Posted by: Susan Loken | May 28, 2014

Bittersweet Recap of Boston

Perhaps my expectations were too high.

I have had a successful running career. I’ve been granted so many experiences that many only dream of. I am so grateful for every race I’ve competed in and every friend I’ve made along the way. However, all of the highlights and wins have set a high standard that I can’t always live up to.

Since my return from Boston, I’ve been consumed with my BTB Runners, our BTB Santa Barbara Half group and patiently working with my injured ankle. Finally, I’m taking the time to sit down and write about my 2014 Boston Marathon experience.

If you want the one line summation, it was a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re interested in all the juicy and exciting details, keep on reading!

At the Boston Marathon this year, my mind was ready but my body failed me. And this isn’t the first time. I usually bounce back from disappointments quickly, but this loss has taken some effort to overcome. I’m getting emotional just writing this because I wanted so badly to do my best. I wanted to live up to the high bar I’ve set for myself. I wanted to serve as living proof that when you believe in yourself, dreams come true!

Perhaps my disappointment has to do with the fact that I’ve run my last 3 marathons with injuries beyond my control. In the 2012 Olympic Trials, it was my hamstring. With the 2013 PF Chang’s Marathon, I hurt my calf a week before the race. Most recently, I hurt my ankle 3 weeks before the 2014 Boston Marathon. I did my best in each race, and that was all I could ask of myself.

Arrival and Preparation

The 2014 Boston Marathon was everything you could imagine and more! The city was filled with positive energy, smiling runners and kind Bostonians welcoming us to their beautiful city.

On the Saturday before the race, I held a BTB Team Lunch to discuss race day, take pictures and share our excitement. I was one proud coach as I watched Kelly LeCours, Cindy Scott, Carrie Weldy, Kaylee Barton, Cris Caccavale and Daradee Murray talk about how eager they were to run Boston and take part in this historical event.

Shortly before venturing to Boston, Team BTB began a beautiful relationship with Oiselle athletic wear. Not only would be performing a huge feat of physical endurance, but we would look fantastically cute while doing so!  Thank you Oiselle!!

Race Morning

It has been over 10 years since I started a marathon in the corrals, rather than up with the Elite and front runners. In that sense, Boston was very humbling reminder of my early running days.  I met Carrie Weldy at the buses so we could ride together and share the experience. Having endured many hard training sessions together in preparation for Boston, it made sense for us to ride together toward the start line.

The Athlete’s Village was full of excited runners, loud announcements and an incredible energy that you could feel with every cell of your body. As exciting as all the commotion was, it was a bit nerve wracking for me because I prefer to stay quiet and calm before a race. I also like to spend about 20-30 minutes warming up before a race, as it takes my body a little longer to go from zero to pace these days. However, with the extra security and limited area, there was no opportunity to warm-up. Instead, I used some self-talk and told my body and mind that it would warm-up during the first mile before going to race pace.

TIP: Having a pre-race routine will help calm your nerves and prepare you for a good race. However, on race day you must be flexible. If something doesn’t go as planned, don’t waste energy worrying about it. Instead, adjust accordingly and keep your mind in the moment and as positive as possible.

I began the race in Wave 1/Corral 3. We left the Athlete’s Village around 9am for a 10am start time. When I arrived at my Corral, I was thrilled to see Joel McCleary (Dr. J!), my old running partner and good friend. Sharing that special hour leading up to the race with Joel felt fitting, and very calming.

Participating in the 2014 Boston Marathon was the perfect opportunity for me to reflect back on my running journey. Over the years, I’ve built myself a village of supporters and overcome many challenging hurdles. I’ve experienced many successes and have gathered enough memories to last a lifetime. I’ve pushed myself and I’ve done my absolute best. Hopefully I have also inspired others to BELIEVE in themselves, TRAIN hard and BECOME all they can be!

Ready, Set, Go!

