Category Archives: Goals

Greatest Of These Is Spirit

“The five S’s of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill, and Spirit; but the greatest of these is Spirit”  Ken Doherty

Mt. Rainier Meteor

Mt. Rainier & Meteors,- August 12, 2016  Photo credit: Tim Burke Photography

I’ve been on vacation with my boys in Seattle.  I decided take them to Seattle for a week vacation to show them the sights, and to visit my youngest sister Vanessa, who lives there.  But it wasn’t just a vacation, it was to support Vanessa in her two-year training quest to climb and summit Mt. Rainier.

By most estimates, only 185,000 people have summited Mt. Rainier.  At 14,416 feet, starting at sea level, it is an extremely difficult climb.  More than 10,000 people try every year to summit, but only about 4,000 make it.  It takes two days, if you decide to continue past the half way point.

Vanessa has never been what you would call athletic.  She has asthma.  She’s a “delicate flower” by her own admission.  She’s the “baby” in my family with our siblings.  Vanessa is very healthy and trim, but had never climbed a mountain before.  Vanessa has allowed me to be a part of her journey for the past two years.

It’s not been easy for Vanessa. She’s battled injuries, asthma, and like every athlete, self-doubt.  Vanessa wanted to climb last year, with her best friend, Charity. After much thinking, she decided to wait a year to be fully prepared, while Charity successfully summited last year.

Just two weeks to go before her climb, Vanessa had a freak thing happen at the store, where someone’s grocery cart turned over on her foot, severely bruising it.  Vanessa couldn’t even put a shoe on, it was too swollen.

Vanessa didn’t panic.  She saw her doctor, and massage therapist.  They worked out some of the bruising. I talked to her on the phone days after this happened, and she said no matter what, she was going to put on her boots and climb.  That is courage- that is strength-that is spirit.

Vanessa’s cell phone didn’t work on Mt. Rainier, but Charity’s phone worked!  Charity texted me Thursday afternoon saying they had  both made it to Camp Muir, the halfway point, and Vanessa was doing great!

I was so excited.  Here my little sister, was halfway to her goal. I knew though, Camp Muir, was where you had to decide, if you could commit to the summit.  I had no way of knowing on Thursday, how hard that decision would be for Vanessa, and how deep she had to go to be able to commit.

She felt like she was the having the hardest time climbing- like she was the weakest link. That is not a fun place to be.  She felt like it was so much harder than she had thought.   Five members of their group decided at Camp Muir, not to continue.  Vanessa considered not continuing.  The guides told her she could do this.  I feel like they evaluated her and saw in her, her spirit.  They knew she had this, but needed the encouragement to continue on.

Vanessa committed to the summit.  But as they left at 1 AM to summit by sunrise, Vanessa was realizing this was much more difficult than she had ever imagined. Her rented boots, didn’t fit properly, they were hurting her feet and causing blisters.  Her helmet wasn’t a good fit- it was causing a lot of pressure on her head. She felt nauseous from the increasing altitude.  She was having a major asthma attack, due to her being exposed to down.  She couldn’t breathe and that was causing her to have a panic attack.  She told me she seriously considered telling the guides she was done- they needed to take her back- even though it would have been dangerous for the rest of the team.

One of her guides told her she was in control, and to keep breathing.    Vanessa said it helped her to keep going.  That is who my sister is, she doesn’t give up and she finds a way.

I don’t think I could have been any more excited had I climbed Mt. Rainier myself, when I received Charity’s text early Friday morning that her and Vanessa were standing on the summit of Mt. Rainier!  I teared up for Vanessa and Charity, because I know.

Mt. Rainier

Vanessa (in the red coat) & Charity at the summit of Mt. Rainier, August 12, 2016

I have never climbed a mountain. I have no idea what it takes to summit one of the world’s most difficult mountains. But I know what it is, to have a goal. I know what it is like to devote everything to achieving that goal. I know what it is like to sacrifice, and have blood, sweat, and tears, to achieve something you’ve worked so hard for.  I know what it is like to give up extra activities, times with your family and friends, and your free time, to train for your goal.   And I know, no matter what, Vanessa will have this for the rest of her life- she achieved what she set out to do.

