Posted by: Susan Loken | October 16, 2018

Lessons From The Grand Canyon Adventure

Do you want to know what attracted me to the marathon? Crossing the marathon finish line for the first time changed me and drastically improved my life. That single event taught me to believe in myself more than I ever had before. It was as if I instantly realized that if I could complete a marathon, I could do anything.

 

Overcoming obstacles and accomplishing something so difficult gave me the confidence to chase big dreams and lead a healthy lifestyle. The goal, the journey, and the finish line gave my life purpose and infused my heart with passion.

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Grand Canyon

This weekend, Tracie Rogers, Renee Hodges (+ 4 others) and I accomplished something pretty big. We hiked Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim across the Grand Canyon, a beautiful and challenging 42-mile adventure with over 11,000 feet of elevation gain. Similar to the marathon, I’m not sure how you can finish an epic adventure like this and come out a changed person (or at least take some time to reflect).

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Our Grand Canyon Journey provided us with so many life metaphors. We recognized several of these similarities, many of which we sometimes take for granted. However, when Tracie and I finished our adventure alone in the cold night of an empty parking lot, entirely exhausted, it didn’t matter that there weren’t cheering crowds and or medals at the finish line. We smiled, screamed, and hugged one another–our hearts and souls felt completely filled up.

 

It’s said that life is about the journey. After reflecting on this trek, here are five lessons that I learned or beliefs that were reinforced on my journey.

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Susan, Renee, and Tracie

 

Lessons From The Grand Canyon Adventure

 

  1. Life is all about the journey, not the destination. When you focus solely on achieving your goal, you forfeit the lessons and wonderful experiences that lie in-between. The mental battles you face when thinking of the long journey ahead and the hard work required can be mentally taxing. You have to combat those thoughts and fears by taking one step at a time towards the destination, enjoying every step along the path. We looked up to the top of the Canyon–our finish line–and realized the journey to achieve that goal is governed by the skills acquired, the connections made, the inner growth the takes places, and the person you become along the way.
  2. Oh, what a blessing it is to be healthy. We sometimes take our health for granted or fail to realize how truly blessed we are to have our good health. As we hiked the Grand Canyon, we honestly felt deeply blessed to have our health and fitness. The gift of health is what allowed us to enjoy such moments. Imagine, for just one moment, losing any ability you currently possess–like the ability to hike over rocks, to see the changing leaves, to smell a nearby campfire, or to hear the birds singing. Our health is not guaranteed, so we must wake up each day with an appreciation for our health, fitness, and life itself. We should also take time to pray for those who are currently ill or living with disabilities.
  3. You will never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. The biggest challenge of running a marathon is that you hold the switch to stop the pain–just slow down and the pain lessens, or quit and the pain stops. We have to know and trust that we are strong, and not give in to the temptation of slowing down or quitting when the option is available. However, hiking the Grand Canyon gives you no choice but to be strong and keep going. No one is going to carry or fly you out. When you feel like you can’t go on, you have to keep going; there is no other choice. The next time you are racing toward your dream goal, remember that you can do hard things. When you have no choice but to be strong, you can and you will keep going.
  4. Nothing is more calming than connecting with God through nature. His beautiful creations, gifts, and blessings we should never take for granted but enjoy.” As Rachael Sazon-Reyes so eloquently puts it, full immersion in nature is a beautiful and powerful way to reconnect with your faith and blessings in life. As we hiked through one of the seven wonders of the natural world, we couldn’t help but feel God’s presence. My faith is strong, but after 16 hours of hiking in this awe-inspiring beauty carved out by God, my faith felt deeper, stronger, and more tangible than ever before. It reminded me that, with God, all things are possible. It’s my duty, as a recipient of all His goodness, to give thanks to my Creator.
  5. When joy is shared, joy is doubled. When we share our struggles our burden is halved, but the same is not true of happiness. We all embark on our own unique journey through life and no one else will ever fully understand just how amazing, challenging, brutal, and beautiful your life has been. However, sharing a journey with a close friend or loved one allows you both to experience the joy, beauty, and special moments offered by life. Perhaps even more importantly, sharing our struggles with a trusted friend makes us feel stronger and–believe it or not–brings joy to the struggle. As Tracie and I hiked up South Kaibab alone in the dark having already put 37 miles on our weary legs, we agreed to keep smiling and moving forward until we made it. I’m not sure we would have been smiling quite so much without each other.
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Susan and Tracie

