius (from the center point to edge of the circle, or in this picture, from the point to where the circle is drawn) is 7", the hole has a diameter of approximately 44", which I can neither confirm nor deny as my hip size.
 When you cut out the center, you are left with a square with a circle in the middle. This is the hem portion of your skirt. To construct the upper portion of the skirt, you'll need a rectangle. The size, once again, depends on the size of your opening. The minimum should be the measurement of your hips at the widest part plus 1 1/4" and the maximum should be no larger than the circumference of your circle opening.
 Essentially what you are doing is making the rectangle into a cylinder that fits inside the tablecloth square. If you are confident with your measuring and cutting skills, make the cylinder first and then stitch one edge to the circle. I'm not, so I left it a rectangle and pinned the longer edge to the circle where I stitched it. As I got close to closing the circle and the adjacent edges of the rectangle, I then made the single seam that closed the rectangle into the tube needed.
 The last thing to do is to measure for length. Keep in mind that the points will hang down further than the sides. Also determine if you want it at your waist or lower. When you've decided, mark the waistline and cut off the top leaving enough excess for a casing for elastic. If you are more sophisticated and less lazy, you could also do darts and a waistband with a zipper or make a sundress top, or even have someone mark it for you so that it is tailored to your figure and your hem hangs an exact distance from the ground at all four points around your body. I have approximately 2 hours a day after my kids go to bed or before they get up. Luxuries such as well tailored clothing have all but disappeared. Besides, I think it's fine without all the extra work.

Sew in a casing, thread through the elastic that is the size of your waist, stitch it together, and close off your seam. You're done. Of course there are a couple of variations I can mention.
 The skirt pictured above had embroidered cutouts in the corners and the center was solid.The fabric for the upper portion of the skirt wasn't an exact match, so I put a piece of coordinating ribbon along the seam to (hopefully) mask that fact. Also, it makes the seam look more intentional. Do you see how it used to be a tablecloth? Spread this way, it makes its tablecloth origin slightly more obvious.

This skirt, however, had lace on the edges and also in the middle. Instead of cutting a circle, I cut along the edges of the lace and then top stitched it over the rectangle. After, I went back in and trimmed the excess fabric away so that the edge between the skirt and tablecloth mimics the pattern of the table cloth.
 This is what it would look like if I undressed in the kitchen; which I don't.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Ashley Saga - Part II

Last year, at church girls camp a story began of Ashley, who is a second-hand mannequin head. In my three years of camp, the head has been a baby belonging to Pansy, a butterfly, and this year a crocodile hunter. Last year her story began and this is the continuation based on events surrounding girls camp this year.

Book II

Chapter 1

“Did we take a wrong turn?”

Silence answered Ashley.

The light went out suddenly and darkness swept over the chamber, a darkness blacker than the pupil of a panther, buried in a bog, in the deepest realm of the jungle on a moonless cloudy midnight.

            “Phillip?” Ashley struck a match and saw nothing but the disappearing of a scaled, green tail. “Phillip!!!!” she shrieked, all the while knowing it was too late; Phillip was a croc-burger. She had lost him once and she had survived. She could do it again; she would do it again. If Ashley were anything, she was a survivor, resilient to the worst hand fate could deal to her.

There was no need to wander along the dark and meandering passageway. With no gnome to hold her back, Ashley spread her wings, flew upward, and with her five legs began scaling the walls. The journey was equally laborious, but Ashley had been through far more difficult circumstances.

As she made her way, she wept bitterly, not bothering to hold back the racking sobs that resonated off the arched walls. There was no one to hear her; no reason to subdue her emotions.

Time has a strange way of passing; at times rushing through so that one can’t believe how quickly it passed and other times dragging on, seemingly filling hours in the minutes that pass. Though the journey was not long, Ashley’s heart was irreparably broken and eons seemed to pass as gradually her emotion drained. By the time she emerged from the twisted and crypt-like tunnels, she felt herself a changed woman.