That is incredibly inspiring for me.  Because Vanessa’s Mt. Rainier climb is my marathon.  It inspires me like nothing to this point, to know that my baby sister achieved her goal and that makes me want to achieve and excel at mine, that much more.

We are alive when we accomplish our goals.  It’s not always easy.  It’s not always fun.  It’s easy to sit on the couch,  watch TV, and not do anything.  But when you get a taste of greatness, of excelling to your personal best- that is the moment you start living.

I am so proud of Vanessa and Charity.  Their spirit of never quitting and keeping on, is my new inspiration.  Strength, stamina, speed, and skill, are crucial, but spirit- it is the soul of training.  It’s the backbone of every great achievement.  It enabled my sister to be in the minority of Mt. Rainier summiters.

I’ve often said it doesn’t matter what you goal is- it’s being committed to achieving it.  Accepting no excuses.  I saw that from my baby sister this week.  I plan to utilize her success to the best of my ability for my goals.  I hope I can run my marathon, in the same spirit my sister and Charity climbed Mt. Rainier.

Congratulations on your summit to Mt. Rainier, Vanessa and Charity.  You are inspirational!

Rainier 2

Near the summit – Mt. Rainier

Marathon Training Week 3- Winning


Week 3 called for 22 miles with the longest run of 6 miles.

However, it was the first 5 mile run at marathon pacing.  For me, that means roughly 9:05 or lower pacing.  I want to run this marathon in 4 hours or less.

I’ve not run this far, at this pace- well, ever.

This run fell on a Monday- after I had a rest day.

I’ve run enough to know it wasn’t worth pushing myself at this point so much, where I’d risk an injury.  But I knew it would be good training to run at the pacing I want.  I thought it better to figure it out and work it out during training.  This was a reduced mileage week, so I knew this would be my hardest run this week.

I came home from work and fed my kids. I grilled them cheeseburgers, and I was SO hungry.  I wanted to eat like 2 cheeseburgers, but I knew I had to do this run.  I can’t run on a full stomach.  I took a few bites of a cheeseburger and decided I’d use it as motivation….when I finished running 5 miles at marathon pace, I’d enjoy my cheeseburger.

My boys are awesome. I told them I was training for a marathon, and that means I’m going to be running at night.  They are older now, and I don’t think they even notice I’m gone.  But they have been so supportive. They ask me how many miles I’m running each day, and they allow me to be gone, and they just handle things.  I come back from running and they have cleaned up, and are just relaxing, or playing together- in other words, just fine.  It allows me the mental space to know they are OK and I can run for that block of time, and then get back to being “Mom.”

It was hot.  And windy.  It was almost 90 degrees when I started out.  I knew I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I was going to run these 5 miles the best I could.

I felt like I was flying the first mile. When my Garmin beeped, alerting me one mile was done, I was surprised to see 8:44. Too fast, I thought- I was going to get too tired.  I made myself slow down, but I was happy I was so fast in that first mile.

Mile 2 was almost all down hill. I thought I was slowing down, but as I finished it, the Garmin said 8:20.

I really knew I was going to burn out, if I didn’t slow down. Since mile 1 and 2, were down hill, that meant mile 4 and 5 were going to be uphill.  But I felt so good- despite the heat. I told myself this is what training is for-to learn the pacing, learn what my body can do, and manage it.  You don’t go out and run a marathon and excel at it, without figuring these things out.  But it is about not giving up, and learning your pacing.

Mile 3, I started to get tired, and it was part of the uphill. I ran it in 9:18. I knew this was not my marathon pacing, but I had been so fast in the first two miles, I could afford this.

Mile 4, started really the uphill run home.  It didn’t help the wind picked up to what felt like about a 20 mile an hour wind. It was HOT, and I was running uphill, straight into the wind.  I didn’t want to risk an injury; I just wanted to spend the energy I had in this mile and then know I could slow down in the final mile with it all being uphill, in this hot wind.  I pushed myself.  Not to the point of injury, but the quote in this blog post came to mind.  If I want to do well, I need to run like I’m winning in training.  Somehow I found a way to run this hardest mile in 8:57.