 

In closing, I hope you choose to bravely pursue adventure, savoring every step of the way without worrying about the destination. Remember, we’re aiming for progress, not perfection. Be grateful for your health and fitness, and take advantage of every opportunity to help others who are going through health struggles. When you ask yourself whether you are strong enough to keep going, the answer is always “yes.” Give God the glory and take time to appreciate life’s small gifts. Share your joys and your struggles with others for an instant happiness boost.

Keep Believing,

SL

Posted by: Susan Loken | December 9, 2017

CIM and Aging Up Gracefully & Gratefully

2017 CIM Susan Run Picture

2017 CIM 2:53:12 (Age 54 2nd AG)

I began my Elite running career in 2003, at age 40, which is much later than most runners. I started running at age 36.

I remember attending my first Elite competitive 5k race–the Freihofer’s 5k, in Albany, NY. I walked into the Elite suite with wide eyes, a big smile, and an eager heart, alongside the faster master runners in the country. Filled with excitement, gratitude, and a bit of naivety, I said, “I can’t wait to PR tomorrow!” Every single Elite runner at the table looked at me strangely, and there were even a few scowls as they responded: “None of us are ever going to PR again. Our fastest times are behind us.”

Being the eternal optimist, I immediately chimed out, “That’s okay! Just run the fastest you can as a Master Elite. That’s exciting, right?!” All the runners were kind, but I could sense that they didn’t share my joy-fueled eagerness. That weekend, I ran a 5k in 17:26 and made a promise to myself:

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2004 Freihofer’s 5k

When the day comes that I realize my fastest running times are behind me, I will still find reasons to be excited, and I will still embrace the goals that make my heart feel just like it did that day.

Now, at 54 years old, my PR days are behind me, but I’m keeping that promise I made to myself 14 years ago. When some bright-eyed runner asks me if I’m aiming for a PR (as they often do), I just smile and say, “Not a PR, but let me tell you about my goals!!”

I ran the California International Marathon last weekend, which doubled as the USA Championship and produced 87 qualifiers for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon. The experience was electric, exciting, and inspirational!

I’ll be honest with you–I had to fight off a few thoughts of wishing I was still in that fast pack of runners, of dreaming how great it would be if I could place 3rd in the USA Marathon Championship again, and yearning to add setting a PR back into my goals. Those thoughts came, but were fleeting and left quickly.

I reminded myself that I have my own big goals that I’m excited about, and my running has a greater purpose because I’m able to coach others and relive the excitement of achieving PRs and “firsts” over and over again with my runners. Their dreams become my dreams; we share the joy, and we share the setbacks.

We are all human, and we all experience negative and self-defeating thoughts sometimes, and that’s okay! What’s important is to let them go, and instead focus on your strengths, accomplishments, and the many blessings in your life.

On the CIM race day, my realistic goals was 2:53 and my dream goal was sub 2:50, along with winning my age group (though with the speedy Molly Friel turning 50 last August, winning wasn’t realistic). I reminded myself that I can only run my personal best for the day, so that’s what I planned to do. The weather was perfect, the competition was off the charts, and the course was as fair as can be; I was fit, healthy, and my heart was eager to see what I could achieve.

I knew several women in the Elite corral, and a few of us had the same low 2:50s goal, so I knew we would support each other during the race. My plan was to break the race into three segments: the first half at goal pace or slightly slower, the next 10 miles at goal pace or slightly faster, and the last 10k as fast as my little legs would carry me.  

