I love this time of year…racing season! And, I love the new Saucony racing kit! I wouldn’t want to train or race in anything else! Saucony Strong!
When I signed up for Chicago it never crossed my mind that I might run it as a training run. First of all, it’s hard for me to run any race, no matter the distance, as JUST a training run. If I’m scheduled to run a race, I want to race! Second of all, when it comes to the marathon the longest training run I’ve done has been 24 miles and I often wondered if that was too long! I’ve never considered running a marathon inside of marathon training.
However, two weeks ago the thought did occur to me so I decided to bring it up to my coach, Carla Hastert. My email to her went something like this, “Would it be a good or bad idea to actually run chicago w/no expectations but just as a training run for CIM? I feel like chicago is my nemisis. But, maybe its not smart to run it even as a part of training. Just a thought though.”
After a couple of days she decided it would be okay. Our only concern was that I had to stick to our “race plan.” If I ended up pushing too hard and trying to “race,” I would blow it for CIM and not be able to recover in time.
This is how she wanted me to run; miles 1-3 were to be at a 7 minute pace, 4-20 she wanted me to run a 6:45 pace, and then the last 10k I would ease back down to 7-7:05 pace. Carla, told me if I ran the marathon according to plan I’d finish in 3 hours or just under.
This was one of the most relaxed marathons I have ever run. In fact, I didn’t feel any of the normal race jitters or anxiety I usually have before a big race. In my mind, Chicago was just my weekend long run. The other nice thing was not having the Olympic Trial time of 2:46 breathing down my back. My goal was simply to run the paces I had been told to run and cross the finish line. And that’s just what I did. I crossed the finish line in 2:58:21. I think my first 1/2 and second 1/2 would have been pretty equal. However, around mile 3, I started to have some stomach issues and by mile 15 I decided to stop. I felt pretty good from 16-19, but then at mile 20 I had to stop again. This would have been devastating if it was my goal race but since it wasn’t, the fact that I had to make 2 stops in the 2nd half wasn’t that big of a deal.
All in all I felt like I ran relaxed, didn’t “push” myself, and stuck the workout. 2 weeks before Chicago I was at 94 miles, the week before Chicago I ran 100 miles (including a long run of 22 miles the Sunday before the marathon). So, being able to run on semi-tired legs and hit the paces I needed to do has helped to build my confidence for CIM when I intend to RACE the marathon.
My Dad’s advice after hearing I ran such high mileage and didn’t taper for the marathon…”Now Suzanne, you should really back off two weeks before CIM, don’t run that much. It wouldn’t be smart and you don’t want your legs to be tired.” Thanks Dad! Planning on doing just that.
My friend’s comment (you know who you are) “I thought you were done with marathons and sticking with 5 and 10ks?!”
My Mom’s comment, “Now Suzanne, is it really that smart to run a marathon in October and then run another one in December. In fact, I thought you said you were done running the marathon?” Mom, once a mileage junkie…always a mileage junkie!
I have a love/hate relationship with the Chicago marathon. Once my favorite marathon and now my Nemesis.
My history with Chicago (and other marathons) goes something like this…
1997 – signed up to run Chicago, my first marathon. At that point, I thought anyone who would spend over 2 hours running on a perfectly gorgeous Saturday morning was insane and taking time out of the weekend to run a 20 miler was the stupidest thing I had ever heard of.
However, I’m a little competitive, so when somebody told me that they doubted I would ever run a marathon, I took that as a challenge. So, averaging 25-30 miles a week and one 20 mile run, I thought I was ready. Honestly, I really didn’t have any desire to run a marathon (I just wanted to prove this guy wrong) and physically I really wasn’t feeling 100%. I was so fatigued, hungry, light-headed, and nauseous. I chalked all these symptoms up to training. However, the night before the marathon my sister- in-law convinced me to do a pregnancy test. Whatever!? I don’t think so. But, just to appease her we drove to the store and bought a test. I took it, and let me tell you, it didn’t even take a second for that thing to register a positive sign. So obviously, I must have done it wrong. There was no way I was pregnant. So, we drove to the store again, this time I bought 3 more tests. After the 4th test and the fourth positive sign I started to believe that I just might be pregnant. Since, this was all new to me, the marathon, the pregnancy, etc. etc. I decided I wasn’t going to “chance” anything and I just wouldn’t run the Chicago.
2001 – I now had 2 boys. A 3 year old and 1 year old. I had been running off and on. I actually started to race some 5ks and was doing pretty well. One of my friends told me he was thinking about doing the 1/2 marathon in Chicago and that I should consider it. Well, of course, if he could do it, I definitely could do it. So, I ran my first 1/2 marathon. My friend also told me he was going to run Chicago. I figured since I had run the 1/2, how bad could the marathon be. I had 3 weeks. When most people are starting to taper I was starting to train. Pushing my boys in a double jogging stroller, I ran one 20 miler, and one 15 mile run.
I actually made it to the starting line this time and I was completely oblivious when it came to running the marathon. I specifically remember having some guy pass me and say, “We’re almost done! Only a 5k left!” My thought, “A 5k! That’s all I usually run! That’s still a long way to go!” But, 3 hours and 22 minutes later I finished. I finished and I wanted to cry. I’m not sure if I wanted to cry because I was excited or because I was in so much pain. I sat down against a wall and it occurred to me that that was a very bad idea! It took all I had to pick myself back up again. On the way home, I checked the marathon off my list, and swore I’d never do another one!!