The race started and the track was pretty crowded. I tell my runner not to zigzag around the other runners at the start of the race. Instead, be patient and use this opportunity to keep your pace controlled so you can unleash your race pace when the crowds simmer down. My first few miles were slower than my planned pace due to the multitudes, but this was a good thing because it allowed my body to warm up at the start.

After about 4 miles, there was room to run my race with a comfortable effort. There was no doubt in my mind that I would run a sub 2:50 and be the new 50+ course record holder.

However, by mile 8 I knew that my ankle was going to be an issue. An overwhelming disappointment flooded my body as I weighed whether or not I should press on. I thought of dropping out to avoid further injuring myself, because you can’t run your best if you aren’t physically at your best. However, a small part of me thought maybe, just maybe, I could still pull off a sub 2:50 and break the course record. It took some serious self-talk, but I finally made the decision to push as hard as I could, take it one mile at a time and NEVER GIVE UP.

Finding a Way

When running Boston, my mind never felt fully in race mode. During this race, I was not racing against anyone else, but rather I was racing against the clock and against the record-holder. I’ve always enjoyed running alongside other women in order to feed off of their incredible energy and give myself the boost I need to press through. This race was different. The pain in my ankle distracted me, at times, from the joy and excitement of doing what I love. The last 10k is usually where I dig deep and finish strong, but for Boston I had to dig deep and simply hang on.

Despite the many challenges, that day was exceptional. The crowds lining the street were unbelievable and the cheering was impossible to ignore. Running down Boylston was absolutely electrifying.

Though my run was fueled by big dreams and passion, the marathon wasn’t about me. It is about the runners I coach, those who have traveled from around the world to compete, the enthusiastic spectators and the communities that have come together following last years tragedy. The Boston Marathon has come to symbolize the strength and support of a country, a community and a sport. It’s about keeping Boston Strong.

As I ran the best race I could, I thought about my runners and last years survivors. I ran to honor the hard work and perseverance of others.

Crossing the Finish Line

Considering that I thought about succumbing to the pain and dropping, completing the race in 2:55:03 and finishing 1st in my age group was great! The fact that I crossed the finish line at all is worth celebrating. This was not my original goal, but I’ll take it. My dream for the 2014 Boston Marathon was to break the Women’s Veterans (ages 50-59) course record, which is currently held by running legend and Olympic Gold Medalist, Joan Samuelson. I will back in Boston this time next year to achieve that goal!

Though I fell short of my goal, I consider myself lucky. Not only did I have the privilege to run in the Boston Marathon, but I also got to share the excitement of finishing the race with 6 amazing women that I coach. Each of them made me proud.

Bouncing Back After Boston

Upon my return from Boston, I had an MRI taken of my right ankle. There are a few things going on that will NOT be a quick fix. These include posterior tibialis tendinosis and a partial tear, as well as a medial talar dome osteochondral lesion that may be a lingering past injury. There is no quick and easy fix. To start, I’m getting orthotics to take some pressure off of my tendon and taking a little time off running.

Even with my ankle injury, I am able to walk, stand on my toes and run a little. However, my top priority is to be a forever runner. For this reason, I need to be gentle with my body and cautious with my training. My next goal is to discover my true potential as a 50 year old runner. I have already accomplished so much, but I know that there is so much more in store for me! These are my most important dreams and I am going to achieve both.

I have dealt with injuries in the past. In 2012, when my hamstring injury came back, I was told that my running days may be behind me. With faith, dedication and a lot of hard work, my hamstrings are doing great and now a non-issue.

I have learned that, as long as I’m diligent about my strength exercises and mindful of keeping an efficient running form, I can overcome the toughest obstacles and perform at my personal best.

Along with having a regular personal practice, I’ve found that teamwork and accountability also help me achieve my goals. I am currently a proud member of the Sonoran Distance Project–a running team composed of US Olympic hopeful distance runners, led by coach John Reich (who coached me for the 2008 trials). You had better believe that I am giving 200% to get back into prime condition and make this team proud!

Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead

I can’t tie up the post with a nice little bow and say that I’m proud of myself for sucking it up and giving the race my all. To say so would be a lie.

I finished with an overwhelming disappointment. I had hoped to discover my true potential as a 50 year old. I wanted to prove to myself that I still have it in me, and that I am still a fighter. My performance this time around was far from what I’m capable of, even at my age and 10 years into my running career.

You may be asking why I don’t just hang up my running shoes and accept that my body is done. Sometimes I can’t help but ask myself the same question. Is my body telling me to slow down? Should I stop running altogether? Why am I passionate about discovering my running potential during this decade?

I know in my heart that I can dig deeper and achieve more. I have the drive. I have the talent. I have the self-belief. I can succeed, and I will. Running and discovering my potential during this decade makes me feel alive and happy. As long as my heart and soul have the passion (and they do!) I absolutely refuse to give up.

I may be 50, but I know that there is a fire deep inside of me that can’t be stomped out or ignored. I’ve thought long and hard about giving up long-distance running and taking up a new hobby. Maybe I could compete in triathlons or venture into ElliptiGO challenges…

Yet, somewhere deep in my soul, there is a voice that speaks to me. When doubts arises, a small voice whispers, “Don’t give up.” As the challenge intensifies, the cry builds to a roar, screaming, “Keep going! The best is yet to come!”

The best is yet to come. I know in my heart that this is true.

I think this is why so many people, regardless of age or pace, are so passionate about running. The sport offers a sense of true self-satisfaction because, when you finish a race, you know that you trained hard and ran your best race. Running helps people discover their full potential, then continually expands their limits to help them achieve even more. Doing your absolute best is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Then, on top of that, there is the feeling deep in your soul that keeps you coming back for more, year after year. When you finish a race and you KNOW there is more potential within you, waiting to be awakened. This is what gives us the drive and the motivation to keep training hard, day after day. Once we taste victory, we can’t help but strive for more!

Post-Race Recovery: Workout Schedule

This has been my schedule for the last five weeks to stay in shape, challenging myself but also being gentle with my body. I’m hoping this will allow me to return to running sooner than later.

Weekly Recovery Workout Schedule:

MONDAY: 1 hour strength training + 1 hour spin class

TUESDAY: 60-90 minute Steady State ElliptiGo Ride

WEDNESDAY: 1 hour strength training + 1 hour spin class

THURSDAY: 45-90 minute aerobic ElliptiGo Ride

FRIDAY: 30 minute elliptical + 1 hour strength train

SATURDAY: 40-60 minute easy ElliptiGo Ride during BTB group long run

SUNDAY: 60-120 minute Endurance ElliptiGo Ride

The Silver Lining

This post has taken me some time to write. I was truly hoping to share some good news and positivity. I wish I could say that my ankle is healed and I’m training as hard as ever, but the truth is,  I’ve been injured and doing what I can. It’s been necessary for me to take some time off running, care for my body and then I will start over.

The runner in me–the true warrior–is willing to do whatever it takes to live with passion every day and achieve ultimate success. I have faith, I have the patience and determination to uncover the fullest potential in this 50 year young body.

My performance in Boston was bittersweet, but I am proud because I worked hard and I persevered. Looking ahead, I am excited because I truly believe that the best is yet to come!

Keep on Running, Keep on Believing & Find a Way,

Susan Loken

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Your honesty is such a gift to so many. Love you, Loken. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for changing my life in all the best ways.

  2. Susan, thank you for your passion and honesty. It helps us to know we ALL have challenges along the way and that you are human. This my dear friend/coach is why I stalked you!! I could see the person you were in the documentary and I KNEW YOU were the one to coach me no matter what it took for me to make that happen! We are NOT done even in our new decade. Thank you for your coaching, support, inspiration and your friendship. xoxo!! Your #1 fan!
    Kelly BTB PROUD!!


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