It's hard to believe that more than three years have passed since Waverly made a decision to attend and was accepted into Liberty University that made the first of what has now been 16 trips to Lynchburg.
Basically, you can attribute four trips to the start of each school year.
Another four is a minimum of at least one trip each fall semester.
And then I squeezed in additional trips here and there.
A surprise trip to see her run a 5K.
Another I decided to run a marathon in Raleigh and was able to get up for 24 hours and a football game.
And, sadly, one was after my grandfather passed away and I flew to Raleigh-Durham to drive her to Pennsylvania to attend his memorial service.
As a parent, it has been a good ride.
And, yes, I actually said to myself this weekend that I was going to miss making trips here.
Certainly not for the joy of getting to Lynchburg, but rather for being able to go in to love, support, encourage and, as she says, cheer her on as she comes close to the mark of graduating in May. (She’ll be able to walk in May, but will not get her degree until she completes her student teaching in the fall semester of 2017. Please keep the decision she needs to make by February 1 as to where she does this student teaching in your prayers.)
As certain things have transpired recently with my job, there was a certain concern that I might not even have been able to make this trip in early August.
However, I'm thankful that God made it possible for me to be able to go.
The premise of the fall trip each of the last three years has been to run the Virginia 10-Miler together, but the time spent this trip - just about 54 hours minus a sleep or two - was much more than that.
Because the Virginia 10-Miler partnered with the Holiday Inn in downtown Lynchburg for a special race rate, I was able to save about $200 compared to the Marriott properties that I normally stay at.
It was a different experience staying in downtown and one that I hope that the town continues to enhance over the years.
Waverly got up early and met me in downtown at 6 a.m. Friday morning as we did a short 30-minute social run, just to catch up.
We talk every week, typically on Sunday evenings. Otherwise, I try not to interrupt her at any length of time during the week unless something serious comes up.
Additionally, I didn't want to ruin her race on Saturday, but we actually ran in downtown for the first time ever in any of our trips.
We got done right at 6:30 a.m. and she was able to go back to her dorm and get ready for class at 9-something and Convocation at 10:30 a.m.
Last year was the first time that I was able to attend Convocation with her.
It was the second time that I have witnessed what I envision Heaven to look like. There were 10,000 or more young people worshipping Christ together. It brought tears to my eyes then last year and for a moment on Friday, it did again.
I just can't tell you how overjoyed I am that Waverly can be as immersed in this two of three times a week (one she usually has to do cleanliness checks in the dorms as part of her resident assistant responsibilities.)
She gets to hear from speakers from all walks of life and not necessarily all of them are born again Christians and Christ followers, but have excelled in a particular walk of life.
After she needed to get a few things taken care of, we drove to the race packet pickup location which is also where the Lynchburg Public Library is nearby.
In it was a small exhibit about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his 1962 visit to Lynchburg, a year and a half before he gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.
After that, we spent no more than 10 minutes getting our packets and race numbers.
We drove back to Liberty University where we walked a part of the campus that we ran in August to see the update of some of the building upgrades that continue to be completed.
It is incredibly impressive.
The campus has been and will continue to be completely transformed in the years to come.
We saw Liberty’s Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development, David Nasser, in this central lawn area and was waiting for him to finish a conversation just to be able to say “Hello!” and thank him for what he has done during Waverly’s time there.
However, one of Waverly’s best friend’s husband, Dan, came walking up from another direction and we said “Hello!” and chit-chatted for a few minutes. Waverly was a member of her best friend’s bridal party this past June.
After walking from the parking lot near the field hockey field to campus, we came back and watched about 10-15 minutes of the women's match against Quinnipiac before heading to the Holiday Inn downtown, where Waverly rested up a little bit.
She took a personal day on Friday – as she has up to 10 per semester to take. It is good for her to be able to get away and rest and she did some.
We had dinner Friday night - as we have many times - at Vinny's to fuel up for the race the next morning. It was the first of many great times during the trip that she was able to share some things with me that were on her heart.
Staying in downtown where we did, it was much easier to get to the race site – just outside of E. C. Glass High School – on Saturday morning.
We work so much in planning on what our desired outcome is – during vacation and other things - and work backwards.
We left the hotel, as planned, by 6:45 a.m. and were parked no more than 10-12 minutes later. No stress at all.