2003 – rolled around and I had a group of runners who were training for the marathon. Why not run it again? I had just had my 3rd baby and running (once again) would help me get back into shape. I was doing a little more racing and my goal for the marathon was to finish under 3 hours. Still not having any idea in regards to pacing a marathon I finished in 3:16. Sub-3 not so much! On the way back to the car I swore I was done with the marathon! No more! I hate the marathon!
(2005 – I had just had my fourth (and last) child when we moved to Memphis. Wanting to get back into shape again, it was easy for the guys I was running with to convince me to run the Memphis marathon. Again, my goal was sub-3. I trained for 6 weeks. My weekly mileage increased from 35-40 miles a week to 50-60 miles. Whoo hoo!
The day of the marathon I knew it was going to be my day…until about mile 18-20 – when I realized I probably shouldn’t have started out so fast and it was coming back to bite me. The last 10k was a death march. 3:06. Finishing 4th overall and 1st Memphis resident and winning cash took some of the pain away.) And this time I swore I WAS going to run another marathon and run under 3 hours.)
2006 – Back to Chicago. I realized after running 3 marathons I needed some sort of training plan to follow. If I was going to run under 3 I needed to train right. So, I got Pete Pftzinger’s book, Advanced Marathoning and followed his 18 week plan of 80 miles a week. I wanted that 2:59:59 and I was going to get it this time! The night before the marathon I talked to a friend who told convinced me to aim for a 2:48, the Olympic trials qualifying mark. The races I had run throughout training indicated that I could probably pull it off. His advice was even if I “blew-up” and didn’t hit 2:48, I’d still run under 3. So I went for it. The first 20-22 miles I zoned out and just ran. I was on pace for a 2:46-2:48. And then w/less than 4 miles to go my body gave out. It just wouldn’t go anymore. My mind was telling my body to keep pushing, but my body just wouldn’t respond. However, I finished in 2:50:51! Sub-3 for sure! I didn’t care about missing the Olympic qualifying mark. I didn’t even really know what that entailed, I was just excited that I ran a 2:50!! Chicago was my best and favorite marathon. (Also in 2006 I won CARA runner of the year – a great end to a great training program!)
2007 – I started working with a coach. I had one year to hit the OT time. I was so close in 2006 it would be ridiculous not to go for it in 2007. So I signed up for Chicago again. And I trained hard, harder than ever. I wanted that 2:47.
After hearing the weather forecasted for race day I wasn’t so sure. (It ended up being a record high and the marathon was eventually stopped because of the heat.) My coach and I decided that I would start the race, but if I ever came to a point where I fell off qualifying pace I’d drop out and I’d save it for another marathon. By mile 6 I knew it was going to be tough. And by mile 11, I knew it wasn’t happening. I walked off the course. That was the first time I quit during a race and settled with a DNF. It was a terrible feeling but I was told it was the right one. I wasn’t running to finish the marathon I was running for a specific time, and because of weather conditions that time wasn’t in my reach. But still, what an awful feeling. After this experience Chicago didn’t seem so great anymore.
(2007 – resumed training after Chicago and went out to CIM. I was probably in the best physical shape of my life but mentally I was burned out. From start to finish the marathon was a struggle – I finished in 2:54. Again, I won CARA runner of the year – but it still didn’t erase the two “bad” marathons I had that year.)
(2008 – 2010 I became a little more clumsy than usually. Suffered 3 different injuries – none of them really running related – but all of them stupidity related. I’ve mentioned before I have a talent of slipping and falling and within these two years some of the falls resulted in broken bones. Not good.)
2010 – Injury free and ready to go, I signed up for Chicago. I still had a bad taste in regards to Chicago after 2007 but that didn’t matter. The Olympic Qualifying window was re-opened and I was ready to go for it. Again, as early as mile 11 I was struggling and by mile 15 I knew there was no way I could hold a 6:20 pace for the rest of the race. At mile 16 I saw my family and walked off the course. Leah, my 9 year old was there, yelling at me, “That’s it!!?? You’re done!? You can’t stop? You have to do this!?” I cried. Feeling that I not only had let myself down, but also my daughter, my 3 other kids, and family, and friends who were following this journey along side me. I couldn’t believe I had just walked off Chicago for a 2nd time. I hate the Chicago Marathon! I will never sign up to run it again!
Whose dream of qualifying for the trials was this anyway. I had so many people telling me I could do it. But, did I really believe that I could do it, did I even want to do it? Was I just attempting this feat because other people told me I should go for it? And why was running becoming somewhat of a chore? Why was I feeling so much pressure from something that used to be a fun re-creational activity and stress-reliever for me?
2011 – I took some time off and really started to think if I wanted to go after the OT time. I decided when registration opened for Chicago I wasn’t going to sign up. It wasn’t until the end of May 2011 that I realized I needed to do this and I wanted to do this. Registration was closed for Chicago and I figured if I called the race director and he let me in I’d train for a 2:46. Sure enough, he let me in. And I decided from that point forward that as long as the door was open I was going for it. This was my year! I PR’d in almost every race distance. I ran my best 1/2 marathon (on tired legs) and my time indicated that I would be able to run a 2:46 w/the proper taper and fresh legs. And then, 2 weeks before Chicago I TORE my calf muscle. Chicago wasn’t going to happen. In fact, even trying to run an OT time at a different marathon was probably not going to happen. 16 weeks of hard training and all I could show for it was a ripped calf muscle. Whatever it is, bad weather, an injury, etc., etc., Chicago’s proven to be bad luck for me!