The circus had moved on, traveling from town to town, but in their haste, one of the funhouse mirrors had not been packed. It was in this mirror Ashley first caught her reflection.

Gone were the pink locks, the color having drained with the tears Ashley shed. The wings that had carried her through so many adventures had been absorbed into a body she no longer recognized. Her remaining five limbs had morphed into just four, complete with opposable thumbs. “I’m human,” she gasped. Baby-blue eyes gaped back at her. Again she spoke, her voice barely above that of a whisper, “I’m beautiful.”

This knowledge revived her ambition. She was alone. The love of her life, her soul mate had been slain, eaten by a vicious crocodile. What of it? She was unstoppable.

Chapter 2

Looking around, her pale blue eyes adjusted to the brightness of the light. In the distance, just beyond the lair of the Beast, she noticed a museum boasting of dinosaurs. In her first days as a human, it seemed the right place to go. After all, weren’t humans always digging up the dirt on dinosaurs?

What Ashley had not expected as she entered the enormous building was to see that the building didn’t merely house reconstructed fossil skeletons, but actual living, breathing dinosaurs.

“Duke,” called a lovely lady-saur. “We have company!” Then looking back to Ashley she extended an enormous limb. “Dinorella,” she introduced herself.


Moments later, a tall, dark and handsome male dinosaur entered the room. “Sorry, I was just cooking some breakfast,” he said, wiping his hands on his apron. “You will join us for breakfast, won’t you?”

For breakfast, or as breakfast, Ashley wondered.

“It’s so seldom that we have visitors as we are thought to be flesh-eating. Dina and I, however are vegetarian; herbivores to be specifically scientific.”

Ashley studied them both for a moment, and then, deciding they weren’t a threat, she liked them both immediately. “Yes,” she answered, “I would love to join you.”

In no time at all, Ashley was sitting down to eggs, sausage, cheese, hash browns, tortillas, bacon, watermelon and an enormous stack of steaming-hot Jazz cakes.

“Wait!” Ashley said, throwing her hands up. “Wait, wait, wait wait, WAIT! I thought you said you are vegetarian? What’s with the bacon, eggs and sausage?”

Duke gave his wife a look of adoration. “It’s already dead when we buy it, dear,” said Dinorella. “Our kind is naturally carnivorous, but we figure if we buy the meat rather than hunt it and supplement our diet with fruits and vegetables, we aren’t like those of our kind, those savages. We call ourselves vegetarians.” She smiled at her own joke, tossing an adoring look at her husband. Ashley suddenly felt s though she had been taken to the Twilight Zone.

“So Ashley, tell us about yourself,” prompted Duke.

Ashley pushed around the food on her plate, hating to think of her past and conjuring up the images that had been such a source of pain and despair. Finally, she answered. “I began life as a caterpillar. Soon I transformed into a butterfly and met my one true-love, Phillip, the gnome. He was taken from me, so I trained as a ninja so I could defend him and protect him.”

She looked down again, speaking in a voice that was barely audible. “Last week he was taken from me again and made holey as a crocodile consumed him.” Quickly she put on her sunglasses, hoping to hide the tears forming in her eyes.

“Don’t despair, dear,” said Dinorella, “Women like us can’t afford to desire daintiness. After the duration of our breakfast delight, we shall dress you for defeating those dreadful, dastardly, dragon-related crocodiles. It will take a grand design, but I am a bit of a defender myself.”

Though it hardly seemed words enough, Ashley responded, “Thank you, dear dinosaurs.”

Chapter 3

It took most of the morning, but by the time Ashley departed the den of the dinosaurs, she had been more defined. A jaunty cap had been placed upon her head to cover her golden locks. The wide brim protected her fair skin from the sun and other elements. Thick green overalls with many pockets for holding essential items covered her from neck to angle. Her sunglasses had been masked with jaws and teeth, camouflaging her from being easily recognized and therefore an easy target. The most painful part of the process had been the fitting for her shoes.

“We’re marketing these to finance our spending habits. They’re washable, durable, the holes make them breathable, and in a pinch, they double as clown shoes, promoted Dinorella.

