I Don’t Belong…

This morning, I got to go on a run as the sun was rising. It’s a Tuesday in March, so this isn’t the norm for me, but we have virtual school this week so I get to work from home. The weather was perfect, 41 degrees and a light wind, with the sun shining in my face.

As I was running down the dirt road by my house, an SUV was coming towards me, so I got off the road and waved (like I always do) as the car flew by. Sometimes I make eye contact, and other times I just keep my head down. This time, I looked right at the driver who kept her eyes glued ahead. And, I immediately began to chuckle, as I realized who this person was, and that most likely, she also knew exactly who I was.

A few years ago, my son played on a travel soccer team and I had a bit of a falling out with one of the moms. Actually, it wasn’t exactly a falling out, it was more of her yelling at me through text messages and me saying I would be happy to speak to her about these issues in person, and then her continuing to send very hateful texts to me. At the time, it was quite upsetting. But it’s been a few years and as I was giggling this morning after seeing her, I reflected on how happy I am to be able to laugh about that situation now, because I was not laughing about it when it was going on.

Thinking about that led me to reflect on how much I never really felt I belonged, being a soccer mom. And that led me to reminisce about other times in my life when I didn’t belong.

Immediately after college (two weeks to be exact), I married Will and moved to the East side of Michigan. I had a degree in education and spent the remainder of the school year substitute teaching (I graduated in December). So that Spring, I applied for many elementary teaching jobs. It was hard to get a teaching job in 2002, which is why we ended up on the East side of the state. Well, I got my first call for an interview and was really excited, and nervous. I was heading to interview at a school in downtown Detroit.

Upon arriving, I was led into a room, centered with a long, rectangular table with approximately a dozen African American people sitting around it. When I walked in, the eyes of everyone in that room said, “You do not belong here. You are not who we were expecting.”

I don’t remember a single thing about the interview. I only remember walking to my car and sobbing afterwards. I had never felt so judged or out of place in my entire life. I wasn’t who they wanted. They did not need to ask me any questions or hear any of my answers to know that. I did not belong.

Shortly after that (well, shortly in adult years), I had my first son, Liam. I had always wanted to be a young mom and was thrilled to have a little boy. But, none of my friends had children yet and I soon realized it was lonely to be in a phase of life that no one close to me was in. So, I joined Mom groups online and tried to fit in.

One particular night, I was reading posts and there was a mom who asked the question, “Do your kids where the same pajamas for multiple nights? Or do you always put them in clean PJs?” As I was reading the comments, I read one from a mom that I had actually met and thought I had connected with. Her response was something like, “I ALWAYS put my kids in clean pajamas. Letting them sleep in the same thing for more than one night is disgusting.”

I think I may have started crying immediately after reading the response. Who were these people?! I literally grabbed the pajamas off the floor at bedtime, jammed them up my nose, took a big whiff, and if they didn’t smell like pee, they went back on my boy.

Again, I did not belong. I never read another post in that mom group after that night.

Fitting in as a mom is something that I have always struggled with. Once Liam started school, I felt like it was really important for me to be friends with the moms of his friends in class. I was sure that if I wasn’t friends with these women he wouldn’t get invited to any birthday parties or play dates. So, if I got invited to any mom things, I went.

That year, the first real mom thing I got invited to that kids weren’t also invited to was a jewelry party. It was at one of the mom’s houses and I remember being a bit uncomfortable because it was in one of the big, fancy neighborhoods, in a big fancy house. I grew up on the very low end of middle class….probably actually poor…and still to this day, anything fancy or posh feels very out of place to me.

Anyway, this jewelry party was nothing fancy, and I had no reason to feel uncomfortable. These moms were extremely kind and welcoming and wanted me to belong. But, the only conversations that I remember from the day were about tummy tucks and boob jobs.

I bought a $68 necklace that I didn’t want, went home and cried to Will, telling him that I did not belong. I did not fit in. I was not like these moms.

Fast forward a few more years, when my sister, Rondi, convinced me that I should get into triathlons. I could barely swim, but she had me believing that I could complete an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run). Her persuasion skills are pretty solid, because she had me believing that this was something I could accomplish and I signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon to test the waters. This was an all women’s event, which made me feel a little less intimidated. However, as I was running the 10K (the last leg of a triathlon) and became lost on the course because they had already taken down the signs for which way to turn as they began packing things up I realized, that once again, I did not belong. But this time, because it was something that I WANTED to belong in, I didn’t let that stop me and I still signed up for that Ironman the day after my first triathlon, where I was so slow that they were cleaning up the course before I finished.

All of these memories came to me on my run this morning, and I thought about how glad I was to be at a point in my life where I no longer cared about what other people think and I am just comfortable being in my own skin.

And then, I turned the corner and started running up a big hill, that I always end up walking once I’m about halfway up. But today, as I was nearing the halfway (aka: walking) point, a car began to pull out of its driveway near the top of the hill. But it just stopped and waited.

Are you serious?!?! Come on. You could pull out of your driveway and back in ten times by the time I get there. Please don’t wait for me!

But it waited. And I could not bring myself to walk up the hill when someone was watching and waiting for me. So I ran on. And I ran passed that car, only to see another car waiting at a driveway two houses down! Then it hit me. These cars were waiting for the bus to come. They were not waiting for me at all. But this didn’t stop my ego from not allowing me to take a walk break (like I always do at this spot). Nope. I needed to maintain my dignity and keep on running.