(2011 – Chicago came and went. I rested my calf. And then attempted to run an OT time at the Monumental Marathon in Nov 2011. My calf became an issue at mile 22 and I dropped. Now 3 DNF’s for the marathon. The marathon in general was becoming my nemesis. I had one more chance to run an OT time at CIM in Dec of 2011. I knew that my calf was going to be an issue – but I decided to lay it all on the line and see what would happen. By mile 3 I began to feel calf pain and by mile 21 I felt as if my calf was going to explode. At mile 22 I fell behind the pack of 20-25 girls (most of them finished with a qualifying time) and I had to stop to stretch out my calf before I did irreparable damage. At that point I knew I wasn’t going to qualify but I knew I was going to finish. Even if it meant crawling to the finish line, I wasn’t going to walk away with another DNF. I was ready to close the book on the marathon!
2:50:03. Not an OQT, but a new PR. Disappointing, yes. Devastating, not really. Why? Because through this experience I remembered that I am more than a runner. Running does NOT define me and the Olympic Trials doesn’t define my running. I’ve accomplished a lot in regards to running. It’s not my full time job , and I’m happy with what I’ve been able to do with it as a “hobby.” The Olympic Trials would have just been icing on the cake!
So that brings me to 2012 – When registration opened up for Chicago I registered. WHY? WHY? I don’t understand, why did I register! Because, I thought that I would face my nemesis once and for all. Sign up and actually run the stupid thing.
However, I had a rough start to the year. It was hard having had such a big goal for the trials, it was something that I had dedicated myself to for almost 2 years and then it was over. Running local races, just didn’t seem as exciting. A little anti-climatic if you ask me. Once again, I found myself wondering if training so hard was worth it and if it was something I wanted to continue to do. And my training didn’t seem to be going right, I was still struggling with my calf muscle and my easy runs were hard, my hard runs were impossible, my long runs seemed to last forever. And then, sure enough, by September things started to fall back into place, my running started to “click” and I started to feel good. However, a little late given the marathon is 10/7. I decided I’d skip Chicago and start a 12 week training program for CIM.
I want to run another good marathon, and I know I’m not ready to do that this Sunday. But, then I got to thinking, maybe I should just run Chicago. Run Chicago… to break my record of Chicago DNF’s. Run Chicago…so I don’t have to say I signed up for it but didn’t run it, AGAIN. It’s not my goal marathon by any means, but I’ve decided to swallow my pride and run it as a long training run in preparation for CIM. I want to run it and finish it. This time around I don’t have a specific time to hit, my goal is to run smart, train smart and finish my long run. I’m not looking to race against the competition or looking to set a new PR. I’m just going to have a good time, to enjoy my scheduled long run with 45,000 other runners. I’m doing no more than running the marathon on Sunday strictly for fun! And, then when I get to CIM in December, that’s when I’ll be focused, put on my game face and be ready to race!
10 miles with 10 x 20 second strides. Finished…until tomorrow!
The alarm goes off at 5:30 and I don’t even give it a second thought. There’s NO way I’m getting up and going for a run that early. I’ll wait, set the alarm for 6am and get up then. 6am comes too soon. I’m too tired. I’ll try 6:15. Nope, that’s not going to work either. Now, after hitting the snooze button for the third time, I’m awake enough to think about my day. I decide I’d rather sleep! After all, I am pretty tired, and I only have 8 miles on my training schedule. I’ll certainly be able to carve out an hour later in the day to get it done.
However, also at this point, I’m tossing and turning, feeling kind of guilty for not getting up early and realizing how busy NOT running, (before the kids wake up) is going to make my day. Well, now it’s 7:02, I might as well get up, make coffee, and get the day started. And, then I realize I just don’t have an hour of running today, I also have an hour of strength training. Hmmm…great, this is now going to be more of a challenge than I thought.
By 8:15 I have my two girls up, showered, dressed and ready to go. My 3 year old niece slept-over so she is also up and ready to go home. My boys, moving a bit slower, are at least up and fed. I really need to leave the house at 8:30 so I can be at my first store visit (for Saucony) by 9:00…
So here’s how the rest of the day goes…
8:37 – Left the house
9:02 – Dropped Emma off at my Brother’s house in Wheaton.
9:20 – Arrive at Dick’s Sporting Goods Store in Lombard – store visit complete. Drive to DSG store in Oswego – complete. Drive to DSG store in Yorkville – complete. Drive to DSG store in Geneva – complete.
12:12 – Racing home in order to get Tommy to an orthodontist appointment in Wheaton at 12:30. Never going to make it on time! Why did I think a 12:30 appointment would fit into our schedule today?
12:35 – Arrive at the orthodontist, ONLY 5 minutes late. Man, I’m good! (I’ve always prided myself on being an “on-time” person. Even with three kids I never arrived late to anything! However, after having my 4th child, my thoughts of “on-time” meant that I had a buffer of 5-10 minutes.) It’s so hard to get anywhere “on-time” anymore.
12:36 – Walking to the door of the office, wondering why all the lights are off!? Hmmm….odd. Turning the door handle to the office and finding it LOCKED!? Are you kidding me!? I know his appointment was today.
