Posted by: Susan Loken | August 21, 2013

A 50th Birthday For the Record Books

Motivated by Passion

Thinking about the rapid approach of my 50th birthday scared me. I didn’t want to feel old and watch my athletic abilities slip away. However, I soon forced myself to snap out of my funk. I decided that I was going to tackle my fifth decade with more fervor and passion than ever before. I was going to WIN a marathon ON my 50th Birthday!

I found two marathons on July 28, 2013–my big day. My options were the Nova Scotia Marathon and the Madison Marathon. I wanted to push my limits and prove to myself that age is just a number. I signed up for the highest road marathon in America (and possibly the world!) and began preparing for my run through the hilly dirt roads of Ennis, Montana. With its high elevations (8,550-9,578 feet) and spectacular views along Gravelly Range of Southwestern Montana, I KNEW this was my race.

2013-07-27 16.14.29

Find Your Happy Pace.

My heart was filled with passion and energy as I read about the challenges and began believing that I was going to WIN. As I looked over the winning times, a competitive drive coursed through my body. Victory seemed very possible. I had never run a hilly track at such a high altitude, but I was up for the challenge and excited to train for such an incredible new feat.

Along with the geographic challenges, I also read about the grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, wolves, bald eagles, deer, mountain goats, and dozens of other wild animals, all of which had offered some added excitement in past years. On top of wild creatures, runners were also warned by the US Forest Service to watch out for the Great Pyrenees Sheep Dogs that might show up and begin chasing us. If that happened, we were told to STOP, let them sniff us, and then tell them “Go to the sheep!” My mind was made up. I had to go.

Find a goal that brings you to life and excites you from the inside out. Once you’ve set your heart on a personal challenge, pursue it with all that you are!

My marathon training didn’t go exactly as planned. My hamstring acted up from time to time, I came down with pneumonia, and life continued to throw small daily obstacles in my way. I overcame them all, cross-training when I couldn’t run and resting when I was sick. I kept my hopes high and my eyes on the prize.

There are a dozen ways to move from Point A to Point B, so don’t despair if your original plan doesn’t fall into place. Just move forward and OWN your challenges, because they are stepping stones toward your future success.  

Focused Energy

A few years ago, I sat on the panel of experts at the PF Chang’s Marathon. There, I explained to the audience the importance of setting three goals–a dream goal, a realistic goal, and a suck it up and finish goal–so that they will be prepared for anything. The premise is to train and race for your realistic goal, but to be prepared to exceed your own expectations and also respect the marathon for what it is: a grueling endurance event.

Since I always request 3 goals from the runners I coach before a “key” race, I decided to share my own goals with them in my weekly newsletter.

  1. Dream Goal: Break the women’s course record of 3:53:33 as the first female finisher! (This was a very lofty goal, but I BELIEVE that dreams come true!)
  2. Realistic Goal: Measure my success by effort, not time, and finish feeling strong, healthy, happy, and blessed to have run 26.2 beautiful miles in such a heavenly place on my 50th birthday. (Since I had no prior experience running 26.2 hilly miles at high altitude alongside wild animals, finishing strong sounded like an awesome and realistic goal to me!)
  3. Suck It Up and Finish Goal: Need I say more? Run, walk, or crawl, I will finish this marathon and enjoy the journey! (Regardless of where I place, I will gain “hilly marathon at altitude” experience and be able to apply what I learn to my coaching. It’s a win-win!)

On our way to the airport, my husband and I spotted a few of my runners standing on the street corner with inspiring birthday and encouragement signs! The support made my day and brought me to tears. I felt so loved and humbled in that moment. I love coaching and I love watching these runners believe in themselves and succeed. After seeing them, I was even more determined to win this marathon, not only for myself, but to inspire others to chase their wildest dreams.

When my husband and I arrived in Bozeman, Montana, we were picked up and driven to an adorable world-class fishing town, Ennis. We stayed at the charming family-owned Rainbow Valley Lodge, a lodge with a wonderfully memorable western atmosphere. Our good friends, Joann and David, joined us and I was so happy that simply couldn’t stop smiling. We enjoyed a lovely outdoor dining experience behind the lodge with a Chef straight from the TV reality show, Top Chef. The vibe was just right and I knew my 50th birthday weekend would be one for the records.

Whatever your passion is, whether running a race or running a lodge in Montana, focus your energy into that passionate pursuit. Your focused and joyful efforts will help you build a meaningful life and inspire those around you. Whatever your passion: find it, chase it, live it, breathe it, and radiate that positive energy.  

On Saturday, we went to “packet pick-up” in a local park and had the pleasure of meeting Sam, the charming race director, as well as a very diverse crowd of runners from all over the  country. There was a group from the 50 States Marathon Club and runners from the Marathon Maniacs club. Everyone was bubbling with enthusiasm and passion. I learned why people ran, I picked up tips from other runners, and I met a man who was running his 268th marathon! I was fully inspired before I even had a chance to lace up my sneakers.

getting tips at packet pick-up from last years marathoner

Picking up some tips at the Madison Marathon Packet Pick-Up

My Birthday Race

The morning of 50th birthday, I did not wake up and sulk about getting old. Instead, I watched the sunrise with my husband and best friends as we drove up up to 9,500 feet elevation on a narrow mountain road. When we reached the top, we took a bus with the other runners from the finish to the start line. I would be running the full marathon, my husband and best friend would be running the half, and David would be our ever-so-important support team.

All runners (half and full) start the race at the same place, at the same time. For the half marathon, runners follow a straight 13.1 mile path from the Black Butte Mountain to Clover Meadows, ending there. The full marathons then continue past Clover Meadows, running 6.5 miles out and then running back 6.5 to meet the half-marathoners back at Clover Meadows. I LOVED this because I always break up the marathon into smaller segments anyways! That way, I don’t have to think of it as a full 26.2 miles. Yikes!

Break your marathons into smaller, more manageable segments. If you stand at the start line and think about all 26.2 miles, you WILL get overwhelmed. Plan in advance how you will run each segment, and focus only on the segment at hand as you go.

When the bus dropped us off, everyone hit the bushes to pee. There are no porta potties in the middle of nowhere. It was hysterical, and I wish I’d taken pictures. After a few pre-race pictures, I parted ways with my husband and Joann. I had my game face on and needed to focus.

As I stood at the starting line, I chatted with a very fit looking runner who had done a few training runs on the course. There I was, a veteran marathon runner, asking this woman whether she would be running or walking up the first steep hill! I wasn’t sure how to attack the race, so my plan was to give it my best effort and pay attention to how my body responded to the altitude and pace. Sam, our wonderful race director, stood in the bed of his pickup truck, said a few words, and sent us on our way. 3-2-1-GO!

Race Start Madison Marathon

Getting ready to start running.

