Posted by: Susan Loken | March 2, 2015

Instant Inspiration: Week 1

Current Situation: After a week of depression and deciding which road I wanted to follow, I’ve decided to pick myself up and continue toward my goal. I am remembering the things that I CAN do and the ways that I can STILL inspire others. In the coming weeks and months, I will be sharing some weekly inspiration with you as I walk down this path of recovery and redefine my dreams in the face of my hamstring injury and wounded spirit.

Taking Action: Last Monday, I began a 3-day Juice Cleanse as a way to pick myself up with a clean start. Back on the horse! With this cleanse, I am able to start each day off on the right foot. Taking care of myself, inside and out, is important. Consumed the right foods while recovering is just as vital as eating right during intense training. After I cleanse my body, I intend to eat healthy and healing foods. I have an appointment with Dr. Akerson to discuss my hamstring and figure out what happened. I have also planned a 1200 meter swim session using a pull boy, so my hamstring can continue healing.

Quote of the Day: “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” -Thomas Carlyle

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Posted by: Susan Loken | March 1, 2015

A Bad Week and Some Soul-Searching

Last week, I hit an all-time low. I felt depressed and ready to give up. Like, really depressed, for the first time in my life.

My husband, Bill, and I were in Encinitas for 5 days, swimming every day (the best cross-training while injured). While swimming one day, my hamstring got so bad that I could barely walk! Even sleeping comfortably was hard. DARN, now even SWIMMING hurts!

My spirit was crushed and my enthusiasm hit an all-time low after this major backslide with my hamstring.

I needed some time and some space to answer the questions that were clouding my mind and clogging up my heart. I spent all week sleeping in, feeling bad for myself and questioning everything in my life.

I asked myself:

Do I want it bad enough to continue with the time-consuming and expensive work that needs to be done?

YES.

Do I want it bad enough to take that time away from my coaching business?

YES.

Do I want it bad enough that I’m willing to put in 120% effort?

YES.

Why do I want to do this?

Because running is my passion! Pushing my body, mind and spirit to their limits makes me feel alive and fills my heart with joy. Running makes me feel confident, challenged and ready to conquer my next big goal!

What is my purpose?

I believe with all my heart that I’m here to inspire others and help them to believe in themselves. My aim is to lead a healthy and passion-filled life, living each moment to the fullest. My purpose is make a difference in the lives of family, friends, clients and runners all around the world.

Should I find another sport since injuries are making running so difficult?

I plan to add more swimming to my weekly regimen since my body is not currently able to handle the additional miles.

Am I ignoring the many signs that I physically need to quit?

No, I believe I am addressing all the signs by adding additional PT, ST, XT, NMT and more to my weekly schedule. I’m trying to continue doing what I love, but playing it safe.

Do I still have the support of my husband?

I asked him and he is 100% supportive and believes that I can still reach all of my goals.

Am I still an inspiration to others, or just that old runner that refuses to hang up her shoes?

I’ve been told I’m more real now, and more relatable. Like everyone else, I have struggles. I work hard and, even in the face of adversity, I refuse to give up without a fight. Now I’m not just a fast runner, but an example of perseverance and grit. Getting older is a new challenge for my body and mind, but I’m up for the challenge and plan to show this “old” body exactly what it’s capable of accomplishing!

Should I invest more time to my business, rather than giving so much time to myself?

I will keep my business to a balanced minimum so I can give my running goals the attention they deserve, while remaining an awesome coach to my runners. I will not take on more than I can handle.

Should I get a “real job” already?

Maybe someday, but not today. And probably not tomorrow, either.

They say that the tide turns right when someone is about to give up. Many people give up just before the light at the end of the tunnel. I refuse to be the person who gives up just because I’m faced with a new challenge.

I am viewing this situation as an opportunity for me to learn, grow and become a better version of myself. My bad week helped me realize how strong I am, how resilient I am and how committed I am to pursuing my passion and doing whatever it takes to achieve my dreams!