12:37 – Oh well, I’ll get in the car, call the office, re-schedule the appointment. Now, time has just opened up for me to get my run in when I get home! Sweet! ( :
12:39 – In the car, cell phone rings, it’s the orthodontist asking if I’m bringing Tommy in for his appointment today? What!? I was just at your office and YOU’RE not there. Oh, that’s because the Dr. is working out of the Woodridge office today!? I didn’t realize there were two offices. How far is it from the Wheaton office? “15 minutes.” Ok, I can probably do that, but I have to get my daughter to gymnastics by 2:30. “That’s no problem, once you get here it will only take a few minutes.” Ok, we’ll be there by 1!
1:05 – Arrive at orthodontist…
1:25 – Still at orthodontist
1:44 – Waiting…..at orthodontist
1:57 – STILL waiting at orthodontist…I guess I have a different concept of exactly what a FEW minutes means. UGH!
2:00 – REALLY TRYING HARD TO FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE! Finally, I have to give in and call Chris and ask him if he can get Leah to gymnastics.
2:03 – Receive phone call from Leah. She is crying. Why? Well of course, her gymnastics’ bag and grips are in the trunk of my car. “I promise you, honey, I will have it to practice before you are done warming-up!”
2:18 – FINALLY, leave the orthodontist office. Next appointment is scheduled for this Thursday at 2pm – I was told it will take an hour. Hmmmm…..
2:44 – Arrive home, Chris kindly offers to drive Leah’s bag to gymnastics for me. Thank you!! Feed the kids a quick lunch! Yes, I know it’s a little past the traditional lunch hour…my bad!
2:49 – I have 61 minutes to complete a 60 minute strength workout. No problem.
3:45 – Drive Rachael to gymnastics – arrive ON-TIME! (Although, I’m still wearing workout clothes and sweating from the strength workout…haha)
4:15 – Again 65 minutes to squeeze in a 60 minute run – Yep, No problem!
5:20 – Get boys ready for football practice, arrive at practice ON-TIME! Amazing!
6:00 – Pick up Leah from gymnastics…wait until 6:15 when Rachael’s finished with practice.
6:30 – Back to football practice – to actually watch the boys on their first night to see how it goes.
8:00 – Home, dinner, get kids ready for bed.
8:55 – Thinking tomorrow will be more of the same. However, this time when the alarm goes off, there is No question that I’m swinging my tired legs out of bed and getting my workout done early!
People always wonder how I run when I have four kids. Well, I guess this is how a mother of four, trying to train and race at her best gets it done.
Because I knew a couple of people who were running one of the Kettle Moraine Endurances races the challenge entered my mind, “Could I run more than a marathon?” Especially when, in the last couple of months,I haven’t been training specifically for the marathon and/or beyond. Why not try it? Originally I inquired about running the 100 mile run or the 100k, but than thankfully, somewhat of my sanity came back, and I figured that would be too much mileage without proper training and I could very well end up injured.
So, my thoughts turned to the 38 mile FUN run. Since, I just celebrated my 38th Birthday a few days ago I thought it would be interesting to see if I could get through a 38 mile run. When else would I get the opportunity to run my exact age in miles!? ( :
Yesterday afternoon, on a whim, I drove to La Grange, Wisconsin, thinking I was going to start the run at 8pm and hope to finish between 2-3 in the morning. Sleep a couple of hours in my car and then drive back home. However, When I arrived I was told I could start before 8pm and opted to begin around 6:20 in the evening.
I was equipped with everything I needed. I had just had a full bottle of UR Driven (my all natural sports drink sponsor) about an hour before I started and a protien shot. I also was carrying a water bottle of UR Driven, endurlytes, my head lamp, and one tiny, tiny light on the top of my shoe. Since, I was carrying a bottle in one hand I opted to leave my hand held flash light in the car in order to leave my other hand free. (Dumb idea)
I started out at a nice controlled pace, running alone, although I was passing runner’s going in both directions, so not entirely alone on the course, but running by myself the first 16-17 miles. I felt great. I kept consuming the UR and taking my endurlytes and did not concentrate on the distance I had accomplished and the distance I had left to go.
I finally got to the check point on Highway 12 where my drop bag was located. I decided I felt great. I didn’t need to mess with my shoes, socks, or clothes, so all I did was mix up another bottle of UR and was about to go on my way when one of the crew manning the aid station asked if I had a light. “Sure do! My head lamps wrapped around my water bottle right now, but I plan on using it pretty soon.” In which he responded, “You’re defintely going to need it.” He told me the trail was going to become more technical, with lots of rocks and roots sticking out of the surface. He said, I needed to be sure to pick up my feet and watch my footing carefully! “Will do!” And I set off again.
At first the trail wasn’t that dark but I could feel the dark encroaching on my quickly and figured I better put my head lamp on and be ready for the blackness. The light immediatly came on and just as immediatly went out. What the heck!? This lamp was brand new with brand new batteries in it. It can’t possibly NOT work. I checked it at home and it worked. I checked it in the car and it worked. However, lesson learned, I needed to check it at the aid station before I went out into the dark, wooded path. At least then, if it didn’t work I could have put in my back up batteries.