“Please don’t mention anything that has to do with a circus,” Ashley pleaded.

“I’m sorry.” Dinorella looked at the shoes she held and then down to Ashley’s feet. Meeting her eyes once more, she spoke. “Unfortunately, it looks as though as you went through the morphing process, evolutionarily speaking, your feet didn’t form correctly and we will have to reshape them to get the shoes on.”

“Reshape them?”

Dinorella nodded, “Mmm-hmm. We’ll have to grate them.”


“Hush child; it’s the only way.”

Ashley looked at the shoes Dinorella still held. “And what do you call these shoes that are so necessary to my transformation?”


“You are sick!” Ashley said.

Chapter 4

“I can’t thank you enough,” Ashley thanked Duke and Dinorella. “A delicious meal and new clothing. You’ve been most kind.” Ashley attempted to stand, but having grated feet was most uncomfortable. “MEDIC!!!” she shouted.

Within seconds her feet had been wrapped and bandaged. Though still quite painful, she managed to stand and carefully wend her way out the door.

Scarcely had she taken more than 3.33 steps than darkness swept over her. Though she thrashed and kicked violently using her best ninja skills, she was unable to escape the canvas bag.

“You’re wasting your time,” a surly voice said.

“Who are you?”

“We cannot identify ourselves to you.”

“What if I guess?”

There was a murmur of discussion. “Agreed,” answered the voice.

Ashley sniffed the bag. “You smell swampy, like you are from the wetlands ward.”

“You are correct.”

“Are you newts?”



“Unfortunately, no.”

Ashley closed her eyes to focus. They were from the swamps, were snarky, and . . . smelled of Phillips cologne. “You are that notorious band of crocodiles!”

“With pleasure. What may we do for you?”

“You may die, cut into a thousand pieces.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Hardly complimentary, but why ensue venom on me?”

“You killed my love.”

“It’s possible; we kill a lot of people. Who was this love of yours? Another human; rich, arrogant, scabby?”

“No, he was a gnome; small and perfect with eyes like the olives straight from the can. In a dark cavern your congregation attacked. Everyone knows that your notorious band leaves no survivors."

"We can't afford to make exceptions. Once word leaks out that a croc's gone soft it's nothing but work, work,  work!"

 "You mock my pain!”

“Life is pain, Ashley. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

“Like Crocs?”

“Excuse me?”

“I saw this whole infomercial on these holey croc shoes.”

There was a pause before the crock responded. “Never heard of them; are they made of actual crocodiles?”

“I don’t know.”

“C’mon boys, let’s haul her away for questioning.”

“You’re inviting trouble,” Ashley lied. “My loved ones will follow me to your lair.”

“You’re right,” agreed the leader. “We’d best leave a ransomed note.”

Ashley listened as pen scratched against paper. “Hey boss,” said a new voice. “I know we’re leaving a note and all, but what if the wind picks up, blows our note into the fire and it is consumed before anyone reads it?”

“Put a rock on it.”

“But what if the rock soils the paper and our message is no longer legible?”

“Pick a clean rock.”

“But what if it rains and the paper gets wet, then the wind picks up and tears away part of the note.”

Sighing heavily, the Croc who seemed to be in charge responded, “Put it under the covering. C’mon Jaws, you’re wasting valuable time.”

Harshly, Ashley was piled into something recognizable only by the way it bounced unsteadily and jostled over the uneven terrain. Suddenly a semi-webbed, clawed appendage reached inside the sack, covering Ashley’s face with a rank smelling cloth. Despite her intuition, which told her to do otherwise, she drew a deep breath, saw a moment of blurred reality, and then knew no more.

Chapter 5

When Ashley awoke she could scarcely move. Looking to her left and right, she noted that her limbs and torso were covered in thick, oozy mud. “What is this place?” she whispered.

Struggling to right herself, she pulled her body to a sitting position. At present, there was only a crocodile guarding her. If she could only work her left arm free. . .

