The Ottawa Running Club

Almost a year ago I moved back to Ottawa, Kansas, leaving behind a great running community in Missouri. I’ve missed to camaraderie and friends that pushed me to go faster and further. I’ve seen numerous people out running the trails in Ottawa and often dreamed of starting a group in my new community.

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It wasn’t until I was struggling during my last training cycle that I began thinking more seriously about starting a running club. In fact, my mom suggested that I start focusing less on myself and more on others. YES! I knew in that moment what I had to do.

Two weeks ago, I started the Ottawa Running Club. We meet every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening at the local Rec Center. I map out an out-and-back course (6 miles during the week & 8 miles on weekends, for now) and set up flags at each turn, provide two water stops- along with Kleenex, sunscreen, and band-aids and throughout the summer, I bring chilled washcloths for a post-run refresher.

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The turn out has been good. We’ve had anywhere from 3 (108 degrees yesterday) to 11 participants. For a smaller community, I’ve been pleased with the numbers, but see it growing this fall. I hope to continue to tailor this group to new, beginner runners.

In addition, I met with the county health department yesterday and look forward to working with them on an upcoming event to encourage activity in our area!

Life Lessons Learned Through Running

 

17883568_980669793948_6695138771332670788_nHere is the speech I gave to Wartburg College graduating communications students as the keynote address at their scholarship dinner.

What an exciting time for each of you! I am honored to be with you tonight and hope that the experiences I share with you can provide with some insight as you embark on a new journey.

I had the privilege of viewing some of your exceptional work today and I can truly say that many companies and communities are going to improve because of your hard work, creativity and passion.

How many of you aren’t sure what’s next for you? When I graduated from Wartburg, I didn’t have a job lined up. It wasn’t only terrifying for myself, but also my parents! I was lucky enough, however, to have a summer internship with the Iowa 4-H Foundation at Iowa State University and they allowed me to stay on staff until I had a full-time gig.

That October, I got an offer to be the communications specialist with the Kansas Corn Growers Association. Only a few problems…. 1. I didn’t know anything about agriculture. Of course, growing up in a small Iowa town it wasn’t completely foreign. 2. It was in Kansas, and 3. IT WAS IN KANSAS.

It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made to pack up and move to a small out-of-state town where I knew no one and had never even lived on my own. I decided that I would use the opportunity to start fresh. No one knew me and I could be whomever I wanted.

Despite that, I spent the first 3 months crying myself to sleep and feeling very lonely. My job was going okay but it wasn’t something I loved or planned to do forever. I planned on putting in my time and eventually move back to Iowa. I never stopped looking for my next job.

In the process of finding myself, I took up running. I had never ran a 5k and I decided to train for my first ever race. I couldn’t even run a mile when I decided to take on this challenge but I would walk and run after work and got better acquainted with the town I was living in by exploring new streets, paths and trails.

One night after a hot and humid summer evening run, I neared my apartment complex where one of my neighbors was on her deck with some friends. She yelled at me and asked if I’d like to come over for a beer. I was drenched in my own sweat, didn’t know anyone and a beer sounded pretty awesome, so I went. Just a month later, she introduced me to a hardworking, Kansas cowboy. That man became my husband six months ago.

Things happen for a reason. Have courage and take a leap of faith.

I continued to run and started to train for my first 10k race, put on by a local running group. I would go out after work and run 3-5 miles alone but 6 miles seemed impossible. I had no idea if I’d be able to run the 10k I signed up for. You can only do so much by yourself, and sometimes you need support from others.

I wasn’t feeling confident about my running abilities, but I saw that the local running group got together for runs on Saturday mornings. Once again, I took a leap of faith and decided to check it out. I had never run with anyone and I had no idea how far they went, but I was just hoping to meet someone new. That morning, there were only two other women showed up. They asked if 7 miles sounded okay. I picked my jaw up off the ground and said that I’d attempt to keep up (only because I was afraid I’d get lost). In my mind, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I had never ran past 5 miles. I kept up with the ladies and really enjoyed listening to their conversation. I was too out of breath to speak, so I just listened. Those same ladies talked me into training for my first half marathon, and a few months later, my first marathon. Since then, I’ve ran 9 marathons across the United States and continued a deep-rooted friendship with the women who started this crazy journey.

When you set out to run 26.2 miles, people question your sanity. It takes a lot of mental toughness to get your body to the finish line. Life is hard, but it’s also rewarding in ways beyond comprehension. There are times in your life that you’re going to have to work harder than you ever knew possible. Some days your only goal will be putting one foot in front of the other and to keep moving forward. It takes courage to step outside your comfort zone.

In the midst of working hard and reaching your career goals, it’s important to also find work/life balance. Don’t forget to take care of YOU. You can’t pour from an empty glass. To be productive at work, you must be happy and fulfilled at home. What does that look like for you? Volunteering in your community? Taking cooking classes? Trying cycling Don’t ever stop learning.