And now, all of a sudden, I’m alone and I’m in the forest, and it’s going to be dark, and I’m ALONE. Ok, don’t panic, turn the tiny tiny light on my shoe, at least that’s something. Even the smallest light can brighten the darkest night, right? Well, not so much. I told myself, just think of Katniss, from the Hunger Games, running through the forest, unafraid yet sometimes very afraid..and, oh, wait she’s equipped with a bow and arrows. I’m missing the bow and arrows and that’s just not good. I’m not as cool and calm, I’m more of a nerd so forget that image. : )
Anway, it was frustrating because I definitely had to slow my pace and be very careful, making sure I was seeing the trail markings on the ground and hoping that I would soon come upon somebody with a light. And with about 2 miles to the aid station I did just that. He was running the 100 mile run so I did have to slow my pace quiet a bit, but that was okay. I’d rather take it slow, be able to see, and not get injured! When we came to the aid station he sat down for a well-deserved rest and I was anxious to get going again. That’s when I saw Alec (who was running the 100 mile run) and Brian (who also came out on a whim to help pace Alec and get in some mileage.) I hung back with these guys until the next big aid station and was very thankful when Alec gave me an extra head lamp. Alec told us we could both go ahead and he would be back to running shortly after we set out again.
The rest of the run Brian and I talked the entire time. In fact, I don’t think there was ever a lull in our converstation. And what was more amazing is that we kept feeling good. I figured as we drew closer to the end, mental and physical fatigue would eventually start to set in. But, it never did and when we saw that we only had 5 miles to go, then 3 miles, then 2, and finally 1 we wondered how on earth we could still be talking, smiling, and laughing. It was incredible. I certainly didn’t feel like I had just finished 38 miles. The only thing I can attest this too is that I went out at a very easy comfortable pace and never became depleted and I stayed properly hydrated and fueled the entire race.
I’m not sure if finishing with such a good feeling will be in my favor. Because of course, I’m already thinking that If I can do 38 miles and feel that good, why not try 50, and if I can make 50, then whose to say I can’t do 100! Hmmm…..I’m always up for a new challenge!
Here are the results from the 38 mile run. It kills me that I had problems with my head lamp b/c if I didn’t I might have been able to beat the first place male finisher. Well, I guess he just better watch out next year…( ;
“Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody
I’ve spent my money on a 38 mile race
How I wish I had someone to run with
I’m in an awful way”
What am I thinking? Well…
After running the marathon in December 2011 my plan was to cut back on my mileage and focus on my speed. From 2010-2012 my goal was to make it to the Marathon Olympic Trials. Every run, every workout, everything I did training wise, was focused on running a 2:46 marathon. Each race I ran was only an attempt to make me stronger for the marathon. The little goals I met along the way where there to get me to my ultimate goal of the trials.
Unfortunately things don’t always turn out as I would like them too. In 2011, when I tore my calf muscle two weeks before the Chicago Marathon I knew I was going to have a tough time healing and making the cut. (This “story” I will save for another blog).
Thankfully, I was able to go out to California and attempt to run a qualifying time at the CIM marathon in Sacramento. However, my calf muscle was still an issue and I was finally forced to stop at mile 22 and watch the Olympic Trials vanish before my eyes. The remaining 4.2 miles of the marathon was a complete death march but at the same time somewhat satisfying. Instead of walking off the course, I was able to finish with a time of 2:50:03, and in so doing, I was able to close the chapter on a dream I had been pursuing for quite a while. While disappointing it wasn’t devastating. Through this journey, I was reminded, once again, that running doesn’t define who I am and the Olympic Trials do not define my running.
However, it was strange to come back home, rest a bit, and start running again. This time there was no big dream to chase, no future goal that compared to the trials. I was wondering what direction I should take in regards to my running. Did I want to focus on speed, run the mile, try to PR in the 5k? Maybe, train for the 1/2 marathon or maybe, it would be fun to race the CARA circuit races again and see if I could repeat being “Chicago Athlete of the Year,” like I did in 2006 and 2007. It would be interesting to see where I would place now being five years older!
I eventually decided that I would start training for a 1/2 marathon in May. However, my body and mind seemed to be bored with the high mileage and similar workouts I had used for the marathon. So, after talking with my coach, Carla Hastert, who I just started working with this year, we decided I’d go back to the 5k and work on my speed. However, my body still didn’t seem to want to cooperate and my workouts, even my easy workouts, seemed laborious and too difficult. We realized I needed to rest and back down on my training. So, for the last month that is exactly what I have been doing. I haven’t run many long runs or hard workouts. I’ve been keeping my base mileage right where it needs to be. I’ve been working on running drills, strides, and recovery runs and soon will turn my attention back to marathon training.
But first however, I will wrap up the last couple weeks of training with a 38 mile run in Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin tonight at 8pm. Why? Why? Why would I want to run anything more than a marathon? In fact, if I had to choose between running the marathon or the mile I would definitely pick the mile 100x over the marathon! So, why in my right mind, without specific training for an ultra-run would I sign up (a week ago) to run one? Well, that’s just it. It really doesn’t make sense and it’s probably not the wisest decision I could make, but that’s what makes it fun and adventurous. And if my running and training is always predictable and rigid it becomes boring and tiresome. Every once in a while I have to throw in something completely different (last year I ran a mile PR in the midst of marathon training and a 100 mile week) and tonight to start a 38 mile run at 8pm through the forest, in the dark, is something entirely new and challenging for me. It’s nice to have butterflies in my stomach because I don’t know what to expect. Here’s to spending my Saturday night running and running and running…
Updates to follow if I can move after running 38 miles…
“Do not gloat over me my enemy, though I have fallen I will get up” (Micah 7:8)
For those of you who know me, you know that I’m not the most graceful person around. I find myself stumbling over non-existent items , breaking un-breakable objects, slipping on non-slippery surfaces, and falling flat on my face without tripping over anything. In fact the first couple lines of the song Falling, by Florence and the Machine describe me well…
“I’ve fallen out of favor and I’ve fallen from grace,
Fallen out of trees and fallen on my face
Fallen out of taxis out of windows too…”
These kind of falls aren’t that bad. Of course, there’s always potential for injury, and they may be a bit humiliating . But, they can’t leave my heart cut in two, putting me in intensive care and waiting for emergency surgery to sew the wound back together. And although, there is healing there is a scar. A scar that reminds me of how far I fell and how far I can fall again if I’m not careful.