We walked to where a lot of the pre-race festivities and the start/finish line was. We spent about 30 minutes in the area, just relaxing and getting ready to run. We saw Dr. David Horton, noted ultrarunner and Liberty University professor, but it was hard to catch him once we noticed where he was as he was continually moving on a bike. (Presuming he performed some type of escort duties during the race.)
Our only goal was for Waverly to be able to see her roommate and RA partner, Natalie, from last year and we succeeded. I was able to meet her parents, we all took a few pictures and then we made our way to the starting queue.
My plan was to stay as close to her as I could for as long as I can, but I knew that Saturday was going to be her day.
We ran together all the way to the bottom of Farm Basket Hill before she was able to charge back up the other side faster than me.
On the way there, we ran up behind one of Waverly’s professors in the School of Education, Kristina Dewitt. I encouraged her to say “Hi!” She did and it was a great exchange as her professor recognized her and returned the acknowledgement.
I saw Waverly ahead of me periodically throughout the first five miles of the race. There’s one pretty steep, but short hill right before the mile 5 marker. She went through it about a minute faster than I did and that is the last that I saw of her.
Her chip time was 53:17 and mine was 54:12.
Then she put a two minute and six second spanking on me by going 53:45 on the return trip to the finish line.
She finished in 1:47:02 – four minutes faster than last year (1:51:01) and the year before (1:51:32).
I posted a time of 1:50:03 after showings of 1:51:00 and 1:51:33 the previous two years. I’ll take it.
All in all, I ended up running pretty consistently until the last two miles, which both have a lot of uphill. Here are my splits:
Mile 1 -- 10:13.01
Mile 2 -- 11:15.98
Mile 3 -- 11:03.14
Mile 4 -- 10:43.94
Mile 5 -- 10:56.06
Mile 6 -- 11:06.97
Mile 7 -- 11:03.40
Mile 8 -- 10:40.46
Mile 9 -- 11:30.96
Mile 10 -- 11:29.84
Not a lot of variability, but just wishing I could have shaved six to 12 seconds off per mile!
We got away from the race site fairly quickly, went back to the hotel, cleaned up and then walked down Main Street to our favorite breakfast location, Market at Main.
It was pretty busy, as we’ve come to expect any more, especially later in the morning.
A little bit more rest was in order for Waverly before I dropped her off at her dorm so she could help work with one of their Brother dorms to do a tailgate for the Liberty-Jacksonville State football game.
I went back to the hotel for a little while and then came back, walked over to the main campus, watched the drum corps, Sparky (Liberty’s mascot) and the cheerleaders lead the football players up to Williams Stadium after they got off the buses and then went back.
I got to see another one of Waverly’s best friends, Lindsay, and also met her roommate, Ellie.
The most interesting part of it all was that one of Waverly’s friends’ parents were from Pennsylvania, but I think that they currently live in North Carolina.
The father had a Pirates hat on and they brought a Steelers bean bag toss set for some of the students to play games on. Waverly asked the Mom where in Pennsylvania they were from. She replied, “I’m originally from the Philadelphia area and my husband is from central Pennsylvania.”
We hear that a lot and the first question in return was, “Where in central Pennsylvania?”
She said, “Tyrone.” We were both floored.
It, of course, is where I’m from and both my Mom and Dad graduated from high school.
It was some great and interesting conversation!
We walked some things back to her dorm – a decent bit away – and then back to the area where the tailgate was had and my rental car was parked and then we went on to the Stadium for the football game.
We sat in the student section, straight up from the 50-yard line after some of the students from their Brother dorm saved some seats. I got to meet one of the student leaders for her Hall, Emily.
Liberty had its hat handed to them by Jacksonville State, were down 27-3 at the half and we left for ice cream from Mr. Goodie’s on Timberlake Drive in Lynchburg. Definitely much more palatable.
We attended the 8:30 a.m. worship service at Blue Ridge Community Church in New London, Virginia (or Forest).
It was the first in a Series of messages over the next eight weeks about Joshua that relates to their decision as a church to establish another campus in the nearby community of Bedford, which is down Highway 29 towards Roanoke.
We saw a friend of Waverly’s, Grace and her fiancé, Drake.
During our 2015 summer vacation, we were driving towards East Lansing, Michigan as I wanted to see the stadium where the Spartans played. Waverly had Facebook open and realized that Grace was close, at a place where you gather as a group and paint.
We stopped by, surprising Grace and her Mom that day. It was just something that you do when you have the opportunity.