And that’s when I laughed aloud for the second time on this run. Because really, I don’t think I will ever be done worrying about what other people think of me. I didn’t walk up that hill because people were watching and I didn’t want them to think I was weak and needed to rest. I cared what they thought, even though I have no idea who those people were.

That’s annoying to me, and yet, I’m okay with it, because in that instance, I was trying to show people the me that I want to be. I want to be the person who doesn’t walk up the hill. I do NOT want to be the person who tries to fit in and belong in a space that doesn’t resonate with who I am.

I feel like I came full circle on my run this morning and those runs are priceless.

I’m not always going to belong. It’s not always going to be comfortable. But I’m happy to be in a place in my life where I can decide when I want to belong and when I’m okay with being the outsider, if that means staying true to who I really am.

Let’s go for more runs so we can figure out who we really are 🙂

-Kendra

The Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim (to Sleep) to Rim

My sister, Rondi, and I on the South Kaibab Trail of the Grand Canyon.

In the Fall of 2017, the idea of a marvelous adventure was born. This adventure is known as the Rim to Rim to Rim, or R2R2R for short. It consists of beginning at the Rim (North or South) of the Grand Canyon, running/hiking down to the bottom, across, and up to the opposite rim, and then turning around and running/hiking back to where you started. The overall mileage for this is said to be approximately 48 miles, with about 11,000 feet of elevation gain and loss (although Strava calculates it much higher than these numbers).

Having never been to the Grand Canyon, and having friends that had done this adventure before in one day, I, along with my friends, decided it would be more enjoyable to split this into a two day adventure so that we could complete all of it in daylight and not miss out on any of the beautiful views. The plan was set and hotels were booked for October of 2020 more than a year in advance, due to high demand for lodging at the Grand Canyon.

Then, Covid hit.

We went through a variety of options for how to make our plan work with our lodging at the North Rim cancelled due to park workers needing use of the lodge where we had reservations. After going through the options, including renting an RV, doing it all in one day, waiting another year, and more, we decided to start at the North Rim by staying at a hotel in Jacob’s Lake, about an hour from the Rim.

So, the new plan was set. On day one, we would run down the North Rim across the bottom and up the Bright Angel trail on the South Rim (where we had a hotel less than a half mile from the trailhead). Then the morning of day two, we would take the shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead and run/hike back to the North Rim, where our car was waiting to drive back to the hotel at Jacob’s Lake.

Our group of 6 at the first overlook, about a mile down the North Rim Trail. (Left to Right: Me, Rondi, Lori, Steph, LeighAnn, Elizabeth)

Originally, we were a group of six friends and sisters that were going to set out to complete the R2R2R. However, a week before, Lori decided she wasn’t properly trained to do it (she had completed it the year before and knew how difficult it was). So, after the first couple of miles, she headed back up the North Rim and the rest of us continued our long journey across the canyon.

It was absolutely beautiful and unlike anywhere I had ever been.
The switchbacks to get to the bottom of the Canyon seem endless.
Every time we came to a bridge, I thought we were definitely almost at the bottom. This was not accurate!
Much of the trail is like this, with a wall on one side and a cliff on the other.
The terrain was “easiest” across the bottom of the canyon, but it’s never easy.
Look closely and you will see Rondi in the center of this picture. This is near the bottom of the Canyon.
Just when you think you’re at the bottom, you continue to go down and down and down…
But then, you cross the river and immediately begin to climb back up.
Switchbacks for days.

Day one proved to be a huge challenge. It honestly never felt like we had a flat section across the bottom of the canyon, which is what we were somewhat expecting. Also, the trail is very challenging with continual railroad like planks across it, so it’s difficult to get into a groove. It was a hot day, and we took advantage of every water access to dip in our hats and buffs and arm cooling sleeves, but they dried very quickly. We took full advantage of our break at Phantom Ranch to enjoy the ice cold lemonade and lots of snacks. Water access was not an issue on the first day, but that doesn’t mean it was easy to stay well hydrated in the heat.

During our climb out, Steph began to feel sick.

Steph and I are the tiny people/specks on the lowest switchbacks in this picture.

The climb up the Bright Angel Trail is brutal. The switchbacks seem to never end. We were not sure how long it would take to climb out, so I stayed with Steph, and Rondi, Elizabeth, and LeighAnn went ahead to make sure they could finish in daylight and secure food for the evening and replenish snacks for day two.

Steph having a moment during our climb up Bright Angel.

Steph had trained consistently for this challenge, and yet, that didn’t seem to matter. There was puking. And more puking. But, the only option was to keep climbing. We took it slow. For a while, Tailwind helped. But that stopped working and we couldn’t find anything to settle her stomach.

Eventually, we made it to the top and celebrated with all of the pizza.

Unfortunately, we realized that it would be irresponsible for Steph to join us on the return trip across the Canyon on day two. You can’t start that kind of a journey being severely dehydrated. Luckily, Lori was able to make the 4+ hour drive from the North Rim to the South Rim to pick her up the next day, because the Park Shuttle Service was not operating due to Covid.

So, we were down to just four of us making the trek back to the North Rim on day two. We realized that we had over packed a bit and were happy to get to leave some clothes and supplies behind with Steph, making our packs a bit lighter for round two of the canyon crossing.

We woke up early to be the first ones in line to catch the 6AM shuttle from the Bright Angle trail to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Rumor had it that that was the more scenic trail to descend, and we wanted to take full advantage of seeing all the views.