 

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Many Miles shared with my friend CB

During the first half, we had a nice group clicking off the miles like clockwork, and I hit the half mark in 1:26:36–exactly my goal pace of 6:37! My running was smooth and controlled; however, I wasn’t feeling strong enough to go faster, so I kept to my plan and used the runners around me to continue clicking off the miles at my goal pace.

The toughest part of a marathon for me is typically miles 16-19, but I cruised through that stretch. I had determined that hitting mile 20 at 2:12 would put me right on pace; I reached mile 20 in 2:13:04 (6:39 pace), which was okay since the final 10k was flat to slightly downhill.

 

I am always ready to race, hammer it out, dig deep, and fight hard until I have nothing left. However, my legs were feeling weak as I approached that last 10k. I increased my effort and used my mind to focus on each step, but the strength in my legs just wasn’t there and I couldn’t go any faster. At one point, I didn’t lift my knee enough over a pothole; my legs buckled and I came very close to falling. Nope, wasn’t having any of that so it was not only hammer time, but laser focus on form time too.

The final 10k was spent telling myself: “Turn your legs! Heels up! Knees up! Drive with your arms, your feet will follow! Relax your shoulders! Use your glutes! Focus! Dig!” My splits kept getting slower, but I wasn’t ready to give up; I was actually motivated by the adversity and the opportunity to put up a fight. Success is on the other side of the fight, never give up during the fight. Never!

I crossed the finish line at 2:55:41 at a 6:43 pace, which was 2 minutes off from my realistic goal time. Do you know what? I am completely and totally happy with my race! My nutrition was spot-on (5 pm pasta dinner, 2 am feeding, 2 scoops of UCAN before the race, and 1 gel every 5 miles), I took water at every aid station, and recited a few mantras “Faith Moves Mountains, Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Badass, I still got a lot of fight left in me. ” throughout the race. There was not one mile that I gave in, gave up, or found an excuse to stop pursuing my goal. Even though I’m no longer setting PRs, my grit and determination today comes from a deeper and more meaningful place now than it did 13 years ago.

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Almost to finish line! Proud to be a Rabbit Elite!

Though I’m not crossing that finish line as an Olympic Trials Qualifier, I am still crossing that finish line as a chaser of dreams, and as a human being that is squeezing every ounce of life from her years left on this wonderful earth. I crossed that finish line as a person that hopes to leave this earth knowing that she–just maybe–helped a few people to live a happier, healthier, and more inspired life. I hope to continue crossing finish lines, as a reminder to others that it’s never too late to start living a healthy life and setting incredible goals, and they never, ever need to stop!

After the race, I celebrated huge Personal Records with four of my runners and savored the incredible energy as countless others recognized their own personal victories. Reflecting back on the race, I acknowledge that there was a tinge of longing for my running glory days; however, I can honestly say that I am proud that my relationship to running has evolved from a focus on my own dreams into the opportunity to help other runners realize their truest potential and achieve their wildest dreams. As great as it feels to break a PR, I have learned to love the focus on running strong, and leading my runners by my own example.

Now that I’ve run a marathon on a perfect day, under perfect conditions, surrounded by strong competition, I think that 2:55 is a very realistic marathon time for me. My goal for the rest of the decade is to determine what I can do to slow the natural and inevitable slowing down process that comes with aging.

One thing I realized from this race is that the body is constantly changing, and my regiment from last year might not be effective next year. During the race, my body told me that I need more strength. I currently do functional Strength Training but could benefit from adding more weight and plyometrics. As we age we lose our speed and strength. A ton of research has shown that this kind of training can build core strength, speed and even slow the decrease in bone density as we age. I’m adding more of this to my training regimen. I’ll blog about this later.

Recently, I’ve been considering what motivates me, and what’s next. I love competing, training, and discovering new ways to be my best self. As I get older, the things I’m “best” at are sure to evolve.