Posted by: Susan Loken | February 16, 2015

Take Daily Action to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Your Dreams

Life is series of ups and downs, but sometimes the negatives appear to outweigh the positives. The biggest lesson I’ve taken away from the challenge and frustration is to fall seven times and get up eight.

2010 was a great year for me.  I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2:44:41 to win my 4th Masters Title, got engaged to a wonderful man and qualified for my 3rd Olympic Marathon Trials. This was all after 8 years of amazing successes. Since then, it seems that I’ve had one setback after another. However, I love the my journey and my heart will not let me give up or back down.

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In 2012, I went into the USA Olympic Marathon Trials with a severely torn hamstring and finished 3:05:11 (3rd from last).

In 2013, after a year spent healing my hamstring, I pulled my calf muscle two weeks before the PF Chang’s at Houston Half Marathon, finishing 6th place overall in a disappointing 2:59:55.

In 2014, after working to get back in shape, I ran the Boston Marathon with a sore ankle and later learned that I had a partial tear in my posterior tibialis tendon. I placed first in my age group with a disappointing 2:55:02, missing the Veterans Course record.

Since the 2014 Boston Marathon, I have completely fixed and strengthened my ankle tendon (through PT with Nicole Armbrust, Prolotherapy with Dr. Tallman, and ST with Watus Cooper) and have been training for the 2015 Boston Marathon Veterans Course record that I missed in 2014. My excitement was shattered four weeks ago when the hamstring that gave me trouble in 2012 tore again!

Seeing me disappointed and broken-hearted, my dad asked, “Why do you keep doing this, baby? Why don’t you just hang it up and be happy with the success that you’ve had? You are a great coach–isn’t that enough?”

The mere thought of giving up on my goal to run the 2016 Olympic Trials at 52 and break the Boston Marathon Course record brought crocodile tears to my eyes and a heaviness to my heart. Giving up my passion and giving up on my dreams would feel like death, whereas getting up after each fall makes me feel alive!

I love the journey, I love the athlete lifestyle, and I love being a role model for the BTB runners that I coach! I love being part of an Elite women’s team (SDP Stronger Together) and, most of all, I love the opportunity to inspire others to dream big! I love waking up everyday with a goal, a purpose, a dream–this is why I can’t bring myself to stop.

So, after my seventh fall, I decided to get up an eighth time. I quickly got over my pity party and began my plan of attack for moving forward. Watch out dreams–I’m coming after you!!


So here’s the plan for attaining my big dreams:

Weekly Schedule

Monday: 5:30 am Barbell Class at Lifetime Fitness + ElliptiGO or Swim + Physical Therapy (PT) with Nicole Armbrust

Tuesday: 7:30 am Strength Training (ST) with Watus Cooper + 6:30 pm Master Swim Session at Lifetime

Wednesday: 5:30 am Coach Track + ElliptiGO or Swim for 60 minutes + 9:30 am PT with Nicole

Thursday: 8:30 am Barbell Class at Lifetime + 6:30 pm Master Swim at Lifetime

Friday: 7:30 am ST with Watus + Swim or EliptiGO

Saturday: 6 am BTB Long Run (walk or ElliptiGO with group)

Sunday: Endurance Swim or ElliptiGO

Additional: Daily stretching (including Hip flexor stretch, Front butt stretch, and Single leg hip abduction), Rehab exercises, Prolotherapy on my hamstring (which was instrumental to healing my ankle) and a bi-weekly massage

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it! The setbacks have been tough, but it would be even worse to give up. I BELIEVE I can do this, and I will!!

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Sometimes life gets in the way of training, so here’s a workout that Watus gave me to follow when I’m out of town and don’t have access to my normal equipment.

Travel Workout

The below workout consists of parts:”Series A, B and C.” Move through each series twice before moving onto the next series (i.e. Complete 2 rounds of Series A before moving on to Series B).

