Monday, July 8, 2013

New Adventure - Competing For Those Who Can't

I remember the first time I opened an Oxygen Magazine in 1997 and saw the women on the pages.  They were my version of Barbie - wide backs, round shoulders, thick legs and 6 pack abs. They had the perfect body in my eyes. Jen Hendershott, Monica Brant, Jenny Worth, Kelly Ryan - these women were the type of woman that I wanted to be. Beautiful, confident, strong and top athletes. They were FIGURE COMPETITORS! For years I paged through the mags, did their workouts and dreamed of the day when I would step on stage. And that was as far as it went. Dreams, wishes and "some days". I'm not going to lie, I knew I had what it took physically to step on stage. I could do the workouts and the diet, but the confidence was what I lacked. I am the type of person who LOVES being covered up. The less skin, the better. And wearing a bikini in public was NOT high on my list of to do's and actually something that I had never done before. Call it being shy, humble, silly...whatever. I just don't like to be "out there" like that. I would rather show you my ability by lifting something heavy or running a race, but to be judged for what I looked like, half naked no less, scared me to death.
So, I ran from my fear. I ran 5K's, 10K's, 8 milers, 10 milers, half marathons, relays....I ran, and ran and ran. I used running as my excuse why I couldn't do a figure show. (Figure competitors are not supposed to run long mileage because it hinders muscle growth and runners aren't supposed to put on too much muscle because it will slow you down...see my conundrum?) I was comfortable running so that's what I did. So last year when I dedicated my running season to BTS, I ran hard and I ran a lot. I got new PR's in every distance that I ran. When the season was over in the fall I was tired, beat up, a little bored and feeling like I had gone as far as I wanted to go in the running world. I had been there, done that and reached all of the goals that I wanted to. I needed a new challenge. I thought about a marathon, but that sounded more like torture to me than a new adventure. Yes, it would take me out of my comfort zone, but not in a fun and exciting way. I needed something different. 
So I prayed and God answered my question by asking me a question...If not now, when? Huh. True - I wasn't getting any younger, the timing wasn't 100% perfect and I could come up with a million excuses, but why not chase down the dream that I have been talking about for years? The only real reason I could come up with for not doing a show was a stupid four letter word...FEAR.

And I had to come face to face with the exact same things I tell my clients: Fear is not a valid excuse. It is a choice. It is something that you can choose to give in to or you choose to overcome. So I decided to make the leap. I accepted the fact that fear would be a part of my journey, but I wouldn't let it control me. And I wouldn't let my need for control control me either. I needed to let go of being a trainer and be the trainee. So, I hired an amazing coach, Brandan Fokken, to lead the way. I knew if I did this on my own I would let the fear sink in and question every aspect of my training and diet. I trusted him 100% and for the first time in my life I let someone else tell me what to do. LOL! I did my workouts, followed my diet and put myself in his hands. Now, I'm not going to lie, the fear almost had me the first time I tried my suit on (and about 99 other times) and I questioned my coach about a lot of things, but I never gave up. I couldn't...I wouldn't. I knew in my heart that God had this in His plan for me. He gave me a body that COULD, so I had to stay in the mindset that I WOULD. And I DID!!!

Taking 1st in Figure A Class

Going out for Overall Figure

Minnesota State June 22, 2013

I overcame the fear and I stepped through the other side a stronger person. I completed a major goal in my life and there was NOTHING like that sense of pride and accomplishment. All of the times I wanted to give up, all of the days when questions filled my head and the negative jibber jabber that came from people who didn't understand my passion isn't what I will remember about this journey. I will remember the PRIDE I felt from all of the hard work that I put into this, the ENCOURAGEMENT from those who never gave up on me and the FAITH that I knew the Lord would get me through it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Angel

Earlier this year I was asked by Joni Ness to run for her sister in law Christie Engelmann who was battling a form of brain tumor called a pilocytic astrocytoma. Today Christie lost her battle. Please pray for her family and friends who will need strength and love at this time. May you walk in the house of the Lord Christie and be an Angel that watches over all of those who are still battling brain tumors.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