I’m committed to finding the right mix of running, strength training, and healthy eating to keep my body strong and delay some side effects of aging. I accept and welcome aging, but am also curious how much of an effect our lifestyle choices can have on the process. I plan to share all of my training regimens, lessons and strategies with you here!

Though I’m excited about blogging, coaching, and the goal of finding ways to slow down the effects aging has on running, I can assure you that it’s not getting the way of my marathoning goals. Beginning with the 2018 Berlin Marathon, the Abbott World Marathon Majors are starting an age group world ranking system, and the top runners in each age group will be invited to run in the world age group championship in 2020! I turn 55 this coming July and would have a good chance to compete in the 2020 AWMM age group world championship. And, who knows, with determination, focus and learning what works maybe I’ll be a sub 3-hour marathoner when I’m 60! 

Keep Believing, Keep Training and Keep Becoming,

SL

 

 

 

 

2016 Boston Brad Pic

2016 Boston Marathon Photo Credit Brad Rogers

To experience the fullness of life, we all need to dream big and set goals just beyond the horizon–we need to challenge ourselves to be better each day, at every stage of our lives. Sometime those big goals take longer than a few weeks, several months or a couple years.

It took my athlete Kimi Sherrill five years and seven marathons to qualify for the Boston Marathon with enough cushion to be guaranteed entry into the race. Her marathon progression went like this, 4:15, 4:16, 4:09, 4:00, 4:00, 3:54, 3:47. During this time, she not only grew faster and stronger, but developed lifelong friendships, boosted her confidence, supported a healthy lifestyle, and learned to overcome setbacks. Most importantly, she’s a shining example to her daughters, family, and friends of big dreams, hard work, patience and refusing to give up.

Every goal will be trailed by challenges, setbacks, and sometimes failures, so it’s important to be persistent and stay the course. I’ve been working towards the same Boston Marathon goal for over three years, and I’m not ready to give up yet!

Year: 2014

Age: 50

Goal: Break the Boston Marathon Veterans Course  record (2:50:36), held by Joan Benoit Samuelson

Challenge: Calf injury

Result: Ran a 2:55 with a calf injury, finished 1st in my age group, and missed the course record

Year: 2015

Age: 51

Goal: Break the Boston Marathon Veterans Course record (2:50:36), held by Joan Benoit Samuelson

Challenge: Hamstring injury

Result: I didn’t make it to the starting line because of a hamstring injury

Year: 2016

Age: 52

Goal: Break the Boston Marathon Veterans Course record (2:50:36), held by Joan Benoit Samuelson

Challenge: Staying injury free

Result: Made it to starting line fit & healthy, keep reading for details

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Ready to ROCK the 2016 Boston Marathon in my new Elite Running Kit, compliments of Brooks

Training to Prevent Injury

Since injuries have held me back from reaching my Boston Marathon goals over the last few years, I decided to take a new preventative approach. I worked hard with my amazing physical therapists, Nicole Armbrust and Renee Hodges, to concoct the perfect recipe for staying injury-free. I look at physical therapy as the nuts and bolts that hold me together. Though far from glamorous, addressing my weaknesses before they become issues is allowing me to continue my hard, endorphin-filled workouts without fear of injury

After tightening my nuts and bolts in physical therapy, I worked with Kyle Herrig at Triplex Training on functional strength training. Along with daily PT exercises, I’ve added three functional strength workout per week to my weekly training plan. Functional strength training emphasizes the body’s natural ability to move across three planes of motion, promoting better joint mobility, more stability, and more efficient motor patterns. The benefits of functional strength training are so evident to me that I’ve joined forces with Kyle to help other runners reach their goals through BTB/Triplex Running Groups!

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Triplex Training workout with Traci Rogers and Coach Kyle Herrig

Before training for the 2016 Boston Marathon, I spent the summer training with coach John Reich and the Sonoran Distance Project for the Monumental Marathon, with the goal of qualifying for my 4th USA Olympic Trials. Truth be told, I knew that running a sub 2:43 was out-of-reach, but I had to try. If I shot for the moon and missed, I knew I would still be amongst the stars!