Segment One

I divided the race into three segments. Segment one was the first half of the race, from mile 1 to 13.1. The marathon began with a steep uphill climb at an elevation of 9,190 feet. Within minutes, I was panting like a fat dog, and I’m sure that even if I had walked up that hill, my breathing would have still been labored. When we reached the top, we were running straight towards Black Butte Mountain (elevation 10,546), with its the peaks and ridges dominating the skyline.

The female that was running alongside me seemed to be breathing just as hard. I slowed and let her pass. My pace was 9:07, but it felt more taxing than my normal marathon pace. I knew that I had to get my breathing under control. Thankfully, Mile 2 was slightly downhill, so I was able to catch my breath and turnover on my legs. Though I wasn’t racing that early in the race, my marathon pace effort allowed me to pass the only female in front of me.

By the time I reached the next steep hill, I felt in control. I was running at marathon effort with controlled breathing. By Mile 3, I had found my groove. My breaths were measured, I felt calm, and I had hit my perfect stride.

Next, we hit a long uphill portion to Monument Ridge. Expending a lot of energy on steep hills can be detrimental to you race, so it is important to run smart. Knowing this, I focused on driving my arms to quicken my tempo. If you increase the turnover rate of the arms, the turnover rate of the legs will naturally follow, in turn shortening your uphill stride.

When running uphill, relax and focus on strong arm drive with high cadence. The arm drive will help to propel your body forward; the quicker cadence will speed up your stride.

By Mile 4, I was focused and feeling great. The steep and daunting climb wasn’t an issue anymore because I was running by effort. It didn’t hurt to see the breathtaking Monument Ridge (the highest point in the course, at 9.600 ft)–it felt like running in heaven. Well, heaven with a lot of hills.

Soon, a young male half-marathoner began running with me and offering tips for running uphill. He had participated last year, running too fast and exhausting himself by the end of the marathon. I was grateful for his insights and camaraderie, but when the pace started getting too easy I had to say goodbye and press on. By this time, I was feeling marvelous and reflective. I felt so fortunate to be running in a stunning natural landscape.

Every once in awhile, I would think to myself: This is my 50th Birthday, and look what I get to do! I had a ridiculous case of runner’s high for the remainder of the the segment. My body, mind, and soul were in sync and every step felt effortless and invigorating. I felt on top of the world, both literally and figuratively.

The woman who ended up placing first in the half-marathon passed me around Mile 6. My initial reaction was to run with her, and I did for a little while, but I had to remind myself that she was stopping at 13.1 and I was not. By the time I reached the half marathon finish line, there was still a pep in my step and a song in my heart. I felt amazing, I was having tons of fun, and I knew that I still had a great chance of winning!

2013-07-28 09.10.59

Monument Ridge. Elevation 9,587.

Segment Two

The first 13 miles were challenging and involved several of uphill segments, but I felt great. I knew that I had to stick to my effort-based plan and focus on the next 6.55 miles. I mentally prepared for the long uphill stretch of the upcoming segment, because I thought the reward would be a final 6.55 miles of primarily downhill running.

The song in my heart began to taper off around Mile 15. The long uphill sections were feeling harder, but I realized that I was still maintaining the same pace as the first half. I knew that I had to dig deeper. I knew that I needed to focus on my DREAM goal. I wasn’t sure how close the next female runner was behind me, and at that point I didn’t care. I started doing the math in my head and decided that I was going to WIN the race and break the course record. It was time to put my game face on.

There is a time for singing in your head, reflecting on this amazing life, and expressing gratitude for an incredible body and an incredible challenge. This was not it. I was a runner on a mission, and I was going for gold, baby! Like I tell my runners: Plan for your realistic goals, but if everything else lines up perfectly, go for the Dream!

During this segment, I focused on my running form, my breathing, and my pace. Nothing was going to stop me! As I neared the turnaround point, several men approach and ran past me as they headed back towards the finish line. I passed the early-start runners that needed extra time and I offered them my encouragement and support. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were working hard, and it felt great to cheer them on and make them smile.

At the top of a really steep hill, I ran into  the male winner from last year as he was on his way back down. He told me that the hardest part was yet to come. Really? Dang! I was expecting it to get easier once we turned around. I was initially discouraged, but the new knowledge allowed me to reframe the situation in my mind. Knowing that the next segment would be harder, I mentally prepared myself. The mind usually gives up before the body wears out, so it’s important to train your brain as much as you train your body. 90% of doing anything is simply believing you can.

Succeeding at a marathon involves just as much mental preparation as physical. It’s important to train your brain to keep your body moving when it’s begging you to slow down. You must train your brain to stay positive and steer away from negative thoughts. Thoughts and self-beliefs can often mean the difference between reaching your goals and missing the target.

There was a steep downhill to the turnaround checkpoint, so I grabbed a cup of water, thanked the volunteers as they wrote down my bib number, and then I set off on the final leg of the race.

Segment 3

As I turned around and face the last stretch of the marathon, I smiled, knowing that I had just one segment left. Only 6.55 miles to go. I was hoping that the final stretch would be easy, but I was immediately faced with a long, steep hill. In response to the challenge, I gave myself permission to walk uphill with purpose, but only if I swore to push extra hard on the downhill. I had NEVER walked during a marathon and as I walked up this enormous hill, it felt like I was giving up. My energy began to shift in a negative direction, so I started running again.

When I reached the top of that first steep hill after the turnaround point, I turned it up a notch. I passed other runners, walkers, and shufflers as they approached the turning point and we offered each other positive energy and word of encouragement. The woman that I had asked questions about the course was on her way to the turnaround point and yelled to me, “I knew you were in this to win it!” That made me chuckle. Was it that obvious? I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone that I wanted to win a marathon my my 50th birthday…except everyone in the state of AZ.

running towards the finish

Running to the song in my head.

I’m not sure what I looked like, but it felt like I was running fast. As I was running, I kept thinking that the easy parts were coming up, and then, out of nowhere, another hill would appear! I swear it felt like the race was all uphill going to the turnaround point and all uphill returning. Just when I needed an extra kick, I saw David on the side of the road at one of the aid stations. He handed me a water bottle and yelled motivating words, like “You’re in first place!” I threw him two big thumbs up and savored the extra motivation. That is, until I reached the next monster hill. Monster may be a slight exaggeration but, by that point, all of those hills felt like mountain–mountains upon mountains, even.

I stared up at the hill and began to calculate how fast I would need to run downhill if I walked up the hill. I hate walking, but since I had already done it once, my body remembered how good it felt. I forced myself to dig deep and say to myself, “Don’t let the pain lessen.” Once you get comfortable, it’s mentally harder to get back into “uncomfortable” mode, and walking was definitely more comfortable that running! It’s kind of like a potato chip, where once you have one you can’t help yourself but eat just one more, and another, and another. Walking was my bag of potato chips. Once I walked a bit up that last hill, I wanted to do it again. But I didn’t let myself. I had a course record to break!