1st Time For Everything - 10K and a "Naked" 4 miler

Today, on the 12th anniversary of being brain tumor free,  I ran the Amery Fall Fest 10K with my mom. It was her first 10K and I was SO honored to be running it by her side on my anniversary. I'm not sure who was more nervous, her or me? She had a goal in mind and I was going to do everything I could to help her reach it. I knew the course was challenging with lots of hills and only 1 water stop, but I wasn't going to let her know that. I told her it was "no big deal" - just a few small hills. I didn't see any need to freak her out - we were going to run the route no matter what, either way the hills would still be there. As we started, I kept pace with her. I told her we would speed up if she felt she needed to, but if she kept the pace she was at, she would get the time she wanted. For me, I had been struggling with running since The Women Rock 1/2 Marathon. My pace felt slow, the runs felt really hard and I had "Negative Nancy" chirping in my ear every time I laced up my shoes. I was worried that the same thing would happen during this 10K and I might have a hard time being a good running buddy for my mom. To my surprise, the slower pace she was keeping felt great. My feet didn't hurt, my legs felt light and "Nancy" was gone. We chugged up the hills, chatted when we were on the flats and her energy and excitement was keeping us both going. Around mile 5 I could tell she was struggling a bit, so Trainer Tera kicked it into high gear. Just because she was my mom, I wasn't going to go easy on her. We took a short walk break for her to catch her breath and I told her my little secret I say to myself during every race. "This may be hard NOW, but it WILL be over soon. You only have one chance at THIS race, so don't do anything that you will regret when it's over". That must have lit a fire under her buns, because she ran the rest of the way. And at 1:03:05 we crossed the finish line. She did it and she had NO REGRETS. And when she got 1st place in her age group, I couldn't have been more proud!!!
After the race I decided to take a run by myself. Amery has a beautiful running trail that only the 5K'ers get to experience, so I had to check it out myself.  I left my watch and ipod behind and ran "naked". I can't remember the last time I had done that. I would rather hear the beat of the music than the pounding of my feet and, like many runners,  I NEED TO KNOW how fast I just ran that last mile. But I wanted to make this a run where I shut everything out. This was a run just for me and God. I had a lot to be thankful for - I was celebrating my 12 year anniversary doing something that I love with the people I love. And only by the Grace of God was I able to do that. I ran, I prayed, I thanked and I took in EVERYTHING around me. For four miles I reflected on the person I was BBT (before brain tumor), the person I have become since and the blessing the past 12 years have been. If things had went differently 12 years ago, well I really don't want to think about that. They went the way they went because God has a plan for me. He has given me the opportunity to be a wife, a runner, have the career of my dreams, be a better friend/sister/daughter than I was and appreciate the small things in life. I would never want to ever experience having a brain tumor ever again, but it was an experience I was meant to have. The blessing he gave me 12 years ago wasn't wrapped up in a pretty box and tied with a bow, but it was a gift. A gift that made me a happier person with a stronger faith and desire to make a difference.
Life doesn't always go the way WE planned. We may be throw for a loop by something that wasn't penciled into our Google Calendar or on or list of "to-do's", but if we stop for a second, step outside of ourselves, strip away all of the unnecessary "noise" and see the positive in the negative, we will experience the life that He has planned for us. And surprisingly, it may be better than what you had planned for yourself.

Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11 Tribute Patriot Relay

This past weekend I was honored to be a part of the 9/11 Tribute Patriot Relay in Hammond, WI. The 9/11 Tribute Patriot Relay Run was organized to raise funds for Patriot Runner, Jean Bringgold and Team Hope For The Warriors®. On November 4th, Jean will be joining Team Hope For the Warriors and carrying the American Flag through the streets of New York City as she runs the ING NYC Marathon. The mission of Hope For The Warriors® is to enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service members, their families, and families of the fallen who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty. Hope For The Warriors® is dedicated to restoring a sense of self, restoring the family unit, and restoring hope for service members and military families.