Concentrating all of her effort onto her left limb, she was able to move it a fraction of an inch at a time, at last removing it from the mud with a sucking squelching noise. The sound was enough to awaken the sleeping croc, but it was too late. Ashley’s left hook was lethal. In one blow she broke the jaw of the converging crocodile.

He tried to call for help, but with no upper jaw, how could the words be formulated?

“You were warned when you abducted me," Ashley hissed. “You’ve brought this on yourself.”

At that moment, a second crocodile entered the confines of the swampy room. Glancing first at the broken crocodile and then to Ashley, it only took a moment for him to put together what had happened. Ashley prepared to fight, stretching the fingers of her left hand.

“Drop your weapon,” the second croc commanded.

Measuring his stance, Ashley slowly lowered her fist.

“This came today.” He held up an unopened can of Spaghettios. “You’re free to go.”

“Just like that?”

“Food was what Rocky specified in the ransom note. The terms have been met.”

A noise to her right startled Ashley. “You are no longer in charge, Rocky,” the second Croc said.

The only response was a slight whimper. Looking back to Ashley, the second crocodile said, “Where are my manners? I’m Cornelius.”

“Ashley,” she answered hesitantly, still not trusting him.

“Will you take me with you?”

“What?” Ashley might have expected many things, but this was not one of them.

“I owe you,” Cornelius continued. “You took on Rocky. I hated that guy. Not an ounce of brains, but his brawn kept him in control.”

“Is that all?”

Cornelius shook his head and took a step closer. “No,” he answered refusing to meet Ashley’s gaze. “I ate Phillip.”

“What??” gasped Ashley.

“A crocs gotta do what a crocs gotta do. I was famished and he was available.”

“How can I trust you after knowing that?”

“I did not know he was the pet of my future defender.”

“Pet?!” Ashley repeated. “That gnome was my world. I loved him more deeply than a killer such as yourself could ever dream.”

“Don’t,” said Cornelius harshly. “You know not of what you speak.”

Ashley studied his face, which remained impassive. Only his eyes gave him away, revealing the depth of the pain within his soul. “Then perhaps you should tell me.”

Cornelius hesitated.

“It will help me to trust you. We can bond over shared experiences.”

“Are you always so conversational?”

Ashley shook her head. “No, but you did eat the man I loved, after all.”

Cornelius looked down. “Her name is Iris. I’ve loved her since we were children, but never had a chance.”


“What do I have to offer her? Until today I’ve never been the leader of our congregation; always second in command. Avocado and Crocamole are soft and warm while I’m cold and unfeeling. What do I have to offer her?” He asked again, struggling to keep the dejection from his voice as it broke mid-sentence.

Ashley looked over to where death had silenced Rocky.

“I’ll throw him away,” offered Cornelius. “He always wanted to be our dentist, but I’ll be honest. It’s sort of creepy to have such a stubby-legged, short-bodied crocodile with acrylic claws reaching inside your mouth.”

Ashley nodded, pretending to understand. “Wait, wait, wait, wait, WAIT. I just have one question.”

Chapter 6

“What is your question?” pondered Cornelius.

“Can I make him into a purse?”

“With my blessing,” Cornelius replied, handing her a knife.

Quickly and agilely, Ashley stripped the skin from the crocodile dentist and fashioned a handbag. “It seems a waste to throw away the rest,” she lamented.

“Yes,” agreed Cornelius, “but we can’t have a camp fire and it might make you ill to eat uncooked meat.”

Grabbing her new purse, Ashley led the way out of the swamps. Around the perimeter, strange footprints marked the ground. “Who made those?”

“Bigfoot. . .if you believe in that kind of thing.”

Suddenly, the ground gave way and Ashley plummeted to the earth, gravel becoming embedded in her soft, smooth skin. It took only a moment for her to right herself. “Jump, Cornelius. I’ll catch you.”