When I took my first fall I’m not even sure I realized I was flying towards the ground with an un-stoppable speed. You see, I was born into a Christian family and I became a Christian at a very early age. And from the start, I desired to be the best Christian ever! I went to Church, I went to youth group, I read my Bible, I prayed, I invited friends to Church, I didn’t get mad, I was a peace-maker, while others were takers I was a giver, and of course when I grew up I was going to be a Missionary.
And then I entered High School. Wow! Ok, I’m still doing all the things a good little Christian girl should do. With the exception of the fact that I now know that I’m going to be a spectacular athlete. Maybe in basketball, maybe in track, maybe in both. I’m going to break the records, run the fastest. I am going to be the star. But wait, there’s other girls who are just as good as I am, maybe even better. And not only in athletics, but in academics, popularity, and in looks. I’m not sure I measure up so well against my competition. I need something to make me stand out in the crowd. I don’t want to be average. I’m afraid I’m might be JUST average.
So, here I was standing on the first ledge. I didn’t even know that I had climbed so high. I didn’t even know I was looking over the mountain top into the valley. I was so unaware of where I was heading that the next step took me a little by surprise. Because with that next step I stepped off of the ledge and into a tail-spin. I was falling and falling fast. But thankfully, there was something to stop the fall. I reached out for the branch that was sticking out of the mountain wall. I knew it could hold me, stop my fall, and drive out the fear of being just average.
The minute I grabbed my safety line, the branch, I knew I wasn’t going to be average anymore. I was going to be the best at something. I was going to be so good and so disciplined people would start to take notice. I wouldn’t just blend in anymore. When I started to become obsessed with not eating, the weight I was losing and the weight I wanted to lose, I didn’t have a name for it. I just felt in control. I wasn’t falling anymore. I felt better than ever, on top of the world. I had such self-discipline it was amazing. I was good at this, anorexia, my salvation, the disease that was suddenly filling the void within my soul.
What I was doing, of course, was in secret, but people noticed I was thinner. Man, the comments were the best. “You look like you’ve lost weight?” “Have you been sick? You look thinner.” Awesome! It was working. I was doing the perfect job at starving myself. (Needless to say, any athletic dream I had was out the window. I didn’t have the energy or the desire anymore to participate in sports. A dream given up, but it’s not until later we realize that what we give up costs way more than what we think is bringing us pleasure).
But then, for some reason the branch began to shake, my safety net didn’t feel so safe anymore. I heard it crack and I knew it wouldn’t be long before it would break and I would be falling again. Sure enough, the void was back, the anorexia wasn’t satisfying me anymore. It was hard work. I was tired of being so self-disciplined and with that I felt my body quickly falling to meet the ground.
I needed another branch. There has to be another branch. There is another branch. I just have to reach for it and it will stop me from falling. Bulimia, the disgusting, ugly, spinning out of control branch of bulimia. How embarrassing ! How could I grab onto this branch. I hate it. But, I need it. It’s filling the gap I so desperately want closed! Does it make me feel good about myself? No way? Do I feel like I’m in control? No way? But, I keep doing it because if I stop I’ll start falling again and I don’t want to hit bottom and die. But, I do want to die, because death would bring freedom from the falling. Death would bring release from the thoughts and the obsession. Death would bring healing. Maybe I do want to jump off this branch and hit bottom? I’m going to die from the eating disorder anyway, why not do it now? Get it over with!?
And so I jump, and I’m falling again. Why can’t I just find peace? Why can’t I just find the satisfaction I’m looking for? If God is such a loving God why am I struggling so much. I hate myself, in fact, I hate all people, and I hate God the most. Life isn’t fair and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Why won’t he just step in and change things. Wait! Maybe I don’t want to hit bottom. No! Not yet, I don’t want to give up. Tomorrow I’ll change. Tomorrow it’s going to be different. I need another branch and I’ll change. I promise I’ll change!
The other branch must be from the same tree as the other branches. The bulimia didn’t go away. I just started mixing it with anorexia. I wouldn’t eat ANYTHING for 4 days and on the 5th day I’d binge and get rid of it, then I wouldn’t eat anything for 2 days, and on the 3rd day I’d binge and get rid of it. It got to the point that I wouldn’t eat anything, fruit, a popsicle, a chip, nothing! And, if I did I would immediately throw it up. Gross! Gross! Disgusting! It’s humiliating just writing about it. I’m one big screw-up, failure, waste of life. Why haven’t I died from this yet!? God, if you’re real please let me die! I can’t handle this life anymore.