When you hear Jean talk about being a Patriot Runner, you can understand why she carries the flag. She has an amazing love for her country, pride in the men and women who fight for your freedom and is truly honored to waive the red, white and blue while doing something she loves. 

Jean Bringgold
During the relay, runners could walk or run 1/4 mile laps while carrying the flag that Jean will be carrying in the NYC marathon. When you look at the 3' x 5' flag, you'd think that running and carrying a flag wouldn't be that difficult. Well - after one lap around the track you'd be sadly mistaken. I chose to run 1 mile (4 laps around the track) with the flag and after the first lap I really felt the weight of the flag. But the weight I felt wasn't just in the aluminum post or the drag of the stars and stripes in the wind. It was the weight of what the flag meant. There I was, a woman, wearing a tank top and yoga pants, with the sun beaming on my exposed face, running for fun in a land where I can speak my mind, hold a job I love and have the life I chose to live all without the fear of being persecuted for it. I was carrying a flag that countless men and women had fought to protect, died to honor and lived to serve. It is a symbol of our freedom, a representation of the USA and a figure of what brought us together as a united country after 9/11. It stands for all the things that make America great - liberty, pride and honor. It is to be respected, held high and lit up so all can see it's beauty. At that moment I was carrying THE symbol of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and  honored every second I was able to hold her high. 

So, on the eve of the 11th anniversary of 9/11 (Patriot's Day), please take a moment to reflect on what the flag means to you. Also, remember that patriotism that you felt on 9/11/2001? This year don't just celebrate it on 9/11. Feel it, live it and honor it all year long. After all, the soldiers, police officers and firemen that keep this country and you safe don't just do their job one day a year - they serve us 24/7, 365 days a year. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Women Rock Half Marathon

Half naked firemen, a jeweled finishers pendant, champagne finish, men in tuxedos ushering us to the start line - how could this race NOT BE THE BEST RACE EVER, right???!!! Well, despite all of the glitter, frills and pink champagne, this all women's race was less than stellar or fun for me. However, like all of my races this year, I learned a lot more about myself as a runner and was once again flicked on the forehead by God.
As we walked to the shuttles to take us to the start line, a woman asked me about the names on my legs. I explained to her what I was doing with BTS and she told me that her son, Ryan, beat a cancerous brain tumor. Ryan, who is also a runner, is involved in the fight against brain tumors through an organization called Humor To Fight The Tumor. "Humor" has a gala every October in the Twin Cities that features a silent and live auction, live comedy, a dinner and inspiring stories from brain tumor survivors. The goal of "Humor" is to move people through the power of hope and laughter to contribute to the important work of the American Brain Tumor Association. Hearing that her son was doing so well and also fighting the fight against brain tumors - I had a little extra pep in my step. This was going to be a great race.
As the race got underway, everything was feeling great. Mile 1 - fast. Mile 2- a breeze. Mile 3 - Are we really at mile 3 already? Mile 3.5 - Getting tired. Maybe I should take my gel. Mile 4 - Who put cement in my shoes? Mile 4.25 - Come on gel, kick in any time. Mile 4.5 -  Hello??? Gel???? Are you there? Mile 4.75 - Alright, who put bricks in my thighs? Mile 5 - I AM DONE! After mile 5, my race took a nose dive and I was struggling. I'm not sure if it was the course, something I did or just a bad day, but I was having my first ever (kinda surprising this had never happened before) meeting with the WALL. For those of you who don't know, "hitting the wall" is a term that runners use to describe a point in a race where you seriously think you can't go on. Your energy is gone, you are mentally and physically tired and moving your legs feels impossible. And at this race I hit it hard. I have ran races before where I got tired and the run didn't feel the best, but this was different. If I didn't want that damn champagne glass and finishers pendant SO BADLY (and the fact that I didn't want a DNF on my "record"), I would have quit. But, I shuffled on. I focused on my "reasons", asked them for strength and pushed through. The finish wasn't pretty and I think by mile 12 a 90 year old man in a walker could have passed me, but I did it.
The last 3 miles I had to keep telling myself "This too shall pass" and it did. I had a tough race, I crossed the finish line, drank my champagne and went on about my day. But for some of those who I asked for their strength during the hard parts of my race, it didn't pass. Sometimes I think we take for granted that there will always be the point where the hard parts will get easier and we can go on with our lives. And unfortunately that isn't always the case. But by running for brain tumor awareness I hope that one day everyone who battles brain tumors can say "This too shall pass".