Finally, I got back into my “Controlled Hard Zone” and BOOM, the song in my head began playing again. I was in the home stretch and back on top of the world. I was in first place and on track to set a course record on my 50th Birthday.

I kept running faster and faster. Well, that was until a herd of wild cows completely covered the road in front of me. I was NOT going to walk and I didn’t want to risk be trampled by cows. I yelled out, “I am safe,” and all of the sudden, a voice from behind me screamed “YA YA!” (I think it was David on his bike) and the cows stampeded off. Thankfully, I didn’t have to run between the cattle. Phew!

This must be the wildlife I was promised!

The last couple of miles were awesome! There was a song in my heart, a bounce in my step, and the amazing–almost magical– sense of “flow” that comes with challenging yourself to put a full effort toward accomplishing your goal. It’s a feeling we can all tap into. You don’t have to win a marathon to feel it; you just have to win YOUR personal race.

My final mile was my fastest, at a 6:58 pace. I let myself go for it! My breathing was labored, my legs were turning, and my lungs were burning, but I also felt incredibly alive, confident in myself, and excited to start my next decade with such a bang!

As I ran that final 400 meters, I could see my husband and best friend yelling and cheering, their faces lit up by smiles as big as the mountain. Conquering 26.2 miles in hilly altitude and winning with a course record was incredible, but nothing could beat seeing the joy on my loved ones’ faces. We all knew that my win could inspire other women, of all ages and backgrounds, to reach for their goals and do more than they ever dreamt possible. That was PRICELESS!

award

A reminder that this next decade is the new beginning of something even greater!

I’ve won other marathons and even participated in a few Olympic Trials, but this experience was especially significant to me. I view my crossing the finish line and winning the race as a symbol that tomorrow will be better than today. If you get started today, tomorrow you will be able to achieve great things, no matter your age!

A few months ago, I was terrified of getting older. I had to learn to accept the changes that come with aging and reframe my expectations. In order to get of out of my nasty funk, I had to run my heart out and prove to myself that I still could. Winning the marathon was a wonderful experience, but my most important takeaway was choosing to embrace my age and do all the I can to inspire by example.

You can live life to the fullest at any age, so never let age, old habits, or other obstacles block off the path towards your big goals. Detours are a part of life.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, because one day you’ll look ahead and see your biggest fans cheering at the finish line with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen. “You did it!,” they’ll shout, “You did it!” And you’ll smile because you know that they’re right. You did it!

Madison Marathon

Celebrating an incredible day with my loved ones and new friends!

Posted by: Susan Loken | August 3, 2013

How I Transformed Fear of 50 into Motivation to Win

Madison Marathon

As my 50th birthday began its rapid approach, I started to panic. The milestone offered me the perfect opportunity to look at my past, present and future, and acknowledge how far I have come. In spite of all the goodness in my life and all my incredible achievements, I couldn’t help wondering whether my best running days were behind me.

I spent most of my 20’s balancing motherhood and my corporate career. I became a mother for the first time at age 22, and then again at age 28, both times to a beautiful little boy. I then spent my days climbing the corporate ladder at Nordstrom, and then Easy Spirit Shoes, continually striving for advancement and working to earn top sales.

By my late-20’s, the demands of my job made it difficult to be both successful at work and the best mother I could be, so I choose to stay at home with my children. We moved to Phoenix, where I gave birth to my third son. I spent the wonderful decade of my 30’s focused on raising my children. In my late-30’s, eager for a little “me” time, I took up running.

I quickly developed a passion for the sport and dedicated my 40’s to testing my limits and developing my skills. I could easily balance running around my role as a mom (I ran before they woke up!) and I continually challenged myself to improve. Striving toward advancement paid off. Along with feeling great, I earned the honor of competing in three Olympic Trials (at age 40, 44, and 48), won the USA Masters Marathon Championship four times, and took first place in several other marathons. This was also the decade in which I discovered that your purpose is directly related to your passion.

I knew that my passion was running and I realized that my purpose was to inspire other women to improve their lives through running. The everyday progress I saw on the track and in the mirror gave me more confidence and helped me to believe in myself and believe in the power of my dreams. Realizing that I could do absolutely anything was an amazing feeling and I wanted to share that message and empower other women through my example (If a mom in her 40’s can do it, so can you!) I became a marathon fundraising coach and began my own coaching business, BTB (Believe Train Become) so I could share my knowledge, spread my passion, and explore my calling.

So, why was the thought of turning 50 freaking me out? How could a silly number make this overly confident woman feel so insecure? I think panic crept in because I have always believed the notion that “tomorrow will be better than today.” Regardless of my age and role, I have continually strived to live life to the fullest by becoming better–advancing at my job, being more involved with my kids, and improving as a runner. Looking back on my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, I now realize that in order to offer your best self to others, you must first be the best and truest version of you.

 Science tells us that our physical health declines with age, and turning “50” looked like the start of my final race. I could just imagine the walker and knitting supplies at the finish line. While I have the experience, knowledge, and passion to help others through coaching, I still want to inspire others through my example.

To pull myself out of this “OMG, I’m turning 50 and my life is over!” funk, I decided to set a new goal. I was going to WIN a marathon ON my 50th birthday. Luck had it that my 50th fell on a Sunday–there had to be a marathon somewhere in the country, right? Well, I found one. The Madison Marathon takes place in Ennis, Montana and is the highest road marathon in America, topping out at 9,587 feet and following the spectacular ridgeline of the Gravelly Range in Southwestern Montana.

So what if my skin is becoming a little wrinkled? So what if it takes me longer to recover? So what if that extra serving of brownies that used to give me power now goes straight to my ass? So what of science says that you slow down as you age and can’t be as active in your 50’s? SO WHAT?! I want to practice what I preach by living life to the fullest, achieving big goals, and setting a positive example for other women.

Coaching runners and watching them succeed brings me true joy. Thus, I’ve been thinking about how I can expand my influence and help even more women discover the life-changing power of running. Alongside sprinting my heart out and reaching for new records, I will be building an inspirational running blog for women. I’ll be teaming up with my editor, Erin McNaughton (an amazing writer and my best friend’s niece), to share helpful information, motivational real-life stories, and the inspiration you need to live life to its fullest, regardless of your age!

Posted by: Susan Loken | October 17, 2012

Back to Blogging!!

Last time I wrote was in January after the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials.

Quick update…

January: Finished the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, stopped running and started working with Nicole Armbrust at Spooner PT to fix my hamstring injury.

February: Still not running, going to PT 2 x per week, strength training and riding the ElliptiGo. Launched my new business and passion…BTB Coaching (www.believetrainbecome.com)

March: Still not running, still working with the amazing Nicole Armbrust and Michael Akerson to fix my hamstring, have 20 BTB clients and loving the new challenge of helping runners BECOME their dream!