Sunrise on the South Kaibab Trail.
South Kaibab Trail. Absolutely breathtaking.
South Kaibab Trail.

We had wondered how this trail could be that much different or more beautiful than the others. I mean, how can there be that many different views of the canyon? But, we soon figured out that it truly was unique and absolutely breathtaking.

The South Kaibab Trail was steep, and extremely challenging. I can’t imagine climbing up it, but I HIGHLY recommend taking this route into the canyon if you have the option.

We felt like we were flying down this trail, but upon arriving at the first bathroom and checking our mileage and pace, we realized that was not exactly the case. In addition, we learned that there had been a break in a waterline, and the water was shut off at every location across the canyon, except possibly Phantom Ranch.

Say what?! We were not prepared for this. Yes, I know. I know. We were dumb. But, we had just crossed the day before and all was well. And we wanted lighter packs, so we had left our water filters with Steph and were just planning on refilling at the numerous stops along the way across the canyon. Now, that wasn’t a possibility.

For a moment, we contemplated turning around and climbing back out via the South Kaibab trail which we had just descended. But, we were nearly out of water already and there was no water available on that climb out. We decided the best option was to get to Phantom Ranch and if the water was shut off there we would need to stay there until someone came along with a filter that we could borrow to refill all of our bottles and bladders, and then we could make it back up the North Rim with that supply.

Over the next several miles, the reality of our situation sucked all of the joy out of the journey. We were scared. The heat of the day hit much harder, much faster, than on the descent down the North Rim. How could we have not checked to make sure the water was on before we left the hotel? How could we have left our water filters behind? What if the water was turned off at Phantom Ranch? We didn’t really talk over these next miles. Everyone just entertained these thoughts in our own heads. Did we really make this big of a mistake?

Continuing down South Kaibab Trail.
This was one of the most beautiful sections of the trail.
Switchbacks are the only way down. We were so relieved to see the Colorado River!

After what felt like an eternity, we finally made it to Phantom Ranch and the water was still on!!! We filled our bladders and bottles to the brims and also bought lemonade and Powerade and carried as many fluids as possible for the long journey up the North Rim. Elizabeth also purchased a Life Straw, just in case we were desperate.

And then, we continued on.

Crossing the Canyon on day two.

Somehow, what was a crossing of the Grand Canyon on day one became a crossing of the Sahara Desert on day two. It didn’t even feel like the same trail. Was it the same trail? There was no shade and the temperature was in the mid 90’s. And we only had the water from Phantom Ranch to last us uphill for 13+ miles.

This little fella seemed to be confirming that we had indeed stepped into a whole new world on day two.
We couldn’t drink this water but it felt amazing to drench ourselves in it.
We were relieved when we reached the bottom of the North Rim because it meant there would soon be shade!
The climb up the North Rim was beautiful, and we were glad to be leaving the Sahara. (This joke never got old.)
The “steps” climbing up the North Rim were brutal. Hiking on the edge was easier sometimes.
Not only did the canyon morph into the Sahara Desert on day two, but it also became Fall on the North Rim trail while we were gone. The Canyon is a crazy place.
After many, many hours, we finally made it….to an overlook that wasn’t at the top.

But we kept on climbing. And climbing.

Back at the North Rim Trailhead! We made it! (Left to right: Rondi, LeighAnn, Me, Elizabeth)

And we finally made it back to where we had started the day before. And man, did it feel good.

Throughout those two days, I feel like I was finally able to truly live out what I have said for a long time. That is, the why behind my long distance running. I want to be able to see all the beautiful places. I want my feet to take me to places that nothing else can take me to.

And on this adventure, that’s exactly what happened. I was never in a hurry. I wasn’t longing for it to be over each day. I was just enjoying every moment of it, knowing that once it was over, I would be longing to be back out there doing what I love.

Here’s to taking it all in and enjoying every moment of the pain, beauty, and adventure.

-Kendra

Lessons learned:

-Never, ever, ever leave the water filter behind.

-Cooling sleeves, Territory Run Co. hat, and a bandana were my favorite accessories.

-Tailwind for the win.

-Hiking without taking breaks is just as fast as running and taking breaks.

-I will never regret going slow and taking in all of the beauty around me.

Anxiety – Everything is fine.

A few years ago, I suffered from true anxiety for the first time in my life. For me, what that means is a variety of physiological symptoms, including always feeling on edge, not sleeping well, waking from a sound sleep for no apparent reason with my heart racing and not being able to make it stop or get back to sleep, becoming easily upset over minor things resulting in increased heart rate and a feeling of panic. When I had these symptoms before, I went to the doctor, had blood work done, and found out that I was having thyroid issues (acute thyroiditis) and that’s what was causing the anxiety. My thyroid was releasing hormones that caused these responses in my body. Thankfully, the issue corrected itself within a few weeks and I was back to feeling like myself again.

Recently, I started feeling that way again. It was about a month ago, after my best girl, Blu passed away.

My beautiful boxer Blu (8 years old) who we lost to kidney disease only 3 days after learning she had it.

Understandably, I was left heartbroken and just not feeling like myself. These feelings, along with an incredibly busy sports schedule for my kids, developing a bad case of strep throat, being extremely overwhelmed at work, having my husband out of town for two weeks, and my son suffering a fractured growth plate in his knee, had me completely out of sorts.

Even though I had a trip scheduled to the Grand Canyon to run across it (and back), I couldn’t find the energy or motivation to go for runs or stick to my training schedule. I was running from 1/2 mile to a mile around our yard most days with my puppy, Bird, but that was it. My training up to that point had gone well and I knew my body would be able to handle the task, but running was the last thing on my mind.