Warm Up:
Mini Band Forward/Side Walks
15 Steps in each direction

Series A - Repeat 2x
Band above knees, TINY Squat Jumps w/ 5 sec. hold at bottom
15 reps

Band above knees Glute Bridge (2 sec. hold at top)
15 reps

Deep Sumo Squats
25 reps

Side Plank w/ Leg Raise
15 reps each side

Series B - Repeat 2x
1 Leg Box/Chair Squats
12 each

Lateral Lunge Walks
12 Steps in each direction

Lateral Step Ups on to bench or chair (or small wall on the boardwalk)
12 each leg

Side Plank with Leg Raises
15 reps each side

Series C – Repeat 2x
Band Hydrant Kick Backs
20 each leg

Curtsy Lunges
10-12 each leg

Band above knees – 20 Squats followed by 20 sec. of Holding the squat position

These are all great exercises to keep you moving and in-shape when you’re on the road or don’t have access to a track, a gym or your favorite equipment!

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Of all the lessons I’ve learned, one of the most important has been to Dream Big and Plan Hard! Dreams motivate us to keep going, but we’ll never know how to reach our goals without taking daily action and defining tangible milestones.

Though many of my big goals have been  interrupted by challenges and setbacks, I always make the CHOICE to find a new training plan that will allow me to still pursue my big dreams, in spite of ANY injury. The right attitude and a commitment to your goals can help you to also overcome your obstacles and achieve all of your dreams!

Posted by: Susan Loken | January 14, 2015

Believe UCAN

As runners, we are always looking for that new product that will fuel us and help us feel better. We seek out innovations that will help us race faster, avoid injury, grow stronger and offer an extra edge in achieving our goal.  

Well, last September I began training and racing with UCAN sport drink, alongside other products. In time, I noticed that every time I used UCAN I felt better, ran stronger, was more energized and improved my race.

To be perfectly honest, it took me a little while to figure out that the UCAN product was the source of my increased performance and the positive differences in my training and racing. The answer came to me at a race last November. I get butterflies in my stomach before races, so I can’t eat food and electrolyte drinks alone are not enough. Before this particular race, I drank UCAN with its natural, gluten-free SuperStarch. Incredibly, I ran 8 seconds per mile faster than I had planned and felt great doing it!

I attributed my stellar performance to my training and chance, and continued to train with other products. However, that race piqued my interest in UCAN. As I incorporated UCAN into my regular regimen, my energy during workouts continued to improve. I looked into the science behind the product and became even more convinced of its effectiveness. Super Starch carb releases slowly and gives you the energy you need at just the right rate, rather than overloading your body with unnecessary calories. It actually minimizes your need to refuel and you burn fat instead of sugar. Awesome!

UCAN

After my personal success with the UCAN product, I decided that I wanted to solely use the UCAN for my training. As runners, we are always looking for the best product for our own biochemistry at different stages of our life and career. This is the product I now recommend for the runners that I coach, and anyone else who is looking to improve their endurance, speed and stamina.

I feel that UCAN is one of the best products on the market and the PERFECT product for me! Since I have found so much success with UCAN, I have accepted an invite to join their UCAN Elite Team. I am proud to announce that I am truly representing a product that I 100% BELIEVE helps my running!!

Give it a try and see how you feel!!

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Tips on Fueling Your Run with Varun Sriram from Generation UCAN at Sole Sports

 

Keep Believing, Keep Running & Believe UCAN,

SL

Posted by: Susan Loken | December 29, 2014

Run With It!

I have a HUGE announcement that I am so excited to share with you!!

As you may already know, I run with the Sonoran Distance Project (SDP), a female distance running team that supports runners in their efforts to make World Championship and Olympic Teams. It is humbling to be part of such a magnificent group. Above and beyond that, our team just received an incredible honor.

P&G (Proctor and Gamble) is now the corporate sponsor of Sonoran Distance Project. They will equip the SDP team with racing kits, body work and blood work, enabling all 15 of us all to train at the level necessary to reach out DREAMS!! P&G believes in US and is proud to support women’s distance running in the USA, and we are so proud of our new partnership!