April: Still not running, started YOGA (every runner needs to do yoga!) still going to PT 2 x per week, riding the ElliptiGO and strength training. Recruited 30 members for Team Chances New York City!! I’m now coaching  Team BTB and Team Chances NYC!!

May: Got the green light to SLOWLY ease back into running!! Coaching is a blessing each day! I get to share the running journey with amazing, amazing people each day!! Now that I can run a little…I truly understand and BELIEVE that running is a GIFT no matter what pace you’re running! RUNNING IS A GIFT!! I will enjoy every mile of every day!!

June: Coaching, PT, Strength training, Yoga, Running & lot’s of Lacrosse (my son’s on a lacrosse travel team) trips this month.

July: Coaching, PT, Strength training, Yoga, Running, Family Vacation and one year older (49!!)

August: I was asked to be the Lululemon Run Ambassador!!! WHAT AN HONOR!! Lululemon running clothes are the BEST EVER!!! Ran two half marathons this month. Lululemon Half in Vancouver BC in 1:26 (4th overall) and AFC Half in San Diego (1:26) 3rd Master!! Yes, Yes, Yes, I am thrilled with running a 1:26 and most of all, I am blessed that running is now pain free and I feel GREAT!! Note to self…continue PT, Strength training and yoga…DO NOT JUST RUN!!!

September: Added speed/tempo to my running!! LOVE the challenge!! I feel alive and happy when each day I’m trying to improve. My goals are different and my miles are “less” than before, but I feel balanced, happy and full of purpose!! TEAM BTB and TC NYC are all better, fitter and stronger today than they were yesterday!! I feel like a PROUD MOM!! It’s funny, when they hurt, I hurt, when they are HAPPY, I’m happy (just how I feel about my boys!)!! LOVE MY RUNNERS!!!

October: Ran the “Girlfriends” half marathon in Vancouver Wash in 1:22!!! Yes, it felt good to run strong and feel healthy again!! My GIRLFRIEND, Amy O’hara sponsored this race. I ran to support her and her awesome shoe store (see shirt logo)!! Team BTB members have been rocking at races and TC NYC are in taper mode!!

My Goals: #1 Coaching  #2 Find a level of running that challenges me, yet allows me to stay injury free AND be the best coach possible. #3 I signed up for the 2013 PF Chang’s Marathon #4 Signing up for the 2013 AZ Ironman

Feeling happy at the finish of the Girlfriends Half Marathon in Vancouver Wash!

Posted by: Susan Loken | January 20, 2012

2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials

Gosh, where do I begin?

I just completed my third — and best — USA Olympic Marathon Trials! Not the best because I ran so fast and placed well against the fastest women in the USA, but the “best” because I earned a spot to participate in the OLYMPIC TRIALS. And despite lack of training due to injury, I completely and utterly absorbed and enjoyed every single “moment” before, during and after the race! So here is my Olympic Trials journey!!

 
2004 – St. Louis, MO. At the age of 40 I had two boys in grade school and one in high school. I was beginning my competitive running journey and I was consistently achieving new personal records. It was a thrilling, exciting and motivating time for me! I went into the Trials feeling a little intimidated running with all these amazing women that I had only read about in Runners World. I knew it was special running in the Olympic Trials, but since I was new to everything – I hadn’t ran in college and never dreamed of being a Olympian — I truly didn’t understand the dedication and commitment these women had made to get here. I ran a very respectable race and placed 31st with a time of 2:44:23. I also began making new friends in group of incredible athletes.

2004 USA Olympic Marathon Trials

2008 – Boston, MA. Now 44, I have been running as an Elite for 4 years. I understood and respected the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that it took to train at this level because I had now been doing it while working full time and raising my three boys (one in grade school, one high school and one out in the world). I had gained confidence in my ability and felt I could still improve as a runner. Now I have many friends in this group of athletes and coaches so this Trials was part competition and part reunion. Plus, the Trials were the day before the Boston Marathon and tons of my friends from Phoenix were here to run or watch that race so it was so special to share the day with friends, family and my fellow competitors. I worked hard, was dedicated and injury free on race day and believed I belonged on that starting line; I was ready to race! I had an awesome marathon and placed 40th with a time of 2:42:55.

2008 USA Olympic Marathon Trials

2012 – Houston, TX. I headed to these Trials at the age of 48. One son is now married with a daughter (my Granddaughter), my second in college and my ‘baby’ in high school and I’m also married now and have one step-daughter and one step-son! I’ve been racing now over a decade. I understand what a blessing it is to have a healthy body and be able to train as hard as it takes to run at the competitive level. I retired in 2009 because I was mentally and physically worn out but the spark came back and I started to train hard again. This training paid off as I won my 4th USA Master’s Championship in 2010 with a time of 2:44:43; this time qualified me for my third Olympic Trials. Knowing this would be my last opportunity to compete in the Olympic Trials, I was excited to experience all the Trials had to offer and to savor every moment of this amazing event; fully understanding how special is to be an Olympic Trials qualifier. My running expectations in this race, however, were very different from my previous two experiences. I came to Houston with the most challenging training cycle of my career and with the most stubborn injury I’ve had running. Yet, despite the training setbacks, I raced the best I could that day and finished with the biggest smile imaginable. While I was most definitely not heading to London as a top three finisher (placed 150th in a time of 3:05:45), I had the race of my life and fully enjoyed every single step of the way! Life is about the moments and this moment — this race — was priceless.

2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials

 My Road to Houston:

My Training. Training for my third Olympic Trails was probably the greatest mental and physical challenge of my running career. I injured my hamstring sometime in the late summer and continued training hard because I had a fall marathon, however, this injury caused me to pass on the Twin Cities Marathon – a marathon I LOVE and had run six times before. I even had to take over 4 weeks off from any running. Gone were my speed workouts; tempo workouts were out the door; and I was physically incapable of coming close to the normal mileage needed to run a competitive race. I spent every week in Dr. John Ball’s office so he could at least keep me patched together enough to toe the line of the Olympic Trials. I also had weekly visits to Jon Lempke for fascia stretching. My injury was such that the treatment goal was not to get me better—as that was not realistic – but rather was to prevent me from getting worse! Ugh!!

Six weeks before the trials I had a particular bad week of training. Each run had ended with me either limping home short of the scheduled mileage, having a friend pick me up because the pain was too great to even limp home or skipping the workout altogether. Needing to somehow maintain my conditioning despite my inability to run, I discovered what I thought might be a way to keep my fitness level up (and my spirits for that matter) while dealing with this frustrating injury. My answer was to try using an ElliptiGO. I was able to get one of these awesome ‘bikes’ the very next day and was able to talk directly with Brian, co-president of the company, about my particular injury and how the bike may best be used to meet my fitness and sanity goals! The ElliptiGO was truly a gift from heaven for me! This was exactly what I needed for both my body and mind. I spent a good deal of time cross-training on the ElliptiGo along with some slow running. I work out with the ElliptiGO without aggravating my injury and the bike was just fun! It kept me outside in the Arizona sun and gave me the aerobic workout I desperately needed. I wasn’t able to train as I would normally for a race as important as the Olympic Trials Qualifier but I did all that I could do until the pain stopped me in my tracks.