As we talked, Grace said that day was when her Mom really realized the quality of people that Liberty University attracted to its school. I think we’re safe to say that we were both floored with that.
Neither Waverly nor I do things with those thoughts in mind. We just do what we believe to be right towards other people in light of what we’ve learned from God’s teachings.
It was really good to visit with them both. I learned that Drake was an aviation major and was looking to get a job after graduation in Michigan doing mechanics in the commercial airline business.
After church was over, we went back to Market At Main for breakfast again before it was time for me to head back to Reagan National to fly home.
It is funny, in a way, as I’ve told parents that leaving your children gets easier after that first year.
I may have to revise and amend my remarks because it was very hard for me to leave yesterday, for a multitude of reasons.
First of all, it is a season of change for Waverly.
She’s finishing up her classwork and she’s got some big decisions to make in the months to come. I know that she is prayerfully seeking God’s perfect will in her life, which is something that I’m praying for her as well.
Liberty University has provided her a safe environment to broaden herself, which I think she has done incredibly well. She has made some friends to compliment and support her that I’m inclined to believe that she’ll have for quite some time.
She’s been able to grow in her faith.
She’s got an incredible heart for people, especially children. I think she’ll make a great teacher and educator and I believe that she’ll connect incredibly well with them in the months and years to come.
She really makes parenting easy and I love being able to be supportive of her.
I like to think that one of the things that I’ve been able to help her with is to think ahead in the things that she does today.
For example, I noticed that there was a Graduate School Fair on campus on Tuesday, September 27. I recommended that if her schedule allowed for her to attend it to just simply to gather some information about the processes.
Her current plan is to go teach for awhile and then go back to school to get an advanced degree, but I advised her that things can always change and that God may lead her in a different direction. Just by getting some exposure now to how pursuing Graduate School may be and how to apply and get it may be a benefit to her later on.
She’s truly a fortunate young woman in that she knows a vast number of people as well as many, many of my friends in the running community that I have who are teachers that can answer her questions and help guide her.
So, yes, I cried a bit, but they are tears of pride in seeing – and wanting for – her to continue to do well.
Meanwhile, I had a fun time of travel home.
I get to Reagan National at about 3:45 p.m. – after leaving Lynchburg at noon. And this was without getting on Interstate 95 going north. By 4 p.m., I was checked in and ready to go through TSA.
My flight was scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. departure. Well, two delays pushed it back to close to 9 p.m.
I had called my parents, who were picking me, and notified them of the delays.
So I had dinner and then went to work at a gate away from where my flight departed. About 8:15 p.m., I went to gate 16 to be ready to board soon and I saw people lined up working with the gate agents.
The flight had been cancelled. I would learn later that the flight crew incoming had timed out due to weather delays in Houston.
On my phone was a text message that my flight from Newark would depart at 11:48 p.m. So they had already worked to get me on another flight to make it home.
I looked, realized that there was a flight from DCA to Newark (EWR) and I went to that gate. I was able to get a boarding pass for that flight, but not for the EWR-IAH connection.
I actually went back to the original gate, but the line was such that I might have missed the DCA-EWR flight.
We boarded and got in the air about 10-15 minutes later than the boarding pass indicated, but made it in plenty of time to make the connection. Sort of.
As soon as I got off the plane, there was a Customer Service counter to the left that was still open in Terminal A. I spoke with a representative, explained to him the craziness that was going on and got my boarding pass for the EWR-IAH leg. Even though it was a middle seat, I was thankful to have it – 11B.
Then we had to take a bus to Terminal C. Once I got there, and with a clock ticking towards an 11:48 p.m. departure, anxiety started to get a little high as there didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency about getting eight of us to the other terminal.
Things finally happened and once to Terminal C, we quickly realized that we wouldn’t be leaving soon.
At some point in time, we boarded and I think we left at around 12:30 a.m. Eastern time. I say “I think” because I was out after a little bit.
We landed around 1:30 a.m., but the bags didn’t come until a little after 2 a.m. And then mine didn’t make it, even though others from the DCA-EWR-IAH did. I was told that it might have been a weight issue, which makes sense, but I wish they just would have told me so that I wouldn’t have wasted about 45 minutes.
I got home and got in bed around 3 a.m. Monday morning, but it was all worth it for the time I got to spend with Waverly.
I’m a very fortunate father.