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!

Image result for school bus stop

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!

Race Recap: Little Rock Marathon–March 2, 2014

Epic. A truly epic race for a variety of reasons. Many of you already know that I chose to run this race because of my friend, Chad. I only knew Chad for a couple short weeks and only ran one long run with him, but in that short period of time he touched my heart and I knew we’d run together again soon. One of the things we talked about on our run together was his favorite marathons. He mentioned that Little Rock and St. Jude’s were his favorites. Unfortunately, Chad’s life ended abruptly a few weeks later while he was out on an evening run.

I thought a lot about Chad this weekend. He pushed me to keep going when I wanted to stop. He reminded me to make the most out of every thing that was thrown my way. He reminded me that I can overcome. For only known Chad for a short time, he definitely impacted me.

IMG_0139

I arrived in Little Rock on Friday evening with my mom, dad, and brother to find the start line right outside our hotel window- sooooo cool! On Saturday, we walked down the street to the marathon expo. I debated buying some rain gear for the race since a 90% chance of rain had been in the forecast for two weeks now but I didn’t. I decided I was bound to get wet regardless. I did, however, buy an Ultra Roller in an attempt to loosen up my calves. I’ve been foam rolling quite a bit but this seemed to get a little deeper into the calf muscles and tissue.

IMG_0152

We did some site seeing around River Market, Diamond Bear Brewery and the Big Dam Bridge. By Saturday evening, my left foot was ON FIRE. I got through training with no flare ups of plantar fasciitis until this point. I freaked out and had a full-on meltdown. My foot, the crappy weather to come and my nerves were more than I could handle at that point in time. I hardly ate dinner and felt as though I was only setting myself up for failure.

Saturday night I popped a couple Aleeve pills, laid out my race clothes and set my alarm. Hoping to get more sleep than the 2 hours I got the night before. (Likely another reason for my meltdown.)

IMG_0173

In the morning my foot felt tight but wasn’t painful. I trained for four months, traveled all this way and wasn’t about to give up because of some sore muscles and a little rain. My mom reminded me (once again) that I couldn’t control the weather and I had to make the most of it. I took some more Aleeve and headed to the hotel lobby to stretch.

There, I met a couple great ladies. Two sisters from Texas were running the half. They told me that they PRed their marathon times at the Houston marathon when it was raining because they so badly wanted to be done- and reminded me there was no reason I couldn’t PR this race.

Tara (pink) and her mom along the course

Tara (pink) and her mom along the course

I also met Tara and her mom. Tara’s PR was a 4:17 (mine was 4:18) and her mom ended up ridding around with my parents to the different stops to cheer us on. Tara and I hope to meet up at another marathon in the future! I love the running community!

I lined up at the start at 7:50 ready to get this over with. I was in a bad mood but forced myself to smile. This is why I came to Arkansas. I came to run. I came to PR. I came to have fun (even if I had to make the most of it).

At the last minute my parents found a beautiful (and flattering) yellow poncho for me. I put it on and decided the dryer- the better. Chaffing sucks. It was 55 degrees and misting at the start line and there was no sign of it letting up.

IMG_0169

I took off near the 4:10 pacers and tried to stay just ahead of them. Mentally, it bothers me to be behind them for some reason. As far as the course goes, I remember very little. I was so focused on the rain, wind and coldness, that I just kept thinking that I wanted to hurry and be done.

IMG_0176
There were rolling hills, but not nearly as bad as others had warned. There were some excellent declines too. I was most impressed with the number of volunteers and spectators that were out in the horrendous weather. A big thanks to the group of guys who set up a table and beer outside their home! That little shot of beer was exactly what I needed!

The other really neat thing I saw was a priest outside his church with the holy water, blessing runners as they passed by. I ran closer to him—for some reason I thought the more holy water, the better! Amen!

I ate my Hot Tamales as I ran, but stopped at few water stops. I think about 4 cups of water and a shot of beer was all I took in as far as liquids went. I was also thankful that my brother had an unwrapped piece of gum waiting for me a few times. I didn’t even start up my iPod. I didn’t want to mess with it in the rain and for the first time- I felt as thought I didn’t need it. There was something peaceful about listening to the conversations around me and the pitter-patter of footsteps on the wet pavement.