To meet people and feel like a part of my Kansas community, I reached out to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. I had participated in several service trips during my time at Wartburg, so Habitat felt like a natural fit. They eventually asked me to serve on their board of directors. I used my graphic design and social media talents to help them, and I made friendships and learned new skills along the way.

Find ways to fuel your passion outside of your 9-5. It is your job to find fulfillment in your life- it’s not up to anyone else. It was through my volunteer work with Habitat, that years later led me to my current position.

A small business owner saw my social media work for Habitat and asked if I would be their social media consultant in my free time. The owner’s college friend, worked for the American Heart Association as the Regional Vice President of Communications. That woman is now my boss and I serve as the communications director for the Kansas City market. Believe your advisor when he or she tells you- “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” As many times as Bill told me that, I wasn’t so convinced at the time. Now, I know.

About a month ago, during a phone conversation with my mom, she asked if I had my dream job. I had never really thought of it that way. BUT, for the first time in my career, I’m 100% happy.

I love the people I work with. I have a fantastic supervisor. I get to meet heart disease and stroke survivors that inspire me daily. I interact with heart surgeons and cardiologist who thank ME for the work that I do. And I can go home at night feeling like I’ve made a difference.

I have finally found all the pieces of the puzzle- the things that the light my passion and make me feel fulfilled. Find joy in the journey. Through the love for my husband and family, my career, volunteer work, and running… my life feels complete. I’m in the right place at the right time. But it’s important to never become complacent. Life evolves and changes and you must learn change with it.

My hope for each of you is that you find your passion and fuel it. Everything else will fall into place.

Team Beef Runner: Ranchers Affected by Wildfires

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time, as it’s something that’s been weighing heavy on my heart.

Just a month ago, a wildfire spread across Kansas, burning 650,000 acres (that’s like 650,000 football fields). Kansas wasn’t alone. The fast-moving wildfires burned through nearly 2 million acres  of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, which devastated ranches and left thousands of cattle, livestock, and wildlife dead.

When ranchers could return to their pastures, carcasses of dead cattle were everywhere. But that’s not all. Ranchers then had to load their rifles. Many had to shoot their herds because they were so badly burned that there was no chance of recovery. My husband told me of a man who had to kill 150 of his cows one by one and could do nothing but cry. It’s heartbreaking. One rancher reported his total losses to be somewhere between $5 million and $10 million. The wind-driven wildfires across Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle killed seven people and devoured homes, miles of fences and as much as 80 percent of some families’ cattle herds.

People have sent fencing supplies, hay and groups have gone to the area to assist. This weekend, I saw three semi-loads of hay going down the interstate with American flags pinned up along with signs that said “Make Kansas Great Again.”

If you’re wondering how you can help with the fire relief efforts in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas click here. For $44.50, you can supply a bag of milk replacer for calves that have lost their mothers in the wildfire. If you’re inclined to donate a bag, Ashland Feed and Seed can take your credit card order over the phone by calling (620) 635-2856.

My hope is that you’ll join me in rallying behind our ranchers that provide food for our tables.  

More:
Wichita Eagle: Cattle lost in wildfires
KC Star: Kansas sets wildfire record
R
anchers call wildfires “Our hurricane Katrina”
L
ivestock losses mount after wildfires

Getting my mind right

I’m aboard the struggle bus and I’m desperately trying to get off!
We’ve passed my stop! GET ME OFF OF HERE!

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Every run is a struggle. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s 3 miles or 12, inside or out, morning or evening… my legs are heavy, my breathing labored and my heart feels like it’s in a thousand little pieces. I used to love running. I used to look forward to it. I used to run at a much faster pace without feeling like I was going to drop dead. Didn’t I? Those memories seem so distant that I don’t remember.

I went into this training cycle thinking that I would have to let go of past marathon experiences, past paces and times, and focus on the present. Focus on finishing.

Even that seems nearly impossible after this weekend’s terrible 12-miler. I cried at mile 4 and thought, “How will I ever complete another marathon?”

In addition to the running, I’m struggling with keeping my eating in check and losing weight. All of these things go hand-in-hand.

I’ve started incorporating more weight training into my schedule, in hopes that it would make me a stronger runner, tone up a bit and keep me injury free for Grandma’s Marathon in June. I am not totally sure what all I should be doing and have relied on Pinterest workouts  to get me through. This week, however, I had my first workout with a trainer. It was a test run. I officially start next week. I’m hoping that she can help me accomplish my goals and help me be more accountable. She’s a marathon runner too, so she gets me.

All of this comes down to my own mindset. Why am I such a Negative Nancy lately? Or Defeated DeEtta?

Today that changes. I’ve been following the T-Rex Runner’s blog and she’s been killing her races after coming back from injury. She’s also been focusing on the mindset piece and finding her mantra during each race. I’ve started listening to running podcasts on the way home just to get myself motivated to put my shoes on and get outside. The podcasts are working and I’m going to try out a new mantra on tonight’s run outside (because it’s beautiful)!

Stay tuned. My bus stop is near. Changes are coming.