P & G Logo

Life can be crazy and unpredictable. Things do not always go according to plan, but I have come to learn that everything always happens at the RIGHT time. You can plan to your heart’s delight, but life won’t necessarily play by your rules or stick to your plan. The unexpected will inevitably interrupt your detailed hopes for the future. When they do, remember to RUN WITH IT!!

The number one question that I have been asked over the years is, “Do you wish you had started running earlier? Do you wish you would have run in college? Can you imagine what kind of runner you would have been?” My answer is always the same: “Heck no! NO WAY!!” I have had a wonderful journey and I wouldn’t change a thing. I like the runner I AM, not the runner I could have been.

The only thing I have ever wished I had done differently was train like a professional, with an Elite Sponsored Team. I’ve seen some SUPER MAGICAL things happen when powerful and inspirational women join together as a team. The camaraderie and accountability can take you to a new level. When you train with the fastest of the fast, you begin to run faster. Over the years, I have seen different Elite teams at races and thought about how cool it would be to be part of one. Now, at age 51, I am part of an Elite Sponsored Team.

SDP Girls

Like everything in life, this particular goal came to fruition on it’s own terms. I had patience and I ran with it.

A few months ago, I met with John Reich, the coach of SDP. He invited me to be on the board of directors for the Sonoran Distance Team. As we chatted, it became very clear that my heart still had it’s own racing goals, so I decided that I would join the team. I loved John’s dream goal for the team of finding a sponsor so he could devote all of his coaching talent to training the team at the highest level.

I left that meeting with hope and a strong feeling in my heart that his dream would come true when it was meant to. I believe that when someone has a dream and is willing to share it with the world and have faith, good things will happen. Well, good things are certainly happening! This AWESOME sponsorship has helped John’s dream come true, and mine.

Life has a unique path laid out for all of us. Accept wherever the road take you, and RUN WITH IT!!

Posted by: Susan Loken | November 4, 2014

Honored, Humbled, Happy

“The true essence of running is that it’s a passageway to another world. When transported to that other world, everything seems possible, and when you believe that you can achieve anything, you will.”

I first experienced that “other world” shortly after the birth of my third son. New in the Valley and eager to make friends, I joined one group after another.

Running was the one that stuck.

Along with becoming my preferred social activity, hitting the pavement taught me to believe in myself and encouraged me to dream bigger.

Running became my passion. The running community became my second family.

I’ve learned that runners all have one thing in common. We set a goal, fix our eyes on the finish line and run, walk or crawl until we reach our destination.

But the beauty of running is that, though it’s an individual sport, none of us could do it alone. We challenge, support and cheer one another on. We share the same goals: train, improve , achieve… then repeat.

We are all fueled by the same passion. We wake up each morning, excited to train, to achieve and to inspire. We climb out of bed each morning determined to do better, to be better.

And because we believe that we can achieve absolutely anything, we do.

I was honored and humbled to be inducted into the Arizona Runners Hall of Fame. Thank you so much to Art Mollen, the 3TV Half Marathon, and everyone involved with this award. Thank you to the local running community and everyone who has supported me on my journey!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

SL

Susan Arizona Runners Hall of Fame vertical

Accepting my award, joined by my newest little fan–my granddaughter!

Posted by: Susan Loken | October 20, 2014

His Number One Fan

Friday night was Taylor’s final soccer game at ASU. My middle son has been playing sports for all his life, but this particular chapter will come to a close as he graduates in May. Taylor was a standout baseball player throughout high school, until his senior year when he took up golf. He quickly became an exceptional golfer and played the sport for two years at a junior college. When he began at ASU, he tried out for the soccer team and proved himself to be a valuable team member. This year–his final year at ASU–he was named team captain and given a new opportunity to shine.

Taylor’s biggest fan, through each and every sport, has been his Grandpa. Grandpa never, and I mean NEVER, misses a game. There was one time when my father was in the hospital and begged the doctors to be released early, simply so he would not miss his grandson’s game. Truly, this man is Taylor’s Number One Fan.