It was when I was on that amazing trip to the Grand Canyon with my sister and some of my best girlfriends, that I decided I was going to make an appointment to see my doctor about my growing anxiety. I had myself convinced that my thyroid levels must be off again because I just felt so awful. (The racing heart in the middle of the night was the symptom that pushed me over the edge.) So, the Monday after my return, I went and had blood work done to see what was going on.

And then, I started running again. Over the next week I ran five times. With each run, I felt more like myself.

Bird (6 months) and I during one of our runs.

I got a call back from my doctor and found out that all of my levels were normal. No thyroid issues. No issues at all.

And just like that, my anxiety was gone. No more racing heart. No more being on edge all day. No more waking in the middle of the night, with a terrible feeling of panic.

Do I still have stress? Yup. Am I still overwhelmed at work and feel like I will never get caught up? Yes. Are my kids’ sports still filling up most of my free time when I’m not at work? You betcha! But those are things I can manage and get through.

I have always known that running made me feel better. But, until now, I didn’t truly understand just how essential it was to my well-being. When I’m not running, it turns out I’m kind of not okay. My body relies on those endorphins and all of the good stuff that running does for me to help me cope with the craziness that is this life we’re living right now. So the next time that I’m feeling extra down and the last thing I want to do is go for a run, I know without a doubt that that is exactly what I must do. It’s the best form of self-care that exists for me.

Plus, I always want to be in good enough shape to go on more adventures like this!

My friend Steph (left) and my sister Rondi (right) climbing out of Grand Canyon via Bright Angel Trail on day one of our Rim to Rim to Rim Adventure.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, I strongly recommend looking for a physical activity to help you through it. All of the scientific research shows that it helps, and I’m here to say that’s 100% accurate.

Let’s get out there and run this day, in every way possible.

-Kendra

There Will Be Hard Parts

Today is my little sister’s birthday! Months ago, before life changed, she was planning on running 37 miles for her 37th birthday and I was planning on joining her for a good chunk of that distance. Fast forward to where we are now, and that was no longer an option on the table. But, I still wanted to honor her and her special day, so I committed to 37 miles of movement this weekend.

I’ve been somewhat on the “injured list” for the last couple of weeks, so running those miles was not an option. That meant I needed to hike and bike. My road bike has been out of commission since 2012 when it somehow had a flat tire upon collecting it from the transition area after finishing my last Ironman triathlon. Yes. You read that right. It has had a flat tire since 2012… What that meant is that my bike miles would be on my mountain bike, which is fun, but not quite as easy as they would be if I had ever fixed that flat tire!

There was a part of me that thought I could get all of the miles done yesterday. I started the day with a 3 mile hike with Blu (I’ve actually been starting A LOT of my days that way lately).

Blu and I at our favorite hiking trails.

Then I headed out for a dirt road bike ride. It was pretty windy, but I made it 14.5 miles. Wahoo! Got home and headed out on a family adventure, which included 2.5 more miles of hiking. I was up to 20 miles for the day and kept thinking that I only had 7 miles left…. I was pretty disappointed when I realized that my sister was not turning 27 years old, but that she was, in fact, turning 37. HA! I decided I would have to wait and finish the last 17 miles on Sunday.

I felt really lazy this morning. There was no part of me that was excited to move my body 17 miles. But, I also didn’t even want to wish my sister a happy birthday until those miles were done. I lounged around for too long to have time to take Blu on a hike, which meant that if I wanted to get 17 miles in before the family birthday Zoom call, I needed to bike all of those miles at once. (Note: I also haven’t biked 17 miles at once since 2012!)

Since I rode 14 miles yesterday, and I have a normal 9 mile loop, I was pretty set on where I was going to ride to get my 17 miles in. So, I told Will where I was going and headed out. HOLY. WIND. So much wind! I soon realized the ride was going to be much harder than I was hoping.

And then! I had an idea! I should ride the loop backwards! For some reason, I always ride this loop in the same direction. And, by doing so, am forced to climb two GIGANTIC hills. Now, I would avoid these two hills and life would be good.

False. A big fat false. Turns out, that by doing this loop backwards, I put myself on the most wide open, exposed roads while riding directly into the wind. AND, I apparently forgot about the NUMEROUS times when I am normally gliding down glorious hills that now, I was huffing and puffing and climbing up!

And that’s when it hit me. THERE ARE GOING TO BE HARD PARTS. Always. No matter what we do to try and avoid it, life is not going to be easy.

I held onto this thought and it gave me strength, which is kind of odd because it’s a bit of a daunting thought. However, I realized that the only way to help ease the blows that life throws at us is to be as prepared as possible. So, after I FLEW down the biggest hill that I purposefully avoided going up today, I turned my bike around and climbed that thing with all I had in me. I was huffing and puffing and thought I might puke, but I was NOT going to skip that hard part that was going to make me stronger. (And turns out I PR’d that climb by 20 seconds today!)

I finished up my ride and sent my sister a Happy Birthday message. I was so relieved to be done with 37 miles to honor her birthday. It was hard, but if it hadn’t been I’m not sure it would have really meant that much. It’s the challenge that makes it worthwhile…meaningful.

That’s how I want to keep living life every day. Especially right now. I want to remember that all of the hard parts are making me stronger. They’re making all of us stronger. We can’t avoid them, so let’s use them to become better versions of ourselves.