In the fall of 2015, I ran the Monumental Marathon in 2:53, broke the Veteran’s Course record for that course, but missed qualifying for the Olympic Trials. Though it was great breaking the course record, I knew it was not the prestigious Boston Marathon. Following this small win, I was 200% focused on Boston, and on running a sub 2:50. I was committed to do whatever it took!

Setting Goals

Let’s talk about goals for a minute. There’s no foolproof formula for choosing the perfect goal, but I’ve found what works for me. You want to select a goal that:

  1. Inspires you
  2. Motivates you,
  3. Means something to you, and
  4. Is very, very hard to achieve, but
  5. Is also very, very possible with lots of hard work

If your goal is completely out-of-reach, your efforts will be half-hearted and your inevitable failure will be especially disappointing. I experienced this feeling when training for and running the Monumental Marathon with the goal of running my 4th Olympic Trials. That experience reminded me that you’ve got to believe in yourself, and in your dreams before you can achieve anything!

After completing the Monumental Marathon, I was excited to chase a realistic dream–a goal that I knew with every ounce of my being was possible. Because I believed in myself 100%, I was willing to work hard and make sacrifices to achieve my goal. I felt so alive, excited, and ready to kick butt!

With age and experience, our priorities and physical capabilities change, so it’s important to continually reevaluate what you want out of life. At every decade and with each new day, discover the goals that make you excited to wake up in the morning and become the best version of yourself, and commit to making those dreams a reality!

After reflecting on my goals, I quit the Sonoran Distance Project, though I still serve on the board of directors. It’s a phenomenal group, but I was wearing too many hats and wanted to fully engage myself into my training for Boston and fully represent the BTB/Triplex Training running group.

Developing an Unbeatable Mind

My training journey for the 2016 Boston Marathon began with a 3-day Unbeatable Mind Retreat, organized by former Navy Seal, Mark Divine. After my son completed a life-changing, 3-week intensive immersion program (similar to SEAL hell week) and emerged realizing his power to achieve anything, I wanted a taste of that. I wasn’t willing to physically punish my body the way my son had, so I opted for the retreat and the opportunity to expand my mind, my focus, and my self-motivation. As athletes, we must obviously train our bodies, but it is just as important to have a strong mind. At the retreat, I learned the 5 Mountains of Self-Mastery: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Intuition/Awareness, and Kokoro Spirit. Though it was expensive, the retreat gave me a new arsenal of mind tools to help me step up my game for Boston. Hooyah!

Unbeatable Mind Retreat

Unbeatable Mind Retreat. Getting out of our comfort zone and working out in the COLD surf.

After the retreat, I was fired up and ready to roll! In my opinion, every runner is better off with a coach, even if the runner is a coach themselves. A coach offers support, accountability, and objectivity when you either need to be pushed harder or hold back. Knowing this, I contacted Olympian Andrew Lemoncello about coaching me for Boston; he agreed. Whoo-hooo!

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Me and Coach Andrew Lemoncello

Training was fantastic and I nailed almost every workout! I performed my hardest workouts with my BTB athletes, all of us faster and stronger. I set my eyes on the prize and laid out my regimented schedule. I went to functional strength training (Triplex Training) 3x per week, did my physical therapy exercises (from Renee Hodges) 4-5x per week, dialed in my nutrition, ensured 8 hours of sleep per night, practiced mental exercises and breathing learned at my Sealfit retreat, received weekly massages from Stephanie Del Giorgio and Shauna Brown, and got weekly scraping from Courtney Warren PT at Triplex Training.

The Power of Teamwork

Together We Can is the motto for the merging of Triplex and BTB. It takes a collaborative team to succeed, and I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by a team filled with great friends and wonderful resources!