Friday night was an emotional night for Taylor. College will soon become a fond and distant memory. Real world responsibilities will replace the camaraderie and fun of team sports. As this journey ends and another prepares to unfold, it only seems fit that Grandpa would be on the sidelines cheering for his favorite athlete.

Taylor, recognizing and appreciative of his biggest supporter, runs over to his Grandpa after every goal he scores. He does this at ALL games, during each season. It has become their special ritual. IMG_0177 Taylor’s final soccer game at ASU field ended with a win. When the game ended, he ran over to hug his Grandpa and celebrate the victory.

Soon, the entire team and coach followed. Rather than simply exchanging hellos and high fives, everyone gathered around Grandfather and Grandson. They had come over to present Grandpa with a ASU Soccer jersey, signed by the entire team.

Taylor had signed the jersey earlier, not realizing that the team would, hours later, offer this special gift to his number one fan… Grandpa.

As the team presented the jersey to Grandpa, tears of joy fell from his eyes. It was one of the most touching moments of his life. In 51 years, I’ve only seen my Dad cry twice. Last night was one of those times.

This thoughtful act of kindness not only touched my dad’s soul; it also touched his grandson’s. My son views his team as an extended family and last night they sure acted like family. The ASU Soccer team cares enough about their teammates to not only support one another, but to extend that graciousness to loved ones and supporters.

To see them present my father with that symbolic jersey was one of the most beautiful acts of kindness I have ever witnessed. Pure happiness filled the faces of two people that I absolutely love–my father and my son.

As I watched a Grandson and his Number One Fan embrace, my soul swelled with an inexplicable joy. It was one of the best moments of my life.

We all have that one fan, supporter or loved one cheering us on. Perhaps, take a moment this week to acknowledge that special person who has always been there for you. Say thank you in a small, but memorable way. IMG_0180

Posted by: Susan Loken | August 27, 2014

Together We Achieve More: The Many Benefits of Teamwork

My running career began alongside a small and diverse group of novice athletes, organized through the YMCA. When I showed up on my first day, I didn’t even know what a 400 meter repeat was. With the help of an experienced coach ( Heidi Wildy) and supportive group members, I was able to jump start my running. As a matter of fact, that very coach was at the first marathon I ever won (Tucson, 2002).To this day; I vividly recall her jumping up and down screaming, “You are a world class athlete!” I didn’t even know what that meant, but her energy and excitement has stayed with me far longer than the thrill of winning.

Over the years, I have learned that success is not a solo journey. Teamwork is all about individuals coming together to achieve a common goal. Members arrive with a clear (or not so clear) personal goal, but quickly adopt the team’s vision. The synergistic energy of the team encourages every member to aim higher, achieve more and support their teammates in doing the same. I have learned, with experience, that it is beneficial to train with runners who have similar goals or who are just slightly faster than you. This can help bring out your personal best.

I soon outgrew the YMCA group and began running with a team called the Bandidos. I credit that team and my great coach (Brett Schumacher) with helping me believe in myself and achieve some of my biggest dreams. Seeing someone at their worst, helping them up and then watching them press through until the finish line creates a bond you won’t find elsewhere. To this day, some of my best friends are from those early running groups.

As I developed as a runner, I realized that I could begin coaching a team and offer other runners the opportunity to develop the support, accountability and friendship that I gained from my teams. BTB allows me to watch these amazing women (and men) nourish one another’s’ goals and celebrate each other’s victories. We have an awesome team!

 

Team BTB 2014

Team BTB (missing a few )

When you are part of a cohesive team with a shared vision, people notice and want to get involved. Team BTB continues to attract stellar women (yes, a few guys too!) of all backgrounds and experiences. Our mission as a team is to achieve our personal goals, to support one another, and to inspire other women to pursue their dreams, no matter what!

A perfect example is Michelle. During a difficult divorce, Michelle was able to draw strength from our running group. Being lovingly pushed toward her goals helped her to gain confidence and reclaim her happiness, both on and off the track. She has rediscovered her wings and is now flying on her own. She met a new man, has a new home and loves her life. Like Michelle, members may come and go. Sometimes they just need us for a short time to prepare other dreams, while some work and grow alongside one another for years.