We got this.

My First 100 Miler: Kettle Moraine 100

I cannot tell you how nervous I was for this race. It was a mix of excitement and nerves, but mostly, I was terrified. Having DNF’d my one other 100 mile attempt at the 75 mile mark, I was having a bit of anxiety that maybe I wasn’t tough enough to cover 100 miles. But, I was determined to give it my all.

For this race, my good friend Leigh Ann was coming to run with me and attempt her third 100 mile finish. My sisters, Tanna and Rondi, were coming to crew me, and Rondi was also planning to run the last 30 miles with me so that we could check Wisconsin (state number 12!) off of our list for our goal of “26.2 and a Brew” in all 50 states.

We arrived in Wisconsin on Friday afternoon and headed straight to a brewery to check that off of our “to-do” list. We ended up at a place called Second Salem and the brews and grub were delicious.

Tanna’s meal…and the best sweet potato fries ever!

Next up, we headed to packet pick up, which was at the race start/finish area.

Leigh Ann and I getting ready to pick up our packets!

(Left to right) Tanna, me, and Rondi in our 50 states capes!

After that, we headed back to the hotel to organize our drop  bags and meticulously plan out where we wanted dry shoes and socks, because we had heard there was a muddy/wet section on the course that we would hit twice, and we wanted to be as prepared as possible.  Tanna and Rondi also looked at the aid station maps and tried to prepare for where they could be along the course. Nerves were high as we said good night and turned out the lights at 8:30pm, with our alarms set for 3:45am the next morning.

From the second the alarm went off, the eating contest that would last for the next 30 hours, began. My stomach is never very cooperative when it comes to pre-race nerves and having an appetite. Basically, I lost my appetite about 4 days before the race, and didn’t get it back until a few days after the race. But, if I don’t eat, it’s a disaster, and I knew that the only way to a successful finish was to keep getting calories in my body.

So, I heated up an instant Quaker Oatmeal breakfast, worth 241 calories,  and managed to choke it all down. Meanwhile, Leigh Ann was eating everything in sight and I couldn’t help but be jealous of the fact that she didn’t feel like she was going to vomit at any moment. For me, pre-race anxiety leads to nausea and lots of trips to the bathroom. So, before we headed to the start line, I took two imodiums to help solve that issue, and I also managed to eat a Nutrigrain bar. Boom. I felt like so far, I was winning this eating contest.

The vibe at the start line was pretty great. People were busy with last minute preparations. Drop bags were being left in their appropriate places. Pictures were being taken. Timing anklets were being picked up and put on. Announcements were being called over the loud speaker. Port-a-potties were being used. And LOTS of bug spray and sunscreen was being applied. I was definitely feeling less anxiety and more excitement at this point! We. Were. Ready.

Leigh Ann, Me, and Rondi (wearing an amazing unicorn fanny pack!) just chilling pre-race.

Leigh Ann wrote, “That’s just how it is now” on her arm. It became our saying throughout the entire weekend.

So fresh and so clean! Here we go!

The Race

Miles 0 – 7.6 (6am – 7:36am):  There were about 400 people that crossed the start line at 6:00am on Saturday. For a few miles it was a bit crowded, but we weren’t in any hurry and were happy to just go with the flow. The weather was nearly perfect. Overcast and around 60 degrees, with thunder rolling pretty steadily. These miles flew by and it was hard to believe that we were already almost 8 miles into the race when we saw Rondi and Tanna for the first time at the Bluff Road Aid Station. I decided not to wear a watch for this event because I really didn’t want to focus on how far I had run or how far I had left to run. The only thing I wanted to know was how far it was to the next aid station. This proved to work really well for me mentally. There were so many aid stations that every time I asked how far to the next one, the number of miles was small and felt completely attainable.

I had eaten two “Take 2” minis and drank 16 oz of water and 16 oz of Tailwind in the first 7.6 miles.  Tanna and Rondi refilled my water and Tailwind, and stuffed my pockets with more food. And then, we were on our way, just 3 mins later.

The excitement of a 100 miler when you’re less than 10 miles in! PC: Mile 90 Photography

Miles 7.6-15.5 (7:39am – 9:31am): This was our first section of real single track on the Ice Age Trail. It was beautiful, and the true feeling of “trail running” began. It was a slower go with more rocks, roots, and just things to look out for. By the time we reached the Emma Carlin aid station, I was ready for some real food. I had eaten four peanut butter crackers and one granola bar on this stretch and had a bit of stomach cramping…so I took another imodium.  Rondi and Tanna had lawn chairs set up for us to sit down and change our shoes. We were about to be entering our first 5ish mile stretch of muddy trails and we wanted to put on some older shoes that we didn’t mind getting trashed. After a quick bathroom break, shoe change, watermelon eating, and bottle refilling, I was sent off with half of a turkey sub, which I ate one bite at a time over the next several miles.

Still feeling good 15.5 miles in.

Miles 15.5-23.9 (9:41am – 11:36am): We were told there would be mud, and there was mud indeed. Miles and miles of mud through a grassy area called “The Meadows.” The weather continued to be decent, with temperatures warming up, plenty of humidity, and a bit of a drizzle. There was still some thunder and lightning, but nothing bad. My old tennis shoes were bothering me during these miles and I regretted switching to shoes that basically had no cushioning left. I couldn’t wait to get to the next aid station to get my comfy trail shoes on, and these mud soaked shoes off. Once we arrived, Tanna and Rondi again had the lawn chairs set up and Tanna even wiped/rubbed down my disgusting feet for me before I put clean shoes and socks back on. It felt AH-MAZING. Again, we ate some food, used the port-a-potties, refilled bottles, and headed out for the next stretch.