IMG_0178

Around mile 15 I nearly let the 9:10 pacers out of site. I was over it. I was tired, mad it was STILL raining, and so cold. I was very grateful that my parents found me some gloves in the car but my hands were so cold I couldn’t even get my fingers in the holes. They wouldn’t move so I put my hands in a fist and put them on over until I was able to regain feeling enough to put each finger in its designated hole.

The more I thought about letting the pacers go, and my dreams of PR in Little Rock go down the tube, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t run another 11 miles feeling completely defeated. So, I sped up. I caught up to the pace group, and passed them–leading the way until the end.

At mile 22 the volunteers held signs saying that due to the weather, and incoming storm, the race was cancelled. My heart sunk. I was on the verge of tears. I couldn’t quit. I came to run 26.2 miles- official or not, I WAS FINISHING. They warned that going on meant you ran at your own risk.

1907556_10203083758282054_1807574461_n

My brother, Hank called to check in on me when they heard the news. I told them I was still running and I’d see them at the finish line. Volunteers urged runners to seek shelter at mile 23. I took one quick look around and didn’t see any shelter. In less than 30 minutes I’d be at the finish, so I kept going.

At mile 25 I hit “THE HILL” and walked briefly. Walking in the rain sucked more than running so I went back to running pretty quick. I saw a race official on a four-wheeler and asked if they were still giving medals at the finish. She informed me that the finish line was still open. WHAT a RELIEF! When I saw all the signs, I envisioned getting to the finish with no clock running, and no one around to celebrate. As I hit the 26 mile flag I kicked it in high gear, hearing an announcer in the distance.

I made my 4:10 goal and finished in 4:09:44. By the time I finished it was nearly 30 degrees and raining harder.

IMG_0190

When I found my mom, she cried, which in turn makes me cry—it happens at nearly every finish line but I had worked so hard mentally and physically. I was drained, wet and cold.

I gave the wet gloves to my dad, and in turn he gave me some work gloves he had in his coat pocket. I look like a complete disaster in every single photo.

IMG_0186

BUT check out that medal! It weighs 2.5 lbs. Not even kidding.

I feel very fortunate that I got to finish this race. Many runners were told by police or volunteers that they had to stop running and board a bus at a local Wal-Mart to be bussed to the finish line.

Overnight the moisture froze turning Little Rock into an icy tundra. On Monday, my family and I decided to make the 2-hour trek to Memphis- to visit Graceland of course! Four hours on icy roads, and we were still over 40-miles away from Memphis. The roads were getting worse and it was at a Love’s truck stop that we decided it was time to turn around. Even the truck stop was closed- as they were without power.

We returned to our hotel in Little Rock and spend the evening getting some Chicago-style pizza and playing board games (ok- just our favorite one: Sequence). It wasn’t how we envisioned spending our long weekend but I loved having the time with my family regardless.

IMG_0219

What an EPIC weekend. As always, my family was the best support team.

If you haven’t ran the Little Rock Marathon, I recommend it.

IMG_0239
What’s next? I’m taking this week off of running and getting some cycling and RIPPED classes in at the gym. Next week I go back to training to PR my half marathon time. I’m signed up for the Heartland 39.3 Series which includes: Rock the Parkway Half on April 12, Garmin Half Marathon on April 26, and Running with the Cows Half on May 10. I’ll also be doing a fall marathon. I am entering the lottery for the Chicago Marathon and hope to get in. My bestie, Emily will be running Chicago on behalf of Susan G. Komen and it will be her first full! If I don’t get in to Chicago, I will probably do something local, like the Kansas City Marathon. I’m also really interested in running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis this December!

So that’s the plan!

Thanks to all of you who have been so encouraging to me throughout every step of my journey. It’s hard to believe when I started running I couldn’t make it a mile and was running near 14-minute miles. My first marathon finish was 5:20 and now, 4:09. It’s been a heck of a ride, thanks for sticking with me!