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Together we…Believe in ourselves, Train to succeed & Become our dream!

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Our BTB Butterfly Wings represent transformation!

When I joined my first running group, I could not have imagined how many incredible teammates and friends I would come to know. If you had told me I would become a running coach, I would have thought you were crazy! The BTB Believe Train Become running team is so amazing that businesses have taken note and offered to team with a group that truly personifies the word TEAM.

Oiselle understands the meaning of team, as well as the benefits. The BTB team just received our Oiselle team shirts and they are awesome! Their feminine yet practical athletic wear makes all of us feel strong and beautiful, but the matching shirts also helps unite us even more. Team BTB is so proud to team up with Oiselle!

I also love Sole Sports because they understand the importance of community, whether in a tight-knit running group or in support of a local cause. Just as running groups offer personalized support to every member, Sole Sport believes in offering each store visitor and community member with the same level of care. BTB is honored to team up with Sole Sports!

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Thumbs up to Oiselle & Sole Sports!

With Oiselle and Sole Sports on our team, we no long only run for ourselves. We now run for a cause and a vision. As we represent the best running store in the USA and a women’s clothing line that supports and nourishes women across the country, we serve as an inspiration and as role models to women hoping to reach their goals. Together we can achieve more.

To reach my personal running goals, I am currently training with a local group of Elite Women runners, called the Sonoran Distance Project. Most of the women on the team are faster than me and want to accomplish what I already have. I hope to inspire them, because I know they inspire me! Speaking of inspiration, we had two BTB runners–Natalie Como and Carrie Weldy–join this Elite running group of women with the shared goal of qualifying for the 2016 USA Marathon Olympic Trials. It was with great honor and pride that these girls left Team BTB to pursue even higher goals.

Flagstaff Run Camp

Coach John Reich and the Sonoran Distance Project in Flagstaff at Running Camp

If you want to accomplish big things, become a part of a great group. I’m not kidding! Though you may not remember the races you win or the PR’s you set, you will ALWAYS remember your teams.

My teammates, old and new, are forever in my heart and with me every mile.

Keep on Believing, Keep on Running & Smile,

SL

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SMILE & BE GOOFY!

Posted by: Susan Loken | June 14, 2014

26.2 Mantras to Get You Through Your Next Marathon

Anyone who I’ve coached for a marathon has heard me say that there will be a moment (sometimes a 40-minute moment) during the marathon where you will ask yourself, “Can I really do this?”

There will inevitably be a moment when you begin to consider slowing down, or even walking. In this moment, you may question whether you can dig any deeper. It doesn’t matter if you are an Elite runner or a five-hour marathoner; we all have this defining moment during a marathon.

Should I give up or can I muster up the strength to keep going?

How you answer this question–how you respond in you DEFINING MOMENT–can make all the difference in the outcome of your race. During these challenging moments, I repeat mantras to myself. This gives me something positive to focus on. It offers a distraction from any pain or discomfort.

Mantras can be your favorite saying, a short prayer, a powerful word, or anything else that helps keep a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

I have trained many runners over the years and I always enjoy hearing their special mantras and learning what helps them persevere. Thus, I decided to team up with my awesome Team BTB runners and compiled a list of their favorite mantras. Without further ado, here are 26.2 running mantras to help fuel you through every mile!