Starting to get hot outside…loving this watermelon and wanting these shoes off my feet!

Mile 23.9-31.6 (11:50am – 1:40pm): This stretch was long and hard, and felt like it would never end. The course had some technical spots and very steep climbs and descents. It was hot by this point, nearing close to 78 degrees, with ample humidity. I was struggling to take in enough calories (I only ate the half a turkey sub and drank my tailwind and water) and by the time we reached the Scuppernong aid station, I was ready for some food, not because I was hungry (I was never actually hungry during this race), but because my energy was zapped. My groin/hip flexor on my right leg was also starting to bother me, and I took some Tylenol at this aid station. The food here was amazing. I ate two turkey roll-ups, one rice crispie, and an orange slice, refilled water and Tailwind, and wiped my face down with a wet, cold washcloth. Thank you, Tanna Sue! It was just what I needed for a reset.

Cooling off with a wet washcloth at Scuppernong.

Mile 31.6-36.5 (1:58pm – 3:13pm): This stretch felt so good! The calories, plus the cool wipe down, made all the difference in the world. We cruised right through this tougher section with no issues. When we reached the aid station I grabbed my hat back from Rondi, because it looked like it was going to rain again, and we headed right out.

Mile 36.5-39 (3:18pm – 3:48pm): We were right, and the sky let loose on this section. It was pouring rain when we came into the Hwy 67 aid station, so we tried to make it a quick stop. Refilled fluids, peed, ate a peanut butter tortilla, threw on our rain jackets, and headed out into MUD.

Mile 39-47.3 (3:56pm-6:30pm-ish): So. Much. Mud. This was the 5 mile stretch of mud from earlier in the race, but it had stretched longer, deeper, wider, and wetter with all of the rain that was coming down. Parts of the trail that weren’t muddy before had turned into unavoidable mud pits.

One of many unavoidable mud pits.

My stomach started going south, and I was feeling pretty low when we hit the Emma Carlin aid station for the second time. When Rondi asked me how I was doing, she got a negative head nod, with no words. To which Leigh Ann responded, “She says she’s not doing well, but she’s doing great out there. She’s fine. I promise.” And really, she was wasn’t completely wrong. I was moving along fine, and I wasn’t complaining while I was out there, but once I hit that aid station, the realization hit hard that the SUCKFEST was well underway. The temperature was starting to drop, so we put on some warmer clothes, changed our shoes and socks again, ate some food, grabbed our head lamps, and I also took my trekking poles with me because my groin/hip flexor was hurting and I thought they might be helpful on all of the steep descents. I also mustered enough enthusiasm to request a picture with Scott Kummer, the host of the podcast, “Ten Junk Miles“, who managed the Emma Carlin aid station.

Scott Kummer, me, Leigh Ann, Holly Lindroth (co-host of Ten Junk Miles)

Look at me faking enthusiasm like a true champ!

On our way out of the Emma Carlin aid station. Turns out the mud wasn’t over…

Mile 47.3 – 56.6 (6:40pm-ish-8:55pm): The mud didn’t end. It was supposed to, but it didn’t. Also, my trekking poles were driving me crazy. My mantra for this race had become “when it’s runnable, you run.” This just wasn’t as easy with trekking poles, so I ditched them after this section because I felt like they slowed me down and were taking more energy than they were worth. We also realized that we were dressed a little too warm, and I ditched the jacket and just stuck with a buff on my head and arms sleeves with my short sleeved shirt (which I had changed because the other one was sweaty). That’s honestly about all I remember from this section. The night time fatigue was definitely setting in.

Mile 55.6 and feeling it.

Heading out for the next section which would get us back to the start/finish area where the 100k runners would be done.

Mile 55.6-63.1 (9:20pm-10:59pm): I felt surprisingly good through these miles. It was the first time in the race where I wanted to lead. Leigh Ann had led nearly the entire race and I had loved it. But, her headlamp wasn’t quite as bright as mine and she wanted me to lead. So I did. We eventually stopped so that she could change her battery, and that did the trick, but I still kept the lead. Slowly, she started to drop back. I slowed a few times to make sure she was still with me, and eventually she said she just wanted me to keep going, because I was feeling strong and able to run really well. So I kept going, thinking she was just a short ways back.

During this section there were a lot of 100 milers coming towards me as they headed back out for the second out and back. Although it was nice to see people and give/receive encouragement, it was also a bit daunting how far ahead of me they were, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to miss a cut off. It began to consume my thoughts. So I continued telling myself, “If it’s runnable, you run.” And that’s what I did. I made it to the 100k mark ahead of the cut off by one hour and 1 minute. I told Rondi and Tanna that I wasn’t sure how far back Leigh Ann was, but that I was sure she’d be there soon. They tended to my needs before finally telling me that Leigh Ann had called to say she was dropping at the 100k mark. She just didn’t feel as strong as she knew I was (her words, not mine) and she didn’t want to hold me back. As this started to sink in, I could feel myself holding back tears when Rondi jumped in for a picture…

Rondi piecing me back together as I came close to falling completely apart.

Rondi said she would be there to run with me at the 70.7 mile aid station and that I needed to get my a$$ moving. And THAT is what your crew is for! I grabbed some food and went on my way, having every intention to get this thing done.

