AIM High Endurance Awards

What are you doing on Thursday, November 6th of this year? Because you should be going to the AIM High Endurance Awards! If you’ve never heard of it or been for yourself, you are missing out. I had the distinct privilege of attending the event on the inaugural year it was held. For some reason, they gave me The Inspiration Award. While I was then and still am truly, deeply honored and humbled, don’t let it fool you for a second! I’m not really all that inspirational and am in fact, quite average. I don’t do anything that somebody else couldn’t do; I’ve just been given a unique set of circumstances.

Regardless, there I was, having been utterly terrified of public speaking my entire life and stepping up to a podium in high heels hoping against all hope I wouldn’t fall. I stared out at a sea of very intimidating faces and was sure I was just going to pass out right then and there. Instead of speaking gracefully and eloquently like I had imagined in my head, I panicked and blurted out just one sentence before I started to get choked up. I shakily re-gained my composure and forgot the rest of what I wanted to say. I got out another two sentences in record time and hightailed it back to my seat red faced and with my hands still shaking. While my acceptance speech left much to be desired, the event itself didn’t. It was an amazing night honoring the people, charities, and supporters in our community. I was able to rub elbows with some local running greats and important people in our community, feast on delicious food, and simply enjoy being a part of such an amazing group of people. Best of all, we were supporting Alternatives in Motion, a wonderful non profit that assists with all sorts of mobility needs.

The AIM High Endurance Awards recognize the everyday athletes out there going above and beyond. Not necessarily the elite, fastest, top 1% but everyday people like you and me. If in a single year, you have completed the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon, the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25k, and a half-iron or full-iron distance triathlon at the Grand Rapids Triathlon or the MiTitanium, you are automatically awarded The West Michigan Endurance Award. You will never see my name on this list because I don’t swim, but I know many of my fellow runners that fit into this category!

We all know someone who deserves to be recognized, who does so much for those around them, inspires others, or helps in ways that are too many to mention. You can nominate someone you know for one of the following awards below:

The Lifetime Contribution Award
The Individual Accomplishment Award
The Inspiration Award
The Corporate Dedication Award
The Outstanding Charitable Contribution Award
The Moving People Forward Award

I encourage you to look it up, check it out, and put it on your calendar! It’s a good time for a good cause. We hope to see you there!

-Road Warrior Kathy

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Nothing worth doing is easy

Last Saturday, I woke up at 4 am because today was the day. Today I was really going to run 50 miles.

As I got dressed, I felt a glimpse of what Clark Kent must feel when he changes into Superman. Here I am: just a regular person, a mom of 2 kids, married for 10 years, working a normal job, and doing normal things like losing my car keys and quick washing the dishes in the sink before I have to leave. But once I put on my running gear and lace up my shoes, everything changes. I am not a normal person anymore. I am stronger, faster, braver, and more capable than I was before. I am someone different: an adventurer, a fighter, and someone willing to test their limits.

Adele Garcia, a former Road Warrior from years past, joined me at 5:30 am and we set out to run 50 long, long miles. I had a pit in my stomach, the nervous and excited energy that you get before you do something really big or something you are not so sure of. There was no turning back now. I hit the start button on my Garmin and we ventured into the dark with only our headlamps to show us the way.

The first 30 miles I must say, flew by. We talked, we laughed, we joked around, we took pictures, we told stories, and we bonded in a way that only fellow runner friends can. There is something different about running alongside someone early in the morning for hours on end, it’s something realer and truer than anything else you can do. There is no need to impress anyone, there is no way to skirt who you are at the core because it just comes out whether you want it to or not, your guard comes down, and your secrets feel safe between the two of you and the ever growing road beneath your feet. And for the first 30 miles, we stuck side by side, drinking in our long run, enjoying each other’s company, and unburdening our past, present, and future. It was nothing short of amazing.

When we stopped for food around the 30 mile mark and I realized how much longer we had to go still, something became unhinged in my mind. I started laughing hysterically – crazy, maniacal laughter that I couldn’t quiet. I was laughing so hard I was crying while my running partner Adele, and my husband/crew chief, looked at me like I might be losing my grip. No one else was laughing but me, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make myself stop. It was exhaustion, desperation, and anxiety coming out. Things took a turn for the ugly very quick in the 30’s.