I'm in the U.S.A Olympic Marathon Trials!!

 The Trials are here! After months of challenge I was boarding the plane to compete in the Olympic Trials. My goal was to finish in less than 3 hours, but no matter what my time would be I was determined to enjoy every moment of this incredible journey. It was just a blessing to be able to run and participate. Life sometime throws you lemons and making lemonade out of them is the only acceptable way to fully enjoy life. Losing Sally Meyerhoff last spring really kept things in perspective for me too. She was on my mind a lot during my days in Houston. Each day is a gift. Live life, do your best and feel blessed.

 
 Coming to the Host Hotel was magical and exciting. Picking up my Elite Credentials, catching up with old friends, bumping into and chatting with the fastest runners in America (Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Desiree Davila, Kara and Adam Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Deana Kastor, Abdi Abdirahman), absorbing the positive energy all around and seeing the Olympic Trials signs everywhere were unbelievable. I was so happy that I was here and thanked my husband for suggesting that I try to qualify for a third Trials (never thought at 48 I’d be doing this again!). While I have great memories of the ‘04 and ‘08 trials, I had no souvenirs! This time the plastic came out and we purchased all the cool stuff the event had to offer!! This place became my own personal runners’ Disneyland; I was so excited that I could hardly keep my skin on!!

Race Morning! I woke up before the alarm feeling rested, excited and ready to experience this race. Usually I have butterflies and a strong level of seriousness (game face) because I’m preparing my mind and body to run uncomfortably hard and be competitive. Today, however, I was just excited and happy to be here.

Before the race with the adorable and fast Arianna and Coach John!!

My husband and I walked to the convention center to the Elite staging area. The Houston organizers were top notch and the pre-race stage area was fantastic. Here I was surrounded by the best marathoners in the country! The mood in the staging area is always low-key as each athlete does their last minute preparation. Bill knows this drill well and keeps off to the side yet is available when I or one of my running friends needs a little assistance with safety pins, fluids or a few pre-race photos. We dream of telling our zillion Grandkids that Grandma was in the Olympic Trials! Our 5 year old Granddaughter just thinks all Grandmas run every day and wear workout clothes 90% of the time. Ha!!

Race time is here! It’s time to leave the comfort of the convention center as the race officials walk us all outside to a holding pen close to the start line. The excitement at this point is over the top. The men are next to us doing their pre-race warm up and our race is minutes behind theirs so we begin our final warm ups as well. People are all around the holding pen watching us warm-up and taking pictures. I notice my dear friend and training partner Kerry Camberg and walk over to give her a big hug. I really had to hold back the tears because Kerry gave 200% trying to qualify for this day and fell short due to injury. Words were not needed as we hugged because we knew exactly what the other was thinking. My Bandidos teammate Arianna Hilborn was in the pen warming up with me, but I kept my distance so she could mentally prepare as I knew she was in the shape of her life and ready to ROCK this race. It really felt awesome to look around and see so many Bandidos there to support us like Derek, Allison, George, Eve, J.T., Donovan and of course Coach John!!

Ruth and I are all smiles before the race!!

It was almost race time. I began to look around for Ruth Perkins who was running today but not planning to finish due to a stress fracture. If you read my Twin Cities Marathon Blog, Ruth was the ring leader of the group of young women I ran with. She was instrumental in my win that day and it bonded us forever. Ruth and I spotted each other, hugged and she then asked if we could say a prayer together; chills came over me because that is exactly what I needed at that moment. There we were in the middle of the warm-up pen at the 2012 USA Olympic trials hugging and praying together before the race. It was a moment of clarity and calmness. God is in charge and my life purpose is to honor Him by doing the best I can, having faith in His plan, helping others and to be thankful for my family, friends, health and deeply satisfying life.

It’s now race time and we are all called to the starting line. I’m now frantically looking around for my other friend Jaymee Marty who is also injured but running. She shared the same goal as me . . . a 6:50 pace and finish no matter what! Jaymee and I met through the famous Dr. Ball who was treating each of our injuries for the past few months.

  

The three of us lined up in the back of the pack because no one at the Olympic Trials has a goal of running the slow pace of 6:50 per mile. Next thing you know, BOOM, the race begins. The three of us start running and within the first half mile the pack is putting distance on us. Let me tell you this…it took every ounce of self control I had to not run faster and keep up with the pack. In most marathons the last two miles are the most challenging, for me, at this race, the first two miles were the biggest challenge. The reality of really, truly having to run in the back of the pack was here and really happening to me!! It took me a few minutes to collect myself, accept my situation, be thankful again and get myself back into the present moment. At one point I instinctively started to pick up the pace and tried to catch the pack, but my hamstring quickly reminded me to back off. I had not run anything even close to a 6:50 pace for the last 3 months, but the competitor inside of me desperately wanted to run fast and be in the mix. However the goal was to finish and I simply could not risk worsening my injury or flaming out completely. I was going to finish this race and enjoy it. Besides, I had Ruth and Jaymee to keep me company; they were my gifts from God. We stuck to our plan of running a 6:50 pace. Ruth was keeping the crowd going by yelling “We’re at the Olympic Trials!” “Injury will not stop us!” her energy and excitement was contagious and thrilling! Jaymee and I were a bit more conservative as we knew that we needed every ounce of energy to complete the 26.2 mile journey. However, after I got over the initial shock of really running in the back of the pack, I started having the time of my life and my smile was so big that my face hurt almost as much as my hamstring.

As we ran in last place my thoughts kept going to a few of the amazing ladies that I coach that are back of the pack runners. They often share their insecurities with me about how it is embarrassing to be in the back, their fear of being last and their hope that the sweeper truck doesn’t pick them up. I always comfort and reassure them that they are amazing for accepting the challenge, training and doing their best. There are millions – zillions — of folks on the couch who haven’t accepted the challenge of running a half or full marathon. I tell them to hold their heads high and don’t worry about everyone else because running is about challenging yourself and being the very best that you can be. Heck, the reason marathons are so popular is the simple fact that it gives people a goal that takes them and only them to achieve. You can constantly challenge yourself and you can be successful every freakin day of your life!! Anyway, maybe the purpose/reason for my injury is to make me a better coach. I feel my strength as a coach is that I’ve been there and done that. However, I have never raced in the back of the pack and I’ve never worried about possibly finishing last in a race. So this was a new and humbling experience for me for sure. I thanked God for this opportunity and I wanted to call up Amber, Christine, Glenda and many others and say…I GET IT, I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND how you feel!! CARRY ON LADIES!! The journey is soooo worth the reward!!