Get of the branch! Get off the branch! There’s no more satisfaction in anorexia or bulimia. I need something else, not something else to fill the void, but something else to escape from the eating disorder. I need to find relief from it, from the thoughts, from the obsession, from the depression. There has to be another branch. There’s always another branch and another branch and another branch. There’s always something to fill that void. And there will always be something else needed to fill the void if it’s not filled with the only One who can bring complete satisfaction and sew up the gap, leaving it longing no more.
Alcohol abuse. Escape. A few hours. No thoughts. No thoughts. Peace. Fake Peace. But peace, if only for a few hours. I don’t have to think about food, I don’t have to think about weight, I don’t have to think. Period. I don’t have to think. Except the high wears off and when the high wears off it takes me lower than where I once was. So, I need more, but it wears off again and takes me deeper into the valley. I can’t even see the mountain top anymore. The Summit is gone from my view. Is there even a Summit? I’m not sure. I’m in deep. I’m in a cycle that has no end. I’m spinning . I don’t want to spin. But, I don’t want to stop spinning. But, I do want to stop spinning. How do I stop spinning? Death. Death will make it stop. I want death. I’m stepping off the branch.
I step off the branch. I hit rock-bottom. But, I’m not dead. I want to be dead. I don’t want to be dead. I need help. “God are you there? I need help. I mean I really need help. Jesus, I need you. I need Your help. Can you help me? Will you help me?” I think I hear something. I do hear his voice. His Sheep know his voice and they listen to Him! (John 10:27)
“Child, child you are mine. I love you. You are priceless. (1 Cor. 6:20) You are worth something! You are special! You’ve always been special. Stop seeking to fill the void! Stop putting your identity in fleeting things. Put your identity in me. You are mine. I am yours. You are complete in me. You don’t need anything to make you stand out, to make you above average. I created you. I created you with my very hand, you are my masterpiece. You are perfection. (Psalm 139) Stop trying to change that.
Child fill the void with me. You have freedom from every addiction, from every sin, from every trap that wants to ensnarl you. My death gave you freedom. Claim it. Claim it daily. Pick up your cross. You have the choice. Never believe that you are without choice. Put off your old self and choose to put on my armor. It will help you stand strong against Satan’s Schemes. (Eph. 6:13) My death set you free so you could be free. It can’t get any easier than that. I gave you freedom so you could be free. (Titus 2:14) Now, child, stop looking down! Look up. Look up! I am the lifter of your head. (Psalm 3:3) I am your salvation. You need nothing more. Look up! I am the True Vine, the Strong Vine you are the branch. (John 15:5) Look up! Stand in my freedom! Walk in my freedom!
I can hold you safely. I won’t let you fall. Although, you can choose to fall, but if you stay in Me, you will not fall. Look up. Though you have fallen you will get up! Don’t be ashamed of where you have been. Though you were filthy you are now clean. White as snow. Washed by my blood. (Isaiah 1:18) The past. Gone. Forgiven. Forgotten. But, don’t forget it. Don’t forget that is wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t fulfilling. Don’t forget! Because I don’t want you to go back there.
You allowed your heart to become a heart of stone. And with each fall, and each branch that couldn’t hold you it broke. Broke into pieces. I’m grafting it back together. It will leave you with a scar. The scar will serve as your reminder of how far you fell, of how far you’re capable of falling, and how far you do not want to fall again. You are fragile now, but with each step in freedom you will become stronger, and the stronger you get the more careful you must be. When you are on the top, when you’ve reached the summit, that is when you must especially be on guard because from the summit comes the farthest fall. But I have faith in you and I love you more than you can imagine. That is why ” I lifted you out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; and I set your feet on a rock and gave you a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:2) I rescued you because I delighted in you.” (Psalm 18:19) You delight in me? Yes, I delight in you!
This is the past. My Past. The past that tried to embezzle my future. The past that has the potential to steal my present if I don’t “stand firm” (Galations 5:1) and take my “thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) How do I keep from falling again?
I started to slip not because I started to do the wrong things, but because I stopped doing the right things. I didn’t have time for God. My focus was on me and I started placing my identity in places that could never complete me.
Thankfully, only through Christ, was I able to find freedom from a lifestyle of addictions and disorders. When I first was set free from this destructive lifestyle, my mom and I would speak to youth groups, Jr. high and high school students, etc. and warn them of the dangers of eating disorders and the effect it can have on the rest of the family. When I started getting caught up in sin, I was so selfish. It didn’t cross my mind that what I was doing had the potential to take its toll on those around me. Sin doesn’t just affect one person.
The other thing about sin is that satan makes it look so glamorous and so tempting. We begin to think we can’t live without it and at the same time he diminishes the consequences. He doesn’t want us to think that a couple days of counting calories and getting on the scale could turn into a deadly eating disorder. He doesn’t want us to think that one drink could lead to alcoholism. One drag to a controlling and overwhelming addiction. But then, the minute we give into that sin, the minute we take hold of it and fulfill the temptation, he rips us to shreds. “Are you kidding me? You just did that? You call yourself a Christian? You love the Lord? I beg to differ! If you love Him so much you’d never do what you just did! You know, He won’t love you anymore! He can’t love you anymore! You’ve gone too far this time. You’ve crossed that sacred line and there’s no getting back!” The lies he feeds us. The deception he breeds. And sadly, we believe him.