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Success is NOT a solo journey! Together We Can!

In January 2016, I ran the PF Chang’s Half Marathon in 1:22. In February 2016, I ran the Phoenix Half in 1:22 and 20 miles of the LA Marathon at a comfortable 6:30 pace. I’m a one-speed marathon runner; based on my history, you can double my half marathon time, add 2-4 minutes and voila! This formula puts me at a realistic marathon time of 2:48! I was fit–both physically and mentally!

Four weeks before Boston, my friend Renee Sacco told me about Cerulean, a Scottsdale establishment that offers Cryotherpy and Hypobaric Therapy, among other unique body conditioning programs. Wondering whether Cerulean’s cutting-edge technology could offer me an extra boost, I took an extensive medically practiced V02 test and went 3x per week for four weeks to sit in the hypobaric pod, cellular repair and do cryotherapy. I will take a follow-up V02 test in a couple weeks to compare my LT & V02 max. I’m eager to see the improvement and share the results with you! It would take an entire blog to talk about the benefits of all the services and high altitude classes offered at Cerulean and I will write this blog soon. For not, I urge you to check out their website and stop in for a tour and information! You will be HAPPY you did!

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At Cerulean, trying out Cryotherapy and the Hypobaric Pod

Boston, Here I Come!

After months of preparation, the day has arrived–Boston Marathon 2016! Not only did my training and preparations set me up for success, but I was going to run as an Elite in the Boston Marathon! What an honor, and priceless experience. Yes, I’ve ran as an Elite many times before, but never at the world’s most prestigious marathon, and at the age of 52! I felt like a little kid on Christmas the night before the race, anxiously awaiting the experience of a lifetime–I knew in my soul that it would be the race of the decade! On top of that, Brooks kindly sent me an Elite racing kit; so, I was not only lining up with the world’s best at the Boston Marathon, but I had a very fast and cool-looking outfit to carry me to the finish. Seriously, pinch me! This is dream stuff for a girl like me!

The morning of the race, my husband walked me to the Elite bus that was being police escorted to the start. We arrived at a church full of yoga mats, water bottles, sport drinks, bathrooms, and a street to warm up on. The weather seemed perfect 68 with sunshine!

2016 Boston Elite Bus

Getting onto the Elite Bus! I was so excited and eager to start the race!

It was special to share the moment with two of my friends–Katie McGee and Theresa Lowery! I dialed in my nutrition with a big carbo-loaded lunch the day before, a lighter carbo dinner (pasta, chicken, bland red sauce, and UCAN electrolyte drink), a peanut butter sandwich, banana and UCAN drink at 3:00 am, and 1.5 scoops of UCAN powder with 6 oz of water and UCAN electrolyte before the race.

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UCAN is my fuel of choice!

At 9:25 am, we marched to the starting line in front of a huge cheering crowd. Just thinking of that moment gives me goose bumps! I didn’t want the moment to end!

At this point my heart was leaping all over the place because while I knew I had to be SEAL Strong for the next 26.2 miles, I also knew that everything in training went according to plan, the weather was almost perfect, I had two fast friends to work with, I was fit, I had a goal that made my sing–I was running not for my own personal glory, but to inspire others to believe that they can be the best version of themselves at any age! The older I get, the more passionate I am about inspiring others to live healthy and fit now so that they can live young and active lives as they age. Seeing my mother–at a young 72–suffer declining health, due to 50+ years of smoking, unhealthy eating habits, and little exercise breaks my heart. My purpose in life it to encourage and inspire everyone I encounter to change their bad habits, develop healthy lifestyles, and chase dreams that make them feel young and alive!

At 9:32 the gun goes off. I look down at the bracelet on my wrist and think of my mom, wearing the same bracelet on her wrist. It reads: I STILL GOT A LOT OF FIGHT LEFT IN ME. She uses it as daily inspiration in her fight to extend her life and I use it to remind myself that I can continue to  chase my dreams with passion and purpose. We both have a lot of fight left in us!