I have to say that I enjoyed every single mile of this race and was almost in tears when I thought of how special it was to share this with Ruth and Jaymee! My new sole sisters!!

Ruth stopped around the half way point and that left Jaymee and I to solider on. When I compete I am always in the zone…big time! I don’t fully appreciate the crowds, scenery or runners around me. I am focused, determined and out to complete a task! Not this race however; I waved, smiled, blew kisses and thanked my friends for being out there. I needed their support more than ever and they were out there in full force screaming and cheering for me. Heck, even people I didn’t recognize were yelling my first name (only my last name was on the bib!) Almost felt like we were in first place and bringing up the rear.

Around 20 miles or so Jaymee kept getting behind. I would run up a little and look behind me to make sure she was there. However, every time I twisted my body to look that darn hammy would scream with pain. I found a comfortable stride — any slower hurt and any faster hurt more — so I decided I had to run my pace and wait for Jaymee at the finish.

When I rounded the final corners I almost thought that it was a different street because it sure looked and felt different without all the spectators. Most had left. Hmmm, crowd support does make a difference!! BIG TIME!!

Pure Joy!!

During the final mile tears started to fall because in my mind this was the end of a very magical chapter in my life. I’m ready to move forward and start something completely new, yet it’s so hard to let go of something that has been so intertwined in your body, mind and soul; something that is as much a part of me as breathing and eating. But change is growth and growth is moving forward and moving forward is living life to the fullest! One chapter of my live has ended and an entirely new – and unwritten – chapter now begins. I am ready!!

After months of struggle and hard work — physically, mentally and emotionally — I crossed the finish line of my third USA Olympic Trials. I did so feeling happy, content and full of purpose.

As soon as I crossed I looked up and there was my adorable husband and two of our best friends waving, yelling and cheering. Really, could this end any better?

Running gives you so much, like a new lifelong friend named Jaymee!!

I talked the race officials into letting me wait a couple minutes for Jaymee. As she crossed the finish line those darn tears came back. I was so happy for her and so happy that we had each other and our angel Ruth!

Experiences make life rich. I feel richer than Oprah Winfrey!!

Posted by: Susan Loken | January 11, 2012

Final post before the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials!!

My final blog post before the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials is actually the link below.  A blog written by Dimity McDowell, author of the book Another Mother Runner.

http://anothermotherrunner.com/2012/01/10/olympic-trials-preview-susan-loken/

I also want to take a minute to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to all my friends and family for the love, support and motivation that they have given me as I’ve trained for the 2012 Olympic Trials and during my entire running journey. I could not have even finished one marathon without you and I am forever grateful for each and everyone of you.

My life is a blessing because of my wonderful family and friends….THIS RACE IS FOR YOU!!!!

Keep on Believing,

Susan Loken

Posted by: Susan Loken | December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to Me!!

Everyone I’ve ever coached knows how strongly I believe in Positive Affirmations. The positive thinking and personal words of encouragement are absolutely essential for bringing about a particular desire or outcome. If you keep repeating a positive affirmation, soon enough the statement will be accepted by the mind as truth!

Here is an example how negative and positive statements work:

Yesterday, before my planned 13 mile run (5 at goal marathon pace), I was in a big funk. Despite my best efforts to stay positive, my mind kept thinking, you’re fat, you’re out of shape, you’re slow and the Olympic Trials are only 22 days away! Yes, I know that this Olympic Trials will be all about the experience and the honor of participating. However, today my mind decided to have a pity party about not being in competitive shape.

With all these self-defeating negative thoughts, I took off for my run. Needless to say, my thoughts created a awful outcome and my run was cut short. Defeated, I jogged back to my house.

My first Christmas gift this year was my neighbor, Matt. He drove by me as I was plodding my fat, out of shape and negative self up the hill to my house. He told me that he would be running 16 miles the next day. I immediately thought to myself, this is a such a gift, an opportunity to turn my awful negative thoughts into positive ones. Matt said that he would be at my house by 7am for our run!

When I got home from my run – my mind having already taken on a more positive outlook – there in front of me was my second Christmas gift, several boxes of running shoes from Sketchers! My friend Gerald Turetzky, whom I know from my time as a sales rep for Easy Spirit, is the key account manager for Sketchers. He has been sending me some of their latest running shoes to test out. As a matter of fact, on my “negative thinking run” I was wishing that I had the Sketchers “GO RUN” on instead of my Asics Trainers because I feel so light and fast in them. I was absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t help thinking, tomorrow I’ll be wearing a pair of my new running shoes by Sketchers and I’m going to kick some butt with Matt!

You see, my friends, positive thinking works! This morning I laced up my new Sketchers, put on my water belt, and smiled because I was back to my positive self and at 7am Matt and I were off for our run.

Today my thoughts were, I’m fast and light, I’m going to have a great run, I will get faster and fitter, and I love these new shoes. Guess how the run went. Matt and I ran 16 miles over hill and trail, averaging a 7:20 pace, and my hamstring didn’t even hurt! Each mile I completed, I looked down at our pace and kept thinking, Merry Christmas to me!! My third and most wonderful gift was the simple fact that I ran 16 miles today.

I am going to have a great run at the Olympic Trials, feeling quick, light, and fast in my new favorite running shoes from Sketchers. Every mile is a gift. Now, to decide which color to wear…

Give yourself the gift of positive thinking for Christmas this year. It truly is the greatest gift of all!

Posted by: Susan Loken | December 22, 2011

Experiment of One!

Well, the good news is that I’m running and my hamstring is feeling better. My training log is below and, as you can see, I’m slowly but surely adding more running into my schedule. I won’t necessarily have enough time to get in great shape, but I will be in the best shape possible, given the circumstances.

Training on the ElliptiGO  actually gives me the same “runners high” and the same feeling of accomplishment I get after finishing a good, hard run. This is really keeping me sane and fit for the trials. Let me tell you….this is a great cardio, leg and core workout!!

The excitement and energy surrounding the opportunity to run with the fastest women in the USA is indescribable. It amazes me that I actually qualified again and that I have the honor of participating once more. Despite the challenges and roadblocks along that way, I’ve made it. I’m both grateful and thrilled to be a part of something so incredible. Yup, my life is great!

I continue to see Dr. Ball twice per week and he’s working hard to help keep me up and running, and well enough to complete this marathon. Thanks for all your time and effort Dr. John Ball!