Before he could make the leap, Ashley was once again whisked away, this time by unknown forces. In a most outrageous manner, she was strung up a on a flag pole where the icy night winds tore at her already scraped and pierced tender flesh. Tears wouldn’t save her, Cornelius couldn’t save her, to what end was she destined?

Dawn broke and she found herself stuffed into a trash can, buried in mixed refuse, scarcely able to respire. Only fitting, she thought. After all, hadn’t that been the way she had disposed of the crocodile dentist? Was she any better than he? No, she thought as breakfast leftovers oozed down over her head. That she should drown in this filth, unable to move was only justice. The knowledge of its rightness did not ease the sadness brought by meeting death head on. Perhaps Phillip and I will soon be reunited, she thought. It was the only consolation she could cling to in this moment; the last moments of her life.

Unable to hold her breath any longer, she inhaled, filling her lungs with pancake batter, moistened cereal chunks, and milk. Coughing violently, she retched creating more debris inside the trash bin. Her mind began to swirl, her vision blurred and she imagined a strong hand grasping her by the ankle and pulling her out of mortal peril.

Sputtering and gasping, Ashley again drew a breath. Could it be? Had she, the caterpillar-butterfly-human-ninja actually been rescued. Smoothing her hair away from her face and wiping the curdled milk from her eyes, she blinked. Standing in front of her was a young man, about her own age. His curly hair artfully framed his round cherubic features and kind eyes met her.

“You. . .you saved my life.”

He smiled warmly.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Tiko.”


“Yes. My father was a hobbit and my mother a sorceress. Naturally I have no place inside the shire, so I wander. I am as nomadic as they come and am frequently mistaken for Bigfoot. The hair comes from my hobbit father’s side and the size of my feet; well, let’s just say my mother knew a few tricks to get hers down to a size 8. I saw your legs protruding from the trash can and. . . . I couldn’t help but intervene. I’ve never known a woman with such fashionable shoes.”

“They’re Crocs,” Ashley supplied.

Tiko held out his hand to help Ashley to her feet. “And you are?”

“Ashley,” she smiled. “I can’t tell you how nice it is to meet you.”


Monday, July 1, 2013

Sprint Triathlon

This story begins back in November, maybe before that, depending on your perspective. My dad died in November. Shortly after that, my mom said one of the organizations he belonged to was considering sponsoring a 5K run in his honor. She also suggested that as members of his family, we might consider participating. What she didn’t say, didn’t need to say, is only half of us were born with any type of athleticism. (Sorry for bus-chucking the other half of us)

I hate running. I’m not good at running. In high school, when I was on the swim team, as soon as I was out of my coach’s sight, I walked. Only cheating myself, right? I joined the track team my senior year and threw the javelin, not well mind you, but that was what I was enlisted to do; poor track team. One night we had a run-a-thon. I hate to get too graphic, but it did unnatural and unhealthy things to my body.

What then, would motivate one such as me to run? From the time my dad was diagnosed with cancer to his death, I put on 20 lbs. From his death to January I added another 10. The only thing that distracted me from grieving was that rush of sugar found in a spoonful of chocolate frosting or the comfort of a stack of thick pancakes smothered in butter and syrup.**Spoiler alert** This isn’t one of those stories where I hit rock bottom and made a choice to never look back. The point of despair I reached is one I had been to many times before; I hated my body, hated how I felt, decided to do something about it, was motivated for awhile and eventually gave in and gave up to my natural tendencies. I think there were three variables that made a difference.

The first is my eating issues are not necessary limited to a being a physical issue. Someone close to me struggled with an eating disorder. I watched her as she worked/struggled through it. She had a strong support network, the chief support being her reliance on a higher power. I learned from that and as I knelt each morning and night, I begged for help.

He sent me a friend, a devoted friend, a friend who texted me each morning at 6:30 to remind me to get up and get moving, that the chill of winter and the darkness of that time of day was not an excuse to stay in a warm, comfortable bed, that there would not be a change unless I made changes. It didn’t make it an easier, but the accountability factor turns out to be highly motivating.