Mile 63.1-70.7 (11:13 pm-1:00 am): Shortly into this section, I crossed paths with Leigh Ann and told her she still had time to keep going! But, she didn’t bite. I pressed on and ran my only solo miles of the race. It’s weird that I’m terrified to run in the dark at home, but I was never scared out there. I even turned off my headlamp a couple of times to pee (which was now happening VERY often). My groin/hip flexor remained an ongoing discomfort from this point forward and I regularly reminded myself that “that’s just how it is now”. Because well, that wasn’t going to go away.

Heading out with Rondi at mile 70.7. So glad to have her joining me! *Note the bowl of macaroni salad in my hand. Thanks, Mom!

Mile 70.7-77.4 (1:07 am – 3:12 am): As soon as Rondi started running with me, I told her my “If it’s runnable, we run” mantra. This definitely became harder and harder as tiredness set in and the terrain grew more and more challenging, with a heavy fog setting in. And again, the wet mud was relentless. I found myself tripping more often and getting quite frustrated and increasingly worried about reaching the cut off points on time. As we neared the end of this section, I had extreme blister pain in my right foot and running seemed impossible. I couldn’t wait to get my shoe off at the next aid station and pop some blisters. That was something I’d never done before, but I had heard it could save your race, and right then, my feet needed saving. Tanna had the lawn chair ready for me and was armed with a lighter and a needle. An amazing volunteer came over to help.

Tanna and a volunteer working on my foot. Note the way I’m sitting with my right leg up…

He recommended that I pop my own blister and then he would tape me up and I could be back on my way. So, that’s what I did. It was pretty gross, and the alcohol that Tanna used to clean it up afterwards was torture. But, “that’s just how it is now”! Once it was all disinfected, the volunteer taped up my disgusting foot as I ate three slices of bacon and fretted internally (and maybe a little out loud) about the fact that I just didn’t have time for this and I needed to get going to beat the next cut off. (**Side note: trail running volunteers are the best humans on this Earth!!!)

Mile 77.4-81.9 (3:25 am – 4:45 am): As Rondi and I headed out of this aid station, there was a major problem. I couldn’t run. My groin/hip flexor was excruciating and I felt like I couldn’t lift my leg to move it forward. Running was out of the question. I began to have a mini meltdown because I just couldn’t believe that I had come this far to ONLY come this far. I decided then and there that I would be finishing these 100 miles, even if it wasn’t within the time cutoffs. I took some more Tylenol and moved as quickly as I could through the rugged, muddy trails. I figured that sitting in the lawn chair with my leg up (picture above) while my blisters were being worked on, had aggravated my already tender groin.

Eventually, my leg warmed up and I was able to run. Yasssss! I still had a chance to make the next time cut off and I was feeling more optimistic. Back to the mantra, “If it’s runnable, we run.”

But again, the water and mud was indescribable. Just before reaching the mile 81.9 aid station we had to cross a bridge that was partially sunk under the water of a murky, spooky lake.

This is a picture of the bridge long before I got there in the pitch black. PC: Scott Laudick Photography

I’m pretty sure I would have been too scared to cross by myself. It. Was. Creepy. But, we made it across and beat the next time cut off by an hour and 9 minutes. Game. On.

I scarfed down half of a grilled cheese sandwich, refilled bottles, and we were on our way…back across the creepy sunken bridge.

Mile 81.9-86.3 (4:55 am – 6:18 am): During this section we got behind some really fast ladies. Their speed was deceptive because they were mostly hiking, but it was fast. Mall walker fast. We had to focus to keep up with them. But, they had said this wasn’t their first time doing this race and they were confident we would finish with time to spare. So, I held onto that bit of hope and we kept pace with them as the sun came up. It was a glorious thing once we could turn off our headlamps. The fog was still present… and fog and headlamps don’t mix very well.

Lots of fog.

Lots of climbing.

Coming into this next aid station and finding out that they had pancakes and syrup was amazing. It was my favorite thing that I ate during the race…although the bacon was a close second. I forgot to mention, but since Rondi joined me at mile 70.7, she never stopped making sure I was continually eating and drinking. Thanks, Rondi!

Mile 86.3, post pancakes and ready to get this thing done.

Mile 86.3-93.1 (6:25 am – 8:35 am): I was hurting. The mud never ended. And it seemed like this race wouldn’t either. My hip flexor was hurting and I was having to pee every 30-45 mins. And at that point, there wasn’t even much stepping off the trail to get the job done. We just checked for runners, and if it was clear, it was happening. “That’s just how it is now,” continued to make us laugh as things got more and more ridiculous. Because of the frequent “bathroom” usage, there was major chaffing developing, which led to Aquaphor needing to be applied with every bathroom use. It all was getting to be tooooo much! I really felt like it would never end. BUT, the trails really were beautiful. That was the saving grace.

How beautiful is this?! And runnable, even 90+ miles in.

Did I mention the mud?

And the hills??

When we made it to the aid station at mile 93.1, it felt like the home stretch. I took advantage of using a real port-a-potty, and we didn’t linger too long before heading out, breakfast burrito in hand.

Mile 93.1 – 100!! (8:44 am – 10:46 am): We walked for a bit while I ate, and then, it was time to run again. The only problem was that when I went to run again my hip flexor starting screaming at me and it wasn’t happening. I seriously couldn’t believe it! Had sitting on the port-a-potty for two minutes just ended my race?!?! Ahhhh! We kept walking and I decided that I needed to take some ibuprofen, because I couldn’t take anymore Tylenol yet and I had to have something to get me through this pain and to that finish line. So, Rondi ran back to the aid station to grab some ibuprofen. I kept walking.