I actually enjoy visiting Dr. Ball twice a week because you just never know who will be on the table next to you. It could be Ryan Hall, Alicia Shay, Stephanie Rothstein, Lauren Fleshman (she was there yesterday), and the list just goes on. Top runners from all over the USA come to get put back together by Dr. Ball. He is the only healthcare professional in Arizona providing Graston, SASTM, and Active Release Techniques. I’m so lucky that his office is only five miles from my house!

I’m also streching with Jon Lempke http://www.stretchtherapy-az.com/About-Us.html once a week. Jon is a certified flexibility specialist and he works wonders on a tight runner like me.

Here’s my training schedule from the past week:

Dec 12, Monday: Ran 9 miles at 8 minute pace. The pain was manageable.

Dec 13, Tuesday: 9 miles at 8:20 pace. I didn’t feel great and ended up walking the last mile home because of hamstring pain.

Dec 14, Wednesday: ElliptiGO for 90 minutes on hilly loop. Heart-rate was up during uphill and it felt like I was at a strong heart-rate during the flats. My heart-rate seems to be lower on the ElliptiGO than in running. I feel better simply going by effort level and time, rather than driving myself crazy trying to reach a target heart rate and pace.

Dec 15, Thursday: Ran 8 miles at 7:19 pace. I felt pretty good. It looks like riding the ElliptiGO yesterday gave my hamstring enough time to recover so I could have a solid run effort today.

Dec 16, Friday: 60 minutes on the ElliptiGO on a hilly loop. I pushed hard up the hills to get heart-rate up and increased cadence on the flats. Going downhill, I break because I get going too fast. After working out on the ElliptiGO I feel refreshed, never spent and beaten up as you often do after hard runs.

Dec 17, Saturday: Ran 13 miles at an easy 8:20 pace with Cris and Allen. Hamstring felt good except on the final mile when I tried to speed up.

Dec 18, Sunday: 90 minutes on the ElliptiGO at a hard effort. Saturday’s run felt soooo easy. It was a blast running with Cris and Allan, but  it was frustrating not being able to run faster, so I released a lot of energy on the ElliptiGO today!!

Dec 19, Monday: 3 miles easy, 4×1 mile in mile 7:10 (uphill), 6:36 (downhill), 7:01 (uphill), 6:14 (downhill) and 3 miles easy. My hamstring felt pretty good. I did lot’s of stretching and will try running easy on Tuesday.

Dec 20, Tuesday: 8.5 mile trail run at an average pace of 8:30 and my hamstring felt good. Running 2 days in a row without having my hamstring stop me is a step forward. I rode the ElliptiGO later in the day to get in 45 minutes at a higher heart-rate since the trail run was at an easy effort.

Dec 21, Wednesday: Ok, I have a confession. Dr. Ball suggested that I ride the ElliptiGO today (run 2 days in a row, ElliptiGO every 3rd day) and then run 2 days in a row again. Well, I ran for 4 miles before riding the ElliptiGO because I’m a runner, the trials are only 3.5 weeks away and I’m freaking out a little. Anyway, the run went well and I averaged 7:30 pace and then I rode the ElliptiGO for 60 minutes on my usual hilly loop, pushing hard on the uphill sections.

Here’s my plan for the next 5 days:

Dec 22, Thursday: Run 13 miles with 4 of them at goal marathon pace (around 6:45)

Dec 23, Friday: Ride the ElliptiGO for 60 minutes

Dec 24, Saturday: 8 mile easy run

Dec 25, Sunday: 18 mile run with the goal of running the last five miles at goal marathon pace. PLEASE, let everything feel good so I can accomplish this run. I really need a depoist into my confidence bank!!

Dec 26, Monday: Elliptical machine. We will be out of town on a family ski trip in Park City for the next 4 days. Hopefully the streets will be clear and runable.

Believe, Train, Become,

Susan Loken

Posted by: Susan Loken | December 6, 2011

Where there is a will there is a way!

I'm a runner, how do you ride this?

I’m currently training for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials with an injury and I will do whatever it takes to stay fit, stay strong, and make it to the starting line ready to rock out 26.2 miles with the fastest ladies in the USA!

This weekend I started training on the EliptiGO outdoor elliptical bicycle (www.elliptigo.com) and I am very excited! I love running outside because it not only keeps my body fit and ready for competition, but it also serves the purpose of boosting my mental health and keeping me centered. For me, a daily run outside is as routine and necessary as eating, sleeping and praying each day.

A few weeks ago Ai Sullivan sent me a link to the ElliptiGO website and said that she thought this could be the answer for me. Although I initially didn’t do anything about it, last week I had lunch with Lauran Fleshman (Top USA runner) and Jaymee Marty (2012 Olympic Trials Qualifier) and both of them cross-train on the ElliptiGo. With all these signs, I know this device will be the best opportunity for me to stay physically fit and mentally sane until the Trials.

This weekend, I began training on the ElliptiGO for the Olympic Trials! This bike will keep my cardiovascular system strong along with building core and leg strength. It will also keep me exercising outside! 

Nothing is going to stop me from finishing the Olympic Trials. Nothing!

The bike is easy to ride (after you get used to it) and so much fun! I will be able to simulate all my running workouts on this bike by changing the daily miles to minutes and by keeping my heart rate at the correct intensity for each mile. It looks like I will ride almost twice the distance of my running miles to get the same workout. I burn around 40 calories per mile on the ElliptiGo and I burn around 80 calories per mile running, so twice the distance on the bike would be about right.

The bike takes a little getting used to initially, and the first few times my hands hurt because I was gripping the handle bars so tightly. However, after a few days on the bike, I’m catching on. Don’t worry, I’m a safety girl, so I wear a helmet and watch for cars.

Ready to go for a test spin!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      At first I wasn’t comfortable enough to go fast enough to get my heart rate up and I started getting worried, however, after talking with Bryan Pate, the Co-Founder and Co-President of ElliptiGo I found out that I  simply needed to correct a few things. In running language…My running form sucked and I was trying way too hard!

A few beginner tips for riding the ElliptiGo

1. Ride in a lower gear (3-4)

2. Increase my turnover/cadence.

3. Stand up tall and get my butt out of the bucket.

4. Loose grip on the handle bars, not a death grip.

5. Relax and Enjoy, stop trying so hard.

Well, all the riding tips paid off and today I ROCKED that bike! I rode for about an hour and my heart rate averaged around 139-149 bpm (my easy run pace) at a 4:16-4:30 minute per mile pace. My lactate threshold is 165 bpm. I’m working on getting comfortable at a faster speed before I begin speed or LT  workouts. I’m not a biker, so all this is in “running” language.

I did try running this morning, but my hamstring isn’t ready yet. It was a little sad, but after an hour on the ElliptiGo the sadness went away and was replaced with hope.

 I will keep you posted weekly on my progress.

Say Cheese!

Since my last blog on September 30th I’ve been putting all my energy and effort into healing my hamstring tear so I can begin training for the 2012 Olympic Trials.