  1. “Don’t ever take running for granted again! There was a time when you weren’t able…” ~Stacey Hollen
  2. “Trust the training. I find this to be very effective for pre-race planning and nerve-calming. I remind myself of how hard I worked, the sacrifices I made and I remind myself that I didn’t sign up for easy.” ~Tracie Rogers
  3. “You gotta keep your shit together. Just freaking run! Suck it up, Buttercup!” ~Kimi Sherrill
  4. I can and will find a way. I am stronger than I think I am.” ~Heather Betsko
  5. “Failure is not an option.” ~Daradee Murray
  6. I’ve done this training and the time, and today is just the icing on the cake. Tomorrow I get to sleep in! Thousands of people have done this, and I can do it too.” ~Janet Chafey
  7. “I believe that…[fill in the blank] Sometimes I finish it with ‘I can,’ ‘I will,’ or ‘I did.’ I still use this for any difficult run. ~Lil Ashton
  8. You don’t have to be fast, but you better be fearless!~Jenna Williams
  9. The words of wisdom that keep my kicks from staying clean: “If is was easy, everyone would be doing it. Even in the runners world, we all stand out.” ~Holly Tice
  10. I’m going to make the REST of this run the BEST of this run!~Cindy Rash
  11. “This isn’t exactly a mantra, but when these moments happen, I visualize a DOOR. I tell myself that this is the door of opportunity. I can either choose to open the door (keep pressing on) or just stand there looking at the door (give up). If I open the door, I will see what it really on the other side (possibly a new personal record). However, if I stand there, afraid to open the door, I will never know what’s on the other side. I haven’t always opened the door, but when I have, great things are always on the other side!” I credit Jerry Lynch for inspiring this visualization though his books. ~Kelly LeCours
  12. Your mind is the athlete. Your legs are fine. Don’t give in.” ~Tracie Rogers
  13. “Hills, hill, hills are my friend. I love hills!” ~Michele Propps
  14. “It’s only pain. Just put it in perspective: it’s not going to kill me or stop me in my tracks. I can run through it.” ~Tammy Hines
  15. When I start questioning myself during a race or a tough run, I tell myself: “Just keep going.” As lame as it sounds, it reminds me to STOP THINKING and carry out my plan–to run and perform at my personal best. ~John Meuser
  16. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” ~Jenna Williams
  17. I have many mantras, but I really like one that I had printed on a shirt: “I don’t stop when I’m tired, I stop when I’m done.~Kristi Petrosky
  18. “Susan’s going to post my time, Susan’s going to post my time.” ~Alan Fuller
  19. “Today is my day, this is my race!” ~Maria Arana
  20. “Keep your pace and relax.” I use a visualization of Mercury wings on my feet, which helped me qualify for Boston on my first marathon (NY) and come ahead of my dear running friends who were all much faster than me. It works! ~Mickie Berry
  21. I talk to my legs when I race. I tell them: You have got to be kidding me! Legs, you have trained and ran many miles, and NOW you want to give up?! Suck it up, buttercup, and kick ass! You’re going to get me through this race no matter what!” ~Carmen Mena
  22. “You can do anything.” Most of my life, I never believed I was capable of any of the things I’ve accomplished over the last few years. ~Ari Ziskin
  23. “I don’t know if it’s a mantra, but I think about my brother, a cancer survivor, and all the pain he endured during treatments and how his spirit NEVER faltered. I think to myself: If he can endure months of radiation and pain, than I can do this! If Greg can do that, then I can certainly do this!!” ~Kim Lambert
  24. “Focus on what doesn’t hurt: my eyelashes feel GREAT!” ~Cindy Rash
  25. The other things that helps keep my morale up is seeing friends and exchanging words with a fellow runner. When I look around, it sinks in that everyone around me is in just as much pain as me, and we’re all fighting through it together. ~John Meuser
  26. “The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens. Don’t give up!” ~Kristi Petrosky

I bet you’re wondering about that final stretch, those final 0.2 miles of marathon. What can you tell yourself to press through the pain and finish strong? Here are two of my favorite mantras, two powerful phrases that have carried me through many races.

26.1.  “If it stops hurting, you’re going to slow down. Don’t let the pain lessen!~Susan Loken
26.2.  “Champions don’t quit, they find a way. Be a champion today!~Susan Loken

Repeating mantras to yourself as you run is a great to tool to self-motivate and stay strong when the going gets tough. Which of these mantras resonate with you? I know that you have some GREAT mantras of your own!

What inspires you? Please share some of your most powerful running mantras in the comments below.

A BIG thank you to Team BTB for sharing their inspiring words of encouragement!

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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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