But, we don’t have to. We don’t have to believe that we don’t have a choice. That we’re in too deep. That there’s no getting out. No stopping the cycle. I’ve learned it’s my choice to follow Christ’s voice. It’s my choice to walk in freedom. This is a daily decision. An hourly decision. A minute by minute decision.
There eventually came I time when I stopped talking about my past. I stopped speaking at youth groups and schools. I’m not sure why? Maybe because those struggles feel like a lifetime ago. Or maybe because those struggles still try to rear their ugly heads. Maybe because I want people to know who I am today and not think of me in regards to my past. Maybe because over the last few years I’ve slipped. I’ve let go of the Vine and grabbed onto branches, once again, that can’t hold me. Some of them have been the same branches that were in my past. Branches I swore I’d never go back to. And then there’s different branches. Branches I knew, for a fact, I would never hang onto, only to find myself dangling on the limb, waiting for the snap.
And maybe, I stopped talking about my past because I was afraid that I might be talking one way but walking in the opposite direction. No one likes a hypocrite. And I never want to proclaim freedom if I’m choosing to dwell in the pit. But the fact is, I do KNOW there IS FREEDOM from EVERY addiction, from every sin. The minute Christ died on the cross He broke the chains. He set the captive free. If I struggle today, it’s a choice. It’s a conscious decision to walk back into the cell, shut the door, and live in captivity. I apologize to those who know me and who have heard me proclaim my love for Christ but have seen me walk in my own way.
I am thankful for God’s ever- flowing forgiveness, mercy , grace, and faithfulness even in my unfaithfulness. I’m thankful that His love endures for me even when I let go of the Vine. I’m thankful that He is the God of never-ending chances. I am thankful that He provided a way for Freedom in this life and life-eternal.
See the place called Golgotha
Remembering His crown of Thorns
The undaunted slow motion of His crucifixion
the Temple curtain
See where I am now
Remembering what it cost
Just one thing I’ve learned
One thing learned while I was lost
Just one thing Brother, Sister
Pick up your Cross
Last year around this time I was able to talk two of my kids into running a mile race. At first, they resisted, but when they found out Jay Cutler would also be running the same race they agreed to it. My other two kids were smart enough to realize that even if they didn’t run the mile they would still get the chance to see Cutler and get his autograph. Duh!? The mile wasn’t a prerequisite to meeting Cutler.
Anyway, the result, they hated running the mile and they would NEVER run another race again. What!? How can you say you hated running? It’s the best thing ever. “Mom, it hurt! It wasn’t fun!” “No, no, you guys don’t understand the hurt, the pain, that’s part of the fun!! C’mon, you gotta be kidding me? How could you NOT think it was awesome!?” “NEVER again Mom! We won’t do it.”
Great! There went my chance at helping my kids develop a love for running. What was I thinking? Starting them off with the mile probably wasn’t the best thing. I should have worked them up to the 1600. Starting with the 100 meters, then the 200, then the 400, 1/2 mile, and then finally the mile. Well, I screwed that up.
So, of course now anytime I run a race that has a kid’s run I’m always trying to talk at least one of my kids into running it. The answer is always, “NO Way!” ” But, I swear, you don’t have to do the mile, you can do one of the shorter fun runs! You’ll love it! I promise!” “Yep, we remember, that’s what you said last time and we DIDN’T love it!”
Okay, so if my kids aren’t going to love running, I’ll just have to work on my neighbor’s child. She’s around our family so much I call her my “adopted child,” and what’s even better, she likes to run. In fact, she’s even asked me if I’d train her for a mile race or a 5k. You bet ya!
Earlier this week, I signed up to run a local 5k, but unfortunately, I’ve been fighting asthmatic bronchitis and it doesn’t want to go away. 5ks and asthmatic bronchitis don’t mix very well, but I had already registered for the race and figured I’d go, maybe pace a friend, and if I was really lucky talk one of my kids into doing the fun run…the kid’s mile or the kid’s 100m dash.
No luck, but my adopted daughter, Emily, was all for it. And because, she was interested in the mile, my two girls, were by NO means, interested in that distance, but decided to try the 100 meter dash. Finally! Finally, at least two of my kids were going to give running another shot!
Emily, did great in the mile! And I was able to run with her, cheering her on and encouraging her to keep going! I was very proud of my (adopted) daughter! She placed third in her age group!
And, then there was Rachael, who stood on the starting line to the 100m race with a determined face to fend off the competition and run her hardest. Well, she won her heat! And she told me, she didn’t even have to run her hardest because she knew she was going to win it. How’s that for confidence!? Go, Rachael!
And Leah, who has told me she will never be a runner because her love is gymnastics, stood at the start, looking more nervous than confident. But, as soon as it was go time this girl ran! Wow! She ran faster than I’ve seen her run before. So fast in fact, that she blew all the other little girls away and I wouldn’t be surprised if she could also beat her older brothers! And at the end, what did she say? “That was awesome, so much fun! I want to do it again? Can I do it again! Did you time me? What was my time!”
Needless to say, I was happy, not because they won and I just might happen to have a couple good sprinters on my hands – but because they liked it!! I don’t care if it was just 100 meters they liked it! And now they think running is fun and want to do it again! Awesome!
Who knows, maybe next time it will be a 200 meter race, and then a 400, 1/2 mile, and maybe, just maybe, they may ask to try the mile again. If not, that’s okay. I’m just glad that today they enjoyed it! And I feel that the spark has been lit – and you know what they say about sparks…it only takes one spark to start a fire! ( :