Needless to say, it was very disappointing to drop out of the USA Women’s Master Marathon Championship and it has been a pretty big challenge trying to heal my hamstring injury quickly so I have enough time to train for the 2012 USA Olympic Trials.

So, in a nutshell here is what I’ve been up to and where I’m at

  • First MRI read showed that I had an 80% tear and things were not looking so promising, however my symptoms did not match up to this diagnosis. Thank goodness!!
  • Second read on the MRI disagreed that the tear was 80% and that I should be able to slowly start running. In this time frame the pain and flexibility had improved.
  • Cross-trained for a month. Thank you Steve Ellwell for getting me a 30 day pass at Lifetime fitness and thank you Kerry Camberg for taking me to spin class and showing me the ropes!
  • Started running/jogging again on October 24th
  • Karen, Me and Yohnnie after the race!! Running with friends...Priceless!!

    Ran the Healdsburg half marathon on October 29th in 1:31:00 just to test out my hamstring and have a fun weekend with my friends. YES, it is hard to line up behind the Elite in a race (I work hard to be an Elite) and it is even harder to win your age group (45-49) when your goal is usually to place in the top 3 overall. However, I was so grateful that I could simply run 13.1 miles that I accepted my age group award with a big fat smile on my face and I was Thrilled!!! My hamstring started burning around mile 7, so wasn’t out of the woods yet.

  • November 4-7 went to New York City with my team of 20 to watch them run the NYC marathon!! What a thrill that all 20 finished the marathon and had such a life changing experience!! I was asked to talk at the VIP/Charity breakfast for the New York City Marathon. What an honor!!It gave me the opportunity to thank everyone (Mary Wittenburg CEO, George Hirsch, NYRR board of directors) for my personal life changing experiences from running and winning the More Marathon 3 times, running the New York City Marathon as an Elite and having the privilege of volunteering for the NYC marathon for 3 years in a row and from my heart THANK them for giving Chances for Children the opportunity to have 20 runners train, raise money and run in one of the WORLDS BEST MARATHONS!!! I was also able to run 18 miles in Central park at a 7:20 pace and felt good! Maybe it was the positive memories that I have, I don’t know, but it felt awesome!!

    Team Chances New York City! Watching each of them succeed...Priceless!!

  • November 12th ran a local half marathon called Shun the Sun. I still have not done speed work so I just jumped in to make this a long run at a steady effort. I ran a 1:26 (6:36) pace and felt really good!! Ok, now I was excited to start full speed with training. I would slowly add speed work, lactate threshold runs and feeling very positive about having enough time to train so I would be in shape for a respectable time at the USA Olympic Marathon Trials.
  • Nov. 14-20…ran 59 miles this week with some speed and tempo miles and feeling like my old self again!!
  • Nov. 22nd ran 3 miles easy and the goal was to run 1 mile at 6:20, rest for 3 minutes, 1 mile at 6:15, rest for 2 minutes, 2 miles at 6:35, rest for 2 minutes, 1 mile at 6:20, rest for 3 minutes and 1 mile at 6:15…Well, as I started picking up the pace I could feel my hamstring and it continued getting worse until I had to stop and jog slowly back home. Not worth the risk. I had stopped taking NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to see how my injury felt without the help of this drug and I guess not so well.
  • Nov. 23 (today) ran for 2 miles before my stride was altered due to hamstring pain. Walked home disappointed, but not defeated!!
  • Bottom line…It is going to take more time than I have to heal this hamstring. I will not miss running my 3rd USA Olympic Marathon Trials. I can manage my hamstring w/ anti inflammatory, therapy from Dr. Ball and a bit slower pace running. My goal for the Trials will be to get to the starting line and finish giving 100% of whatever I have to give based on my injury and training.
  • Sometimes you don’t have control over your situation, but you always have control over your attitude. I accept this situation, I will do what I can, I will stay positive and I will continue to feel blessed that I qualified again and that I have the honor to participate.

 

 Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and in doing so I hope that you find just a tiny bit of inspiration to continue going for your dreams no matter the challenges!! Never give up!!!

Enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Hugs and Love,

Susan Loken

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself!!

First, let me explain the setting.  As I posted earlier, I currently have an injury that doesn’t let me run or even ride a bike.  I can swim (not my favorite) or use an elliptical trainer.  I’ll choose the elliptical trainer over swimming laps anyday. And I use that phrase “swim” loosely – if you’ve seen me swim, you’d understand.

So today I go to the YMCA to get 60 minutes of x-training in on the elliptical. Unfortunately, there isn’t any aerobic activity I like to do that remotely compares to my love of running.  Also, I’m not a big fan of exercising indoors either, even if on a treadmill.  So cross-training, indoors, on an elliptical machine is a real challenge for me!

Challenge or not, I’m here and ready to get to work.  I set my iPod on some great music, jump on the elliptical and start going.  I’m getting into my zone, feeling pretty good at my progress and then decide to look at my watch. Five minutes?  I’ve only been on this contraption for five minutes?  UGH, this is going to be a long, slow, challenging hour, I told myself.

I was a bit bored, and looking for something to interest me for the next 55 minutes, and so my eyes start wondering.  Right next to me I find what will be my interest, my focus, and my purpose for the next 50 or so minutes.  You see, next to me was a woman who was also gliding back and forth on an elliptical machine.  I casually glanced over at  her settings (I know that is tacky, but it gets worse) and I noticed that my speed was faster than hers!  But, that is not all, I also discovered that I had already gone farther than she had and it looked like she had been on it a little bit before me since she had a good sweat starting.

Ok, now I had a goal and a purpose.  My goal was now to see how far ahead of her I could get at an intensity level that was 10 points harder than what she was going (10 points!).  Now, in hindsight, I guess I really didn’t have a purpose. But, at the time, thinking that I had a purpose helped me justify silently competing with this nice woman, who was just there to get in a workout in peace!

So, here I am at the local YMCA racing against some innocent lady that was just wanting to get her workout in before her days begins. Well, she got off at 30 minutes and I was 1.5 miles ahead of her! YES! So, for the next 30 minutes, I alternated one minute with arms and one minute with legs and kept the pace at 7:30 minutes per mile and the intensity level at 15. Wow, I was rocking now! Next thing I knew my 60 minutes was up. Well, I ended up staying on that thing for 5 more minutes, just because.

So, that was my morning. A special thank you to the lady I ‘raced.’ I know you had no idea that I was trying to kick your butt, but I did, and it helped boost my confidence just a little when I could use it.

Kind of pathetic?  Absolutely!  But I can’t run, I’m not competing in the TCM on Sunday and I needed something to boost me up. So all I can do is laugh at myself today (and you are free to do so as well)!

Hmmm … I wonder how my competition will stack up tomorrow at elliptical row. I’m ready to silently take on all comers and bring my A game!

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