The miles ticked by slower than anything I had ever seen in my life, we were running indefinitely and hysteria threatened to overtake my fragile mind. Everything hurt, the sun was blazing down on us with no end in sight, and we were only now just over half way there. Both Adele and I were struggling. One of us would feel better while the other felt worse, then the roles would reverse. The fun run was officially over, now it was more like a death march to the end. There’s not much I can say about those miles except they were extremely hard. The range of emotions that rises up in you when you’ve been running for 8+ hours is staggering and uncontrollable. Tears for no reason, anger for no reason, and complete and utter exhaustion for good reason, When running is no longer fun, you have to remind yourself why you are doing it and what you want out of this. It was hard to remember during some of the dark miles. And then it was like running through a fog that suddenly lifts, because around mile 41, I found a second wind. I ran with renewed passion, finishing the last 9 miles faster than the first 9 miles. Watching Adele fight for it was awe inspiring too. It didn’t matter what was happening, she was still moving forward, always moving towards her goal. We both finished hours over our projected goal time of 12 hours, but still, I consider it a wild success because we both finished.

In running, in life, and in nearly everything, we have a choice. Keep moving or quit. It’s as simple as that. So when you want to quit, remember why you are doing this, remind yourself what you want out of this, and fight for it if it’s worth it to you.

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Cloudy skies ahead

We’ve all been there before. It’s the run that takes away nearly all of your hard earned confidence in a matter of minutes. It’s the run that makes you feel like the slowest, sluggish, most out of shape person that has ever attempted to run. In a single word – it’s excruciating. The first question that comes to mind is what’s going on. A runner’s brain tends to be logical, methodical, and usually operates within a definite have a problem, find a solution mentality. But sometimes, into the most logical part of that brain sneaks the black could. The black cloud is powerful; it can overtake even the most self-assured runner if the conditions are just right. It seeks out fear and doubt and amplifies it in your mind. The black cloud makes you feel like a failure before you’re even done trying and before you’ve even had the chance to fail. The black cloud is not above shaming you for every decision you’ve ever made and for every failure (legitimate or not) that you’ve ever tried to bury and forget about. Yes, the black cloud sees it all and uses it all to hand out its harsh judgments without mercy.

Welcome to the deep, dark recesses of my mind just last week. It was Saturday morning and 24 miles were on the schedule. I am training for my very first 100 mile ultra marathon in September. I am not a stranger to the ultra marathon but this 100 mile race will be by far, the longest I’ve ever attempted. Anyhow, back to Saturday morning: less than 2 miles into my 24 mile run and it became clear that this was going to be one of those excruciating runs. The black cloud pushed its poison into my mind immediately and didn’t let up for the next 22 miles. The black cloud wiped out every accomplishment I’ve ever had. The black cloud brought shame and guilt with it and told me if I lost these last 20 pounds, it’d be much easier to run. The black cloud went for the jugular, taunting me for being selfish and for spending so much time on running when I could be at home with my kids and judging me for spending so much money on running shoes when I could be setting it aside for my son’s medical expenses. The black cloud was sure I would never, ever, in a thousand years, be able to finish 100 miles. I mean, I was struggling terribly just to survive these 24 miles and I wasn’t even a quarter of the way there. When my resolve was weakened and I was truly wondering if I’ve gotten in over my head, the black cloud mocked me “Let’s just leave these kinds of feats to the real athletes, shall we?”

I put on my angry face, gritted my teeth, and obsessively watched my Garmin move slower than I thought was even possible. At one point, I took it off and jostled it around a bit, sure that it was broken. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily for me, it wasn’t broken; I was just going that slowly. I scolded myself, I threw myself a big pity party, I got good and mad about not being able to do what I wanted to do, and yet I didn’t give up. I dug deep, I held on, and I pushed through it. As my driveway came into view, I was overcome with emotion. I started to cry from sheer relief at being done and also to be rid of that hateful black cloud. Once I was done running and thinking clearly again, I realized with some embarrassment that the hateful black cloud is me. There is no escaping her. Secretly (or not so secretly anymore), I’m afraid that I can’t do it. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough, not fast enough, not thin enough, and not disciplined enough. And I won’t ever be able to stop that voice in my head until I can give myself some credit for the past and believe that I really can do whatever I set my mind to. A friend gave me a wonderful magnet from Fellow Flowers that says “And when she realized she was brave enough, everything changed.” It’s a great reminder about the power of our own voice.