Mile 5, I was tired. I was fading. I mentally noted, next time I just can’t start out as fast.  I really doubted I was going to have the energy to finish like I wanted- but I knew I’d be close.  And I was OK with that. For the first pacing run, I’ve ever done, in very hot weather, I knew I was going to be close. I wasn’t going to push myself to the max to make the time, in week 3.  It was a grueling mile. It was all up hill and I was tired.  When I finished, I ran it in 9:52.

I just stopped.  I looked at my view of Long’s Peak, and just felt so grateful I knew I had run my very best for the day, and realized where I could improve for next time.  I knew it was going to be close. I figured, I needed to run the 5 miles in 45 minutes.  When I checked my Garmin it said: 45:16.

I was disappointed.  I wanted to make 9 mile minutes on average.  But I knew my mistake was I just ran too fast at the beginning.  I couldn’t feel too bad, knowing I was just 16 seconds off, from my mark, in week 3, in the heat, and on a hill run.

This run was so exhausting, when I got home, I couldn’t eat.  The cheeseburger I wanted so much before, sounded disgusting now.  I just wanted a glass of chocolate milk, and water.

I spent the rest of the evening with my boys, being Mom.

Later, I downloaded my run, and what I saw was a wonderful surprise!  The actual pacing of my run average was 9:02.  That was actually 2 seconds FASTER than I needed to be for marathon pacing! So even initially when I thought I hadn’t done marathon pacing I had, and was 2 seconds faster!

That felt better than a cheeseburger.  🙂   It shows with hard work, and effort, like this quote, the race isn’t won on race day, but behind the scenes, with the training.

The next pace run I have is 6 miles. I definitely learned some things I want to implement in that run.  But for me to be able to run 5, hot, hard, miles in week three below marathon pacing…it shows me I’m on the right track.  This wasn’t a race, but I learned a lot about myself and where I’m at. I’m right where I need to be and then some.

15 weeks to go….

Marathon Training Week 2- The Will To Prepare

Will to Prepare

Week 2 called for 25 miles, with the longest run 9 miles.

Last week I discovered on my long, hot, run, that I hadn’t prepared for that run. Mentally or physically

I believe in using visualizations, to help achieve results.

I used hypnobirthing with my second child, to have a successful VBAC, even though I was told, if I didn’t have the baby in 30 minutes, I’d have to have another C-section.  Well, I “had failed to progress” for hours, but once I used hypnobirthing, methods, in 20 minutes, I was ready to have him.

When I was faced with a 12 hour surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes in my neck, when I had cancer, I listened to a hypnotherapy health recording that taught how to relax and visualize a successful, easy, and peaceful surgery.  Much of it talked about the body and mind healing.  I listened to this every day, a month before my surgery.  When my surgeon said he started operating, he discovered much of the cancer on the right side of my neck, which had shown on a few ultrasounds, was gone.

Since he didn’t have to operate on that side, my surgery was 8 hours, and my surgeon said he couldn’t remember a surgery in almost 20-years, that had gone as well as mine, and also where there was no cancerous lymph nodes, even though the labs and ultrasounds before showed there were.

When I entered my first and only competitive/elite division race, I listened to a hypnotherapy sports performance mediation for about a month before.  I placed 2nd in my age group. It was the only time I’ve ever placed in a race, and the only time I’ve ever listened to a hypnotherapy mediation with the goal of optimum performance.

I believe the mind is so powerful, and can really achieve anything. But just like with going out and physically running, you have to mentally prepare too.

I had a very mentally trying week for week 2.  Monday after work, my car wouldn’t start. I have never had that happen before.  I was actually on my way to run. I called my dad, who came and helped me jump the battery.  I also had my 7-year post cancer check up- I hadn’t had one in 2 years, an it was weighing on my mind, if everything would be OK.  It was, thankfully!  🙂

Like anyone else, I have my share of challenges that arise every week, that take a mental toll.  I have two kids, I’m a single mom, a full-time, and sometimes stressful job, I’m responsible for a lot of details, with numerous clients’ finances. I have personal things that arise too, that divide my attention.  I try to be a good mom, friend, and sister, daughter, co-parent, and sometimes it’s just a lot going on.  Sometimes the last thing I feel like doing, is expending more energy mentally and physically to run.