 

 

Freaking Out

On Friday I leave for Washington, D.C with my mom and brother to run my eighth marathon- the Marine Corps Marathon. I’m nervous. Super nervous.

There are a variety of reasons for feeling this way:

a. It’s the first time I’m traveling this far to run a race. I’ve never flown to a race. I really enjoy traveling to see sights, but I don’t enjoy flying.

b. I’m not sure my knee will hold up. I’m about 60% sure that my IT Band won’t flare up during the race and I would HATE to get my first DNF after traveling so far and having my family there to cheer me on. I had IT Band issues during my first marathon but was to stubborn to quit. I probably should have to prevent further damage.

My boyfriend told me, “Athletes get hurt. You have to listen to your body.” I LOVE it when he calls me an athlete! And he’s right…

c. I’m not in the shape I was in for Chicago. That 4:06 time is looking pretty amazing to me right now. I’m not going to come close to that this time. I fear that I’ll be disappointed with my time. In fact, I’m thinking about not wearing my watch and instead run by feel and just enjoy the course and crowd without the added pressure of checking my pace/time.

Despite the early nerves that have me wound so tight, I’m so excited to check out D.C. (again) and this time with my mom and brother.

This is truly the hardest week of training for me. It’s the week that I have to get my mind right and overcome the nerves. When something is bothering me, I run… but not this week. This week is about resting, hydrating and fueling my body.

I’ve put in the miles. I can’t change the way I trained. I just have to do what I can with what I’ve got.

This winter I plan to work on speed so that I’m ready for some PRs in 2016! If you know of anyone (affordable) that can help coach me in KC, please let me know in the comments!

A New Chapter

I’ve been MIA as far as this blog goes, and I apologize for that. Life has been crazy busy lately. I’ve been working a crazy amount of hours, running when I’m not working and have found little time for rest. BUT that will all change next week!

Two weeks ago I accepted a new position with the American Heart Association and I just finished my last day at my current job. I have a week of much-needed “vacation” in between! I’m so thrilled to join a great team at the AHA and how could I not be excited to be a part of an organization that promotes heart health?! The best part of my new job- I won’t be working weekends, which means I won’t have to plan races around my job!

Running has been going well except for a pain on the back of my leg that I can’t quite explain. I’m currently running 40-50 miles a week and many of those lately have been on the treadmill due to winter weather.

I’m also continuing to lift with Valerie, a friend who will be competing in her first ever bikini competition in April. I love lifting with Valerie for a number of reasons. We talk and laugh. A LOT. Going to the gym is always fun with her- even at 5 AM. I know, hard to believe! She kicks my butt, too. I don’t know what I’m doing in the gym or what I should be doing so its great to have her to guide me. She’s on a pretty strict schedule to prep for the competition so I just join her when I can—currently, that’s only once a week. The other days that I lift I just tried to remember what she made me do. We measured ourselves at the beginning. I’m not sure I’m doing enough to see a change yet but I am down about 6 lbs from the holidays and I feel stronger; so I’ll take it!

Wondering what I’ll be doing on my week off? I’m going to pretend I’m on Real Housewives of Kansas City. I plan to sleep in, go to the gym, go to my friends’ house, meet someone for coffee, and get my hair done. I’m also going to get my taxes done and get an oil change… surely those are things housewives don’t do.

More soon…

Injury update and Rock the Parkway goals

It’s been a rough two weeks. I managed to get through training and my last marathon with no injuries. I’ve been running faster than ever. I had big goals to blow my PR out of the water this spring during the Heartland 39.3 Half Marathon Series.

So, a few weeks ago I decided to get serious about my training and started adding in speedwork into my schedule. Then it happened–a nagging pain in my left Achilles tendon. I ran through it once or twice and then the next time it was worse. I’ve learned from past mistakes injuries, to take time off when needed and to let things heal- it’s SOOOO hard, but that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t run for nearly two weeks.

I still managed to get some intense cardio in through cycling classes, RIPPED, and the elliptical over the past weeks. This week I started running again. Three miles on Tuesday, 5 on Wednesday and 4 yesterday. I can still feel a little pressure which has me nervous. My calves have been SUPER tight so thanks to advice from my massage therapist last week, I’ve been foam rolling like crazy and using a golf ball on my feet.

Tonight will consist of hydrating, fueling, rolling, and icing. Pre-race jitters are starting and I’m pretty nervous about how tomorrow morning will go down at the first marathon of the Series- Rock the Parkway. My original goal was 1:55- I know I can do it- I nailed it during a 14-mile training run for my marathon. Now that I’m hurt, I am trying to come terms with the fact that goal is unlikely.

I need to take tomorrow easy so that I can run the next one, only two weeks away. Soooo, at packet pick-up this afternoon, I grabbed the 1:55 pacer band and the the 2:00 one. Right now, I’m leaning towards wearing the 2:00 one, which I know is a smart choice at this point…. AND it would still be a PR. Here’s to under 2:03!

Look for a race recap next week!