Running has a way of bringing out the very essence of life in each mile like that. There’s no escape from who you are and what lies beneath the surface. So this is what I want you to do if the black cloud comes for you. Just for right now, just for this run, and just for today, shut down that black cloud. Be proud of yourself even if you are not where you want to be. Be proud of what you can do even if you aspire to do more one day. Remember where you have come from, what you have survived, and what you have done in order to get here. Believe that you have done the best that you could given the circumstances, know that you have made mistakes but learned much from them, and realize you are always progressing towards something better. We choose what the voice in our head has to say to us – make it something worth listening to.

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Who wants to run a marathon?

Turns out, lots of people! Myself included. The Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon is Sunday, October 19th and I just registered! I love a good marathon and I can tell you from experience, this is a good one. This race takes up a lot of figurative space in my sentimental running trunk. It was the first marathon I ever ran. It was the half marathon that I ran almost 6 months pregnant. It was my “comeback” marathon – the first one I trained for and ran post-baby; I was still nursing my 7 month old son and not sleeping at all but I wanted to do something to feel like myself again! This race holds both my BC-PR and AC-PR (That’s before children personal record and after children personal record). Yes, I just made up that distinction and yes, there is a difference! The point of this little trip down memory lane here is that there are just a lot of warm, fuzzy memories that I associate with that race and after missing it the last couple years, I am excited to be doing it again! And I want to encourage you to come run with me, whether it is the full, half, or relay!

Like with almost everything worth doing, the marathon is a lot of hard work. It’s a big commitment to train for and run a marathon; there is no doubt about that. But it can also be fun. Don’t believe me? Ok, fine, maybe not fun in the traditional sense of the word, but new and exciting for sure! It’s an adventure and that can be fun! You’re not sure how it’s going to go, what’s going on with your knee, what’s going to happen next, when and what you should eat or drink, what shoes you should wear, what your first 20 mile training run will be like – that’s all exciting! At least to me it is, but I tend to embrace my inner running nerd.

I think the best piece of advice I have to offer you is this: if you have signed up for your first marathon/half marathon do NOT, I repeat, do NOT worry about what time you will finish in. I know, I know. I’m a runner and I’m telling you the time you finish in doesn’t matter. I know many accomplished runners that completely agree and disagree with me here, so take it with a grain of salt as you would with anything you read on the internet. I personally believe if it is your first race of that distance, it does not matter what time you finish it in. That applies to you whether you are running a 5k or 100 miles for the first time ever. Let off the pressure. Stop freaking out if you are 15 seconds behind your target pace. Just breathe. Enjoy it. Take it all in. Since it’s your first race of that distance, it’s an automatic personal record! Have fun! That’s the way life was meant to be lived!

There are many weeks of training still ahead and if you follow along, I’ll take you with me! If you’ve been thinking about a fall marathon or a half marathon, there is still time. Happy running!

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Emmett’s Endurance Event

It’s not that I ever wanted to run on a treadmill for 7 hours and 26 minutes because honestly, I never really wanted to. It’s that I had to. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love running and I was unbelievably grateful to be able to run on the treadmill to help free my mind on that endlessly long day 2 years ago but I didn’t seek out this long, treadmill run by any means. I did it because I had to. And it became central to my son Emmett’s story and thus became merely a part of who we are, which is why I feel I must continue on with it.