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2016 Boston Marathon Elite Women’s Start

 

We began running. My goal was to run 6:20-6:30 average pace for the first 13.1 miles, being cautious not to expend too much energy on the uphill and not getting carried away on the downhills. We had a nice little pack and I was comfortably tucked in, not feeling too much wind nor too much heat. The miles clicked away, and I was right on pace.

By Mile 10, our pack had broken off. I had no idea if they were right behind me, or far behind. I had a goal and I was on a mission, so I knew I had to focus on myself. My splits continued to slow, although my effort continued to increase. My half split was 1:25, a couple of minutes slower than I had planned. In my mind, I thought “Perfect! I’ve saved extra energy for the final 10K kick, and I still had a lot of fight left in me!” I have no idea why people say that the first 10K of the Boston Marathon is downhill because, to me, it’s a nonstop roller coaster–a never-ending up, up, up, and down! I kept repeating in my head that what goes up must come down to keep me strong on the uphill.

I took water at every water station and alternated with sport drink. I took one gel every 5 miles. I was dialed in and doing everything right! Yet, I just kept getting slower and slower. My body was working very hard–much harder than it should have been at this pace, and at this point in the race. It was admittedly a bit warm, but I never felt especially warm and there was a nice headwind the entire way to keep me cool. Something was taking its toll on my body, but I couldn’t figure out what. The headwind didn’t feel too strong, and I wasn’t hot. However, my body was working too hard to keep up my goal pace into the wind. I was slowly getting  dehydrated from the combination of slight headwind and slight heat. It was just enough to push me over the edge.

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I must have repeated my mantra about one million times during the marathon!! I am now a proud ambassador for Momentum Designs

The Final Push

I kept telling myself to give 100% until mile 21, and then you must give 120% for the last five miles in order to finish under 2:50. I was not ready to give up! I was fighting with every ounce of energy I had!! My effort kept increasing, but my pace continued to slow. I stopped looking at my watch and just told myself to FIGHT until the very end, giving it my all with every single step. At my Sealfit retreat, I learned the power of focus and just how much our mind controls our body. So, I told my knees to lift, my arms to swing and my glutes to fire! My body desperately wanted and needed to stop, but I dug deep told my body to fight, and that rest would just have to wait. 

When I turned on Boylston, I heard the crowds roaring and saw the finish line. I told myself, “You still got a lot of fight left in you! Fight for it! It takes a fight to be your best! FIGHT!”

I finished in 2:57, far from my 2:48 record-breaking goal. I placed 2nd in my age group, 5th Elite Master (women over 40), and 55th overall female. However, the second I crossed the finish line, I was so proud of myself for staying in the fight when my body so badly wanted to quit. In my heart, I knew that I had given it my ALL for the day, and there was nothing I could have done better. I was proud of my effort, proud of my fight and proud of my 2016 Boston Marathon finish.

2016 Boston Finish Line

Crossing the finish line of the 2016 Boston Marathon!

I was escorted to the Elite Tent, where my calves and feet cramped up so bad that I wanted to scream (this never happens to me!) After the cramps subsided and I saw Theresa and Katie and gave them huge hugs. Sharing this day with them was priceless. I made my way back to the hotel where I was meeting my husband. My first call was to my mother; she was so proud.

2016 Boston with Theresa

After the race with Theresa Lowry. We may have missed our big time goals, but we didn’t miss out on what’s important…the moment, the experience, the journey, the friendships!

Reflections

At this point, enough time had passed that I was still proud of my effort, but disappointed to miss a goal that had meant so much to me, a goal that I was ready to achieve and a goal that I knew was possible. It was not a selfish goal, but a goal that I hoped would inspire other 50+ women to believe that they can live young lives at any age. Within a few hours, I was already letting go of my disappointment and dreaming of 2017 and running a sub 2:50!