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ragnar Relay

This past weekend I had the honor of finally running the Great River Ragnar Relay. What is the Ragnar Relay? The Ragnar is an overnight running relay race from Winona to Minneapolis. Teams are made up of 6-12 people; each individual runs 3 legs. The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, from 3-9 miles, allowing elite and novice runners to run together. Over 2 days and 1 night, teams run across 200 miles of the country's most scenic terrain. Pair that with crazy costumes, inside jokes, a great finish line party and unforgettable stories. Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant.

The Fluorescent Butterflies

Van 1 - Me, Loretta, Chris, Troy, Heather and Stephen

When I signed up to be a part of The Fluorescent Butterflies, I had NO idea what I was in for. I just thought it would be "another run" but with butterfly wings and bright clothes. I was so wrong. Being in a small van with 5 other people for over 24 hours on little sleep and running in the middle of the night, alone, with only a small light to guide me was, well......AWESOME!!!!!!!! I loved every minute of it. The Ragnar pushed me way out of my comfort zone on SO many levels. I have never ran in the dark, in the middle of the night or on 2 hours of sleep let alone been in extremely close quarters with some people that I didn't know. The Ragnar taught me that I LOVE running in the dark, I don't always have to be competitive when I run (it CAN be all about having fun) and that I am a stronger runner that I thought I was. The Ragnar wasn't "just another race" is now a part of who I am. My team and I created so many great memories that I will cherish forever. All of the encouragement, laughing and fun we had will be with me always (maybe even the smell will be too - did I mention we didn't get to shower?).  If you ever get a change to experience The Ragnar, don't pass it up. I am still incredibly tired and sore, but I can't wait for 2013 to do it again!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Official Unofficial 10 Miler

On Saturday my friend Heather and I officially ran the Unofficial Stillwater Log Run 10 Miler in Stillwater, MN. I say unofficial because after some pretty scary lightning, torrential downpours and 30 minutes of delays, the race was cancelled. This was a first for me - I had never suited up for a race before and was unable to run. We had been shuttled out to the start line, so we could take the bus back to our car and run at home on the treadmill where we would be comfy and dry. BUT....We were already wet from waiting in the rain during the delays and we did need to get a run in that day, so my friend and I (along with almost every runner who showed up that day) decided to run the race route anyways. 

I am usually a lone runner. Keeping my own pace, in my own space, with a few yard between me and the other runners. Headphones on, music pumping, thoughts gone - just me, my feet and the road. Since this wasn't an official race, I decided to do a "fun run" with Heather. We stayed together, chatted, kept each other going and busted out the occasional song. **Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle - yeah** Knowing that the timer wasn't running (yes - we are both number freaks and we had to check our watches at every mile) the pressure was off and we just ran to run. 

As we ran, my head went from "It's just a little rain" to "I am feet new shoes are I really chaffing there...I am miserable...I wanna quit". Half way through the run, I couldn't find my pace and I couldn't get the negative talk out of my head. I needed to quiet that voice between my ears. I took a deep breath and the saying "You have to withstand the storm in order to see the rainbow" popped into my head. Wow, God really has a way of opening your eyes sometimes. Just like 12 years ago, I was riding out (or should I say - running through) the storm to get to the rainbow (the finish line). Sometimes when runners are racing, we forget about EVERYTHING but ourselves. We are obsessing about our time, our form, the aches and pains, me, me, me. But in that moment, God reminded me that my race wasn't all about me. My shirt said "I am running for those who can't" and I needed to make the run about them. They were/are in the eye of the storm, just waiting to see their rainbow. No matter what my head threw at me to knock me down, I decided to finish the race strong for them. And I did. 

I am a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz and I think this post wouldn't be complete without a few lyrics from the greatest song on earth. 

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.