Almost 2 years ago, on June 20th, 2012, I stepped onto a treadmill in a small room on the 10th floor of a Children’s Hospital three hours away from my home. It was a little before 8 a.m. and I had no idea how this day would end. Would my son live? Would my son die? Would I be able to feel it if he died on that operating room table? Would I be able to go on in this life if he did die? Or would I be perpetually stuck on this treadmill willing his life to go on with my very legs, sure that if I just kept running it would all be ok? What if he had a seizure in the middle of the surgery? What was happening right now? Would I be able to run the whole time? What if the surgery took much longer than they thought? What if I couldn’t do it? How would I tell my friends and family that I have failed? I can’t fail, not at this. It’s too important. What am I going to do? There was nothing but a million unanswered questions in front of me and so I did the only thing I could, I started running.

My 15 month old son Emmett was a few floors below me being cut open ear to ear, having his skull broken apart and removed, and reassembled correctly with plates and screws. Emmett was born (unbeknownst to us) with a birth defect of the skull called Craniosynostosis. His skull had formed into a triangle and his brain was running out of room. He had gone undiagnosed for the entire first year of his life. We didn’t even know anything was wrong until he began having tonic clonic (aka grand mal) seizures just a few days after his 1st birthday. Life had blindsided us, veered way off course, buried us in fear and uncertainty, and we were left to pick up the pieces and keep forging ahead somehow.

It came to me during one of our long car rides back and forth to the hospital, what I had to do that is. It was so simple. It was right in front of me the whole time. I had to run for Emmett. I couldn’t just sit in a waiting room to hear if he had lived or died. I had to run. I vowed to run the entire time Emmett would be in for the estimated 7-8 hour surgery and I would not stop until he was out, safe and sound. I made a Facebook event “Emmett’s Endurance Event” for friends and family to follow along and virtually join me while I was running. I wanted to encourage people to do something active with me while raising awareness about Craniosynostosis. It went viral in the running world. Family, friends, coworkers, and strangers alike overwhelmed us with support that day. Pictures, posts, messages, and prayers; it was the most humbling experience of my life seeing thousands of people wear my homemade race bib with my son’s face on it and dedicating their workouts to Emmett. Other families like ours reached out to us, support groups rallied around us, and there was the feeling of community so strong, I could swear these people might as well have been standing right next to me. 7 hours and 26 minutes after I had started running, we got the call. Emmett was out of surgery, he was ok, and in a recovery room. I was exhausted, crying tears of relief, my legs felt like they were going to go out from underneath me, but in that moment, I was invincible. That treadmill run transformed me. It dug deep into my heart and soul and brought out all of the fear, doubt, and uncertainty not just about our future and Emmett’s future but about my ability as a person. I had crushed it, left that baggage behind miles ago; it was with that black dust that had formed in a pile at the back of the treadmill. We were going to be ok, no matter what happened.

We forged ahead, met with more obstacles, more tests, more specialists, a couple more surgeries, and then later, the worst diagnosis for our brave boy to date. The road ahead is still difficult and full of unknowns but Emmett radiates the possibilities in this life and I have kept running using that as fuel. It is both haunting and healing to revisit June 20th. Last year on that day, I ran on the treadmill in my basement for all 7 hours and 26 minutes dedicating each of my miles to other families and people in crisis.

This year, on Friday, June 20th, I will run at Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids for the full 7 hours and 26 minutes. There will be a second treadmill for you to share in our journey for a few miles. You can sign up for free to run or walk with me for a 15 to 30 minute block of time or you can just watch supportively. I will be collecting donations for Cranio Care Bears, a non profit charity that sends care packages to children in the hospital having this surgery. If you bring in items to donate for care packages (travel size toiletries, individually wrapped snacks, journals, chapstick, gum, little toys, etc) or make a monetary donation to Cranio Care Bears, you will receive a 10% off coupon to Gazelle Sports! Also with your donation, you will also be entered in an awesome raffle! Gazelle Sports is giving away a gift basket including 4 race entries into the Gobble Wobble and the Fifth Third River Bank Run has given 2 race entries to raffle off! You can hear all about what I’m doing, learn more about Craniosynostosis, talk to my awesome husband/support crew, shop at Gazelle Sports with your coupon, or just come and gawk at all of us. Whatever you want to do, please come out and do it and tell your friends! I will start running at approximately 10:30 am and be finished right around 6 pm. Check out our event on Facebook here for more details!

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