I decided to just try to take a few moments this week, before I set out to run, to just put all these other things behind me, and focus on the run for that day, and how I was going to do it.

Before my long run of 9 miles, later in the week, I  took some time and visualized what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, as it was hot outside, and I was tired- mentally and physically.

I even took a water bottle with me, as I was heading out in sunny, upper 80 degree weather.  I HATE running with anything- it gets bothersome for me, and I feel like I spend more time focusing on what I’m doing with the object, than running. The runners who run holding their phones, have my admiration- I would have dropped about 50 phones by now, if I ran holding it.

The first 3 miles were really hard.  It was one thing after another.   My calves would not loosen up. In my mental preparation, I had forgotten to stretch them.  I knew I was just going for the distance, not speed, so I relaxed and just found a comfortable pacing to see if my calves would loosen.  When my calves felt better, the water bottle was really annoying me.  I tried putting in my waistband of my skort, but that annoyed me more. I finally spotted a good spot to stash it on the trail. I knew I could run about 5 miles on this trail, and then pick it up on the way back.

As soon as I stashed my water bottle, I felt so much lighter, but then something broke in my sunglasses, and they kept sliding down my face. The sun was blazing and I was running into the sun- I didn’t want to take them off. It was almost funny, because if I hadn’t stashed my water bottle, I would have had one had on that and one hand on my glasses. Not exactly ideal running form.

I just couldn’t find a consistent rhythm until mile 4.  The trail took me by the bank of a creek, and it was so hot- I was wishing I had kept my water bottle, but knew I was just a mile away from it.  I dunked my visor in the creek and put it on, and the cool water was great.  Then I crammed my sunglasses into my hair (I have really thick hair) and then put the visor around them, and they were finally secure.

Now, I was finally off and running, almost 5 miles into it.  I found my water bottle, drank a bit while running, and then I was able to secure it to my waistband without it flopping all around as it was lighter, and then the part happened that makes me love running.

My body just took over. It knew what to do.  I had no tight muscles, nothing in my hands, no annoyances.  I don’t even remember thinking about anything- I just ran and it felt easy.  My mind felt like it shouldn’t be this easy, but I mentally made myself not think that.  I hadn’t seen another person yet on the trail- it was just me and I felt like I was free to just run.

Mile 7, it was almost time to turn around, as at that part, I was 2 miles from home.  But I knew- there was a hill- a big hill- if I wanted to push it, that hill was about .10 of a mile away. I didn’t have to do the hill though.  I was feeling so good, and I was actually getting energized- not tired.  I’ve visualized running up many hills before, and do, they are the best training.  So I went for it.  I saw at the steepest part it was 11% grade, but it didn’t feel that hard on this run.

The final 2 miles went as the previous 4 had.  It was all just clicking. I finished the run, with mile 8 being my fastest mile.

I don’t pay attention to the overall time until I’m done.  I was surprise to see I ran the 9 miles in 1:33.  I knew I was much slower in the first half, and time wasn’t the goal, but I was really happy to have that time, for a longer, hot, run with all the little issues I had, and even throwing in a decent hill at the end.

I am definitely using mental preparation from here on out.  Preparing mentally is a huge part of all of this. It always has, and I believe it will make the difference for me for the rest of my training and on race day.

49 miles ran, 16 weeks to go…

Marathon Training Week 1- The Will To Succeed


Last week, was week 1 of my 18 week marathon training program.  I selected an intermediate plan, because I felt the 18 weeks of training would allow me to build up my mileage at a consistent pace, with keeping my injury risks low.

Week 1 called for a total of 24 miles and the longest run was 8 miles.

It was a dose of reality for me.  I have gotten used to not running on a schedule. For the last few years, I’ve not trained for anything specific. I ran when I wanted to.  Whatever mileage I felt like doing.  I averaged anywhere from 5 to 15 miles a week- give or take.  Planning out an intermediate schedule, a few months ago, was quite different on paper, and seeing the mileage thinking, “I can do that,” to actually running it with exactly 18 weeks for training.