The other motivation is my work was initiating a health challenge that began the end of February and ended on Memorial Day in May. In order to earn the premium, participants had to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, sleep 6-8 hours a night, exercise 30 minutes a day or a weekly equivalent of it, and avoid foods with high amounts of sugar; muffins, cookies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc. (So long comfort food! When I’m stressed or sad or anxious or bored, I’ll just find comfort in the arms of some celery; there is no comfort in celery.) The premium was $200, which some might say isn’t worth it, but it was $200 and one more factor in moving forward.

So, 71 pounds overweight, I ran my first 1/8 mile. I was sick the rest of the day. I won’t bore you with all the details and ins and outs, just a few milestones. In May, I finally ran the required distance for a 5K. It was on a treadmill, with no incline and I had to consistently apply cool cloths to my face because I kept overheating, but I ran the distance, possibly for the first time ever. The 5K my mom had heard about never came to fruition, so I instead signed up for a sprint triathlon where the order of events was a 5K run, 10 mile bike, and 400 yard swim, the exact opposite of the traditional order.

Then I tried running 3.1 miles outside. Outside, the terrain isn’t flat, the ground doesn’t move for you, there is nothing to absorb impact, and the temperature is inconsistent. Shin splints became a huge obstacle. Aside from stretching, compression socks leftover from my first bout of blood clots seemed to help. The unfortunate aspect of the stockings is that I used them in a Raggedy Ann Halloween costume for my sister when I decided I’d never have another use for them. The finished pair was white, with spray painted red stripes. Finally, by the beginning of June, I ran the distance - once. The race was June 29.

After two weeks of vacation, I had a week to rein it all back in. I tried to work out while vacationing, but missed several consecutive days of exercise. Terror was the strongest emotion I felt two days before the race; not because of what I had signed up to do, but the logistics. How did I get my bike down to the race zone on time? Who would watch my children? Should I eat breakfast or not? Gatorade or water? What if I had to pee? What if someone stole my bike? When people gawked at my “fashionable” leg wear, would I shut down?

The night before I had a nightmare; there I was, at the start line. My number was pinned on and I was stretching out. Suddenly I realized my bike was back home in my garage and I wasn’t wearing my bathing suit. I began to panic, realizing the race began in 15 minutes. Acting quickly, I entered my former high school to look for my English class. I ran up to the second story, opened the door, and saw a room full of my current students. Running back down the stairs, the shin splints started to kick in, and I was no closer to finding my English class. I awoke with my heart racing, terrified of not getting back to the race on time. When I awoke fully, I realized it was Friday, not Saturday. I had 24 hours to get everything ready.

That night I went to the preregistration, where they showed me the transition area and re-identified the course map. Only then did I realize I had been training on the route going backwards so that all the uphills were now down and all the downhills were now up. On paper, it doesn’t seem a big deal; on a bike . . . a lot bigger deal. Stowing my bike at my cousin’s house, I went home.

Morning came and I woke two hours before the race. I dropped to my knees and prayed to finish. After consuming a small breakfast and washing it down with diluted Gatorade, I got into the shower and dressed; bathing suit, sports bra, t-shirt, striped compression stockings, shorts, sports socks and cross trainer shoes. I filled a backpack with more water, goggles, and my tracking chip. Then, suddenly I was there, the last minute details were spoken by the officials, and I was at the starting line, looking more like the human mutation of an okapi with candy cane legs than a triathlete.

The bell, buzzer, or horn sounded - I don’t recall which it was - and I set off at a steady pace. The temperature was forecast to rise to 100 degrees, so even at 7:00, it was uncomfortably warm. For awhile, there were many people around me, I even passed a few. At a mile and a half, I got my bottle of water, drank half of it and poured the rest over my head in an attempt to stave off the heatstroke. By the second mile, my limbs were not getting adequate oxygen to keep moving and my lungs struggled to inhale. I slowed to a walk. My brother-in-law, who had signed on to encourage my sister, kept me going. I kind of wanted to punch him, but without him, I might have settled for sauntering across the finish line. We set small goals and I finished the race running and with a little less than 9 minutes to spare for what I had set as my personal goal. In the transition area, he encouraged me by saying, “You use different muscles to bike than to run. You can do it.”