I asked my husband what he thought of my trying again next year, as he knows the time and dedication it takes to do your personal best. Without hesitation, he looked at me and said, “Of course I support you! I wouldn’t expect you NOT to go back and try again.” Best hubby EVER!

My BTB athletes had a mixed day, as the marathon brings for most running groups. A few ran personal bests, a couple just enjoyed the experience, some tried hard and missed their goals, and one had the worst experience of her life. This, my friend, is the marathon.

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Team BTB post race celebration of victory, defeat and most importantly friendship, moments and the journey!

It took my runner Kimmie Sherrill five years and seven marathons to reach her goal of qualifying for Boston, but along the way she achieved far more than she could have dreamed. Her five-year journey was priceless, not because of her final achievement, but because of her new friendships, milestones along the way, lessons learned, and the realization of her own personal potential. The look on her daughters’ faces when Kimmie finally reached her goal was incredible, and the same awe and pride was reflected on Kimmie’s face. And her journey has only just begun!

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Kimmie Sherrill after achieving her dream goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon in 3:47:56 and her ridiculously proud coach!! Priceless Moment!!

Sometimes our goals can take longer than we anticipate, and require more effort, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. It may take me five years to achieve my goal of breaking the Boston Marathon Veterans Course record (2:50:36) but, like my amazing runner Kimmie, I’m going to enjoy, learn, and cherish every step of the journey. I can’t wait until next year when I cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon and call my mom to share the moment with her–to tell her I fought hard, accomplished my goal, and am already dreaming up my next goal!

Keep on Believing, Keep on Running & Keep on Chasing your Goals,

Susan Loken

2016 Boston Award

Accepting award for a hard earned 2nd place

Posted by: Susan Loken | March 6, 2015

If Grandma Can Do Anything, I Can Too!

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Proud Grandma!!

My distance running team, Sonoran Distance Project, was recently sponsored by P&G’s Always brand. You may have seen their awesome and note-worthy “Like A Girl” commercial during the Super Bowl.

I am so inspired by the young girls’ self-belief in this ad. They truly believe that they can accomplish anything; they know that they are just as strong and capable as any boy.

This ad hit home for me. Immediately after watching it, I realized that I will NOT let injury or any other challenge STOP me from continuing to chase my dreams! I won’t let stereotypes or societal expectations prevent me from doing what makes me come alive.

My passion for running stems from several places and serves many purpose, but none are as strong as my desire to leave a legacy behind for my two young Granddaughters. I want these two beautiful young girls to grow up knowing that they can do absolutely anything they put their mind to and anything their heart desires. I want to teach them, by example, that girls are strong, courageous, confident and capable!

I hope my Granddaughters grow to be: FAST LIKE A GIRL; STRONG LIKE A GIRL; CONFIDENT LIKE A GIRL; COURAGEOUS LIKE A GIRL; JOYFUL LIKE A GIRL; and EXACTLY the kind of GIRL THEY want to be!

I want to tell them that they are going to experience seemingly impossible challenges, but not to forget that anything is possible. Girls, young and young-at-heart, you are going to be told that you can’t, but please know that YOU CAN. This may require sacrifices, but your dreams are always worth the effort. You may feel unsupported at times, but remember that you will always be your own biggest advocate and your number one fan. You may find that not everyone believes in you; in times like this, you must believe in yourself. You may encounter dead ends, but you can always find a way through if you persevere.

I share this for my Granddaughters, but it’s also a lesson that I continually need to learn for myself. This recent injury roller coaster gets me down at times, but I will continue forward with my dreams and my goals. I am confident, committed and, most of all, I BELIEVE IN ME! I want nothing more than to teach my lovely Granddaughters to be #LikeAGirl!! I want to teach them not to be ashamed of their anatomy and not to listen to stereotypes.

I hope my granddaughters see that their Grandma is PROUD to RUN LIKE A GIRL and realize that if Grandma can do anything, they can do anything too!!

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

marathon inspiration

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!

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