I dawned on me I have very little wiggle room.  I can skip a short run here or there, if I’m extra tired, or sick, but the only way to really be able to run a marathon, is to get out there and run, on the days my plan calls for a run, and to run the distances.  If I want to meet my goal, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside, or raining, or colder, or early, or later, or if there is a party I want to go to, or friends to see- I have to run the miles.

I had several doubts this week, and questioned if I really want to do this. Can I really do this? Am I committed to it? What am I willing to do, sacrifice, give up, in the next 18 weeks, to meet this goal?  I had all these questions and not a lot of answers.  But I decided to do my best to stick to the training plan for week 1.

I ran the 8 mile run on Saturday. It was about 93 degrees outside when I started my run.  I actually like running somewhat in the heat. It’s a great endurance builder. I headed out to a lake, which I thought had some shade.  Three miles in to the run (2 miles to get there, 1 mile of running around the lake), I discovered there was no shade, and it was HOT.  I was running the slowest I’ve ran in a long time, with 5 miles still to go. I brought no water with me either.  I do that too- I’m good up to 10 miles with no water in normal conditions. I didn’t really think this run through too well.  I was able to stick my feet in the lake, with my Vibram minimalist shoes on, to cool off my feet, and that seemed to cool my body a little too.

But mile 4, 5, and 7, were probably three of the hardest miles I’ve EVER ran.  The water in my shoes were now rubbing on my toes, and I could feel blisters forming on my toe, and bottom of my foot.  The next 3 miles felt like 300.  I thought, “I don’t need to do this. I can walk home, and be done.  I’ll make up the mileage later.” 

I seriously considered doing this, all during mile 4. I was hot, miserable, and not enjoying a minute of running.  I was very close to stopping.  But something wouldn’t let me. I knew if I stopped now, it would be too easy to stop next time it was hard. While I don’t think I have to suffer to run, I do think I build mental strength when I have to push myself, and that is more than half the battle.

The quote for this blog post came in my mind, several times.  The full quote is,

“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy… It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

My body was screaming at me to stop.  But somehow, I found a way to let my mind take over.  I stopped thinking about the heat, the pain, the blisters, the sweat pouring off of me, the sun, the crazy looks I was getting from people sitting in the shade, and I focused.

I started thinking that I really do want to run a marathon, and not only run it, I want to excel in it.  I have a specific goal for it too.  That wasn’t going to happen if I quit today.  The difference in achieving my goal or not, will be my training and what I do in the next 18 weeks.  That didn’t include me stopping my run because it was hard.

Then I had the thought that if I could finish the next 3 miles, I knew without a doubt, the first 8 miles of the marathon would not be this hard.  I would have achieved a major mental edge.

I started on the return in mile 6, and took a wrong turn, and ended up having to run up an 11% grade hill for 2 blocks in the sun, in mile 7.  It was excruciating and so hard, but I thought this will make me strong.   I’m going to do the hard work now, and come November a marathon will seem easy.

After getting up that hill, the rest of the run, I ran much easier until my Garmin beeped at mile 8.  I have never been so happy to have finished a run.  It was exhausting mentally and physically, but I had done it! I didn’t quit, and I made my 24 miles for week 1!

As I was turning off my Garmin, I saw my time: 1.25 hours.  I thought that had to be wrong. It felt like I had been running for 3 hours.  I checked it later, and it was right.

It made me really excited because that is the slowest I’ve run in a long time, but I realized if I ran that today, in a marathon, I’d be just over 4 hours for 24 miles. Since this was such a challenging run, I felt pretty confident I could run 24 miles at a much faster pace, so I’m in really good shape and feel great about where I am after one week.

Thinking about that run, it made me see how much I do want to succeed at this.  Every hot, sweltering step I ran on Saturday, was bringing me a step closer to my goal.

My training plan calls for 560 miles in the 18 weeks.  I can’t know for sure, but I think I ran the hardest 8 miles out of the 560 on Saturday.  I achieved so much more this past week than logging miles. I found out for myself how much I want this.  What I’m willing to do.  How far I’m willing to go.  I found the answers to my questions in those 8 tough miles.  The answers are, I have 536 training miles left to run, and one way or another, my mind and the will to succeed, will find a way to run all 536 of them.

17 weeks to go…