I thought, different muscles, same lungs, but didn’t say so because I was still working on breathing. Straddling my bike, I set off. As mentioned, the course was opposite of what I had anticipated and began with an uphill stretch followed by an even more uphill stretch. I forced my legs to pedal, turned the corner, and kept going. As I reached the seemingly insurmountable hill, I shifted to the lowest gear possible; it was all I could do to keep the tires going around; momentum was out of the question.

My consolation lay at the peak of the hill; it was all downhill from there until I began the second lap. Just keep peddling, keep peddling, I urged myself on. Occasionally another biker would pass me and say something like “You’re doing great! Keep it up.” And while he or she could have meant, “You’re doing great! Keep it up. Its people like you that make me look good,” I prefer to believe that each biker saw someone genuinely struggling and knew that his or her encouragement would carry me a few feet further up the hill.

As I reached the starting point to begin my second lap, I was getting tired and worried that the officials and officers controlling traffic might get bored and go home. Even so, I pressed forward. Nearing the hill once more, I rode through someone’s vomit; never a good omen. No one passed me now; they’d all finished or were finishing the second lap. At the base of the hill, I shifted down. Though I was exerting with everything I had in me, I barely had enough speed to keep the bike from tipping. Part way up the hill, I knew it was time to call out the big guns. In my head, I uttered a prayer. I don’t remember the exact wording, but the plea was something like this:

I cannot do any more than I am now doing. For the past six months of my life, I have worked toward this. I have eaten well. I have gotten up early to exercise. I have forced this body of mine to do that which it was not created to do. This is all I have . . . and it is not enough. Please, Heavenly Father. You have got to help me. And then, a gentle cooling breeze and a few more feet forward. A sip of water; a few more inches. Maybe my dad was watching from the other side; another foot. Slowly, I crept up the hill.

As I reached the summit, I was grateful that no one was around because what came out of me was as hideous a sound as can be imagined. I think we’ve all made it, but it’s not something we want witnessed. It’s that sound as you laugh at the same time you sob. A roadside marquis read “slow down, athletes on the road.”

There it was in print; electronic, orange flashing print, but print none-the-less. I WAS AN ATHLETE!!! From the top of the hill to the starting line it was nearly all downhill. Speeding forward I felt the wind rushing past me as I flew down the street. I was going to finish. Divine intervention was going to make up the difference for what I had been unable to do on my own.

Rounding the corner, I took the last stretch and barely noticed the incline. In the transition area, I stripped off my clothing, donned my goggles, and jumped into the pool. Surprisingly, my arms were tired even though I hadn’t really been using them. In nearly half the time I had allowed for myself as my personal goal, I finished my laps, climbed out of the pool, and crossed the finish line.

Looking behind me, I noticed the lane lines were being taken out of the pool and that there were only a handful of individuals finishing the last laps. One was a girl whose bike had broken, another a girl who had stopped to wait for someone who had also entered the race and fallen behind. Perhaps I should have felt discouraged by the fact that I nearly came in dead last. Maybe it’s humiliating to know that almost everyone who entered the race is better than you. But I didn’t feel any of that (okay, maybe a tiny bit). Mostly I felt a sense of accomplishment. Remember six months ago when I couldn’t finish the ¼ mile? Remember 30 lbs. ago when I hated to move?

I’m not saying my entire world has changed and that I’m suddenly a star athlete. I won’t be appearing on the next season of America’s Next Top Model (is that even on anymore?). What I’m saying is I see progress. What I’m saying is something that is seemingly so physical has turned very much spiritual. What I’m saying is this weakness that I have had and will continue to fight my entire life is slowly, with the Lord’s help, becoming stronger.

Will I do it again? I have a year to decide, a year to train, and a year to perhaps persuade the city to redo Main Street so that the grade near 400 South is a little less dramatic.