As I was walking, another runner stopped and asked if I was okay (my walk was more of a step, followed by a dragging forward of the right leg). I told him I was having some hip issues and he offered me some ibuprofen. Ultra runners are so nice! I took his offer and kept hobbling on. Rondi caught back up with me, and didn’t mind that I already took the medicine I needed. Eventually, my leg warmed up and I was able to run again.

Those last 7 miles were a long 7 miles. The hills didn’t seem to end. I honestly was never actually confident that I was going to make the cut off until it was 10:32 am and I was only about a mile from the finish line. I finally felt relief and excitement. I was actually going to do it.

Rondi decided to run up ahead so that she could be at the finish line when I got there, instead of crossing with me. As I came up that last little hill and heard the cheering, I was completely overcome with happiness. I had actually done this really, super hard thing.

Finish line bliss! With my sister, Rondi, to the left of the finish line with her hand raised high. PC: my amazing sister, Tanna!

PC: Mile 90 Photography

My sister, my pacer, my crew, my friend. PC: Mile 90 Photography

The finish line with the BEST crew, pacer, running buddies EVER.

This pretty much sums it up. PC: Tanna Sue

After our celebrations, we stayed at the finish line for the next hour and 15 minutes to watch the final finishers cross the line. It was incredible. So much determination and grit was shown out there.

At the finish line with my feet up and a full plate of breakfast food.

My legs and feet at the finish line.

To sum up those 28 hours and 46 minutes, I can just say that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I have completed two full Ironman triathlons, and this was MUCH, MUCH harder than those. Mentally, I was in a very good place through this race. The thought of quitting never crossed my mind. I had a goal, and I was going to get it done. Physically, I’ve never hurt so much, during or after a race. So. Much. Hurt.

This was at about 8:30 pm when we made it back to Lansing. Trekking poles were necessary for stability at this point.

The Next Few Days After the Race:

Content. That’s mainly what I felt. Everything seemed to go by very quickly as I reflected on the previous few days. The race had felt soooooo long, and yet, looking back, it seemed like it was over in the blink of an eye.

Physically, my body was angry. My feet were swollen, red, blistered, and tender to walk on.

It felt worse than it looked.

They were bright red and angry.

I had taken Monday off of work and spent much of the day in bed. When I headed back to work on Tuesday, I had to wear my husband’s tennis shoes because my feet were too swollen to fit in any of my shoes. And I still wasn’t close to walking normal.

The first full week after the race, I had to lay down and take a 20-30 minute nap after work every day. I was completely exhausted and couldn’t shake it. My appetite took quite a while to return to normal as well. I would feel starving, but nothing really sounded good to eat, and then when I’d eat, I’d feel full immediately and then my stomach would be a little upset. That lasted 3-4 days post race.

In addition, the post race “lows” hit a few days later. That feeling of emptiness and…what now? This is a normal feeling that comes after I’ve worked so hard to reach a goal, and then all of a sudden, it’s over. There’s a sense of loss, sadness. It leaves me wanting to rush right into finding a new goal to work towards….but I haven’t signed up for anything yet and that sadness is passing.

I’m now nearly two weeks out and almost all of my aches and pains are gone! My groin/hip flexor is still a little achy, and my right ankle is tender too. I haven’t done any runs yet and have decided I won’t run again until nothing hurts anymore.

Would I ever run another 100 miler? Yes. Absolutely, yes. This race was phenomenal. The volunteers, aid stations, other runners…everything was so perfect. I’ve never run another race where everyone I encountered was so positive and encouraging. It left such a good feeling in my soul and made me realize trail running and ultra marathons really are for me! It will be a long time before I do another 100 miler, but as long as my body is up for it, I’ll be back.

I can’t thank Leigh Ann, Tanna, and Rondi enough for all that they did to help me reach this goal. Their love, support, and extremely hard work made this day so much more special than it ever could have been without them. The support and love from my friends and family back home was amazing as well. I can never say thank you enough.

Tanna’s notes throughout the race.

And some more details sent to me via text. She’s amazing!!!

My organization sheet that I made the week prior to the race.

This pace chart that someone posted in the Kettle Moraine FB group was a life saver!

More Photos from the day:

PC: Mile 90 Photography

Mile 93.1…other than that, I have no idea what’s going on!

A truly beautiful, yet mud-filled, course.

Selfie after the rain storm in the meadows.

Pretty early on in the race.

The four leaf clover that Rondi found at packet pick-up the night before the race!

About to start this thing!

So much beauty.

Leaving the Bluff Road aid station at mile 93.1.

Finish line with Leigh Ann.

Tanna feeling a bit overwhelmed with the mess that is crewing a 100 mile race! My Yukon XL worked great, but it was loaded up!

Finishing my first 100 miler was about so much more than this belt buckle, but man, I’m glad it’s mine!

It should probably be noted that while I was out there, I decided that I didn’t want to fast pack the Hardrock 100 mile course, and I didn’t want to do the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, and I wasn’t really sure I’d ever want to do Western States if given the chance, and there was no way I’d ever do this race again. Luckily, I’ve come to my senses and almost all of those bucket list items are back on my “to-do” list!

Pushing my limits is what keeps me motivated to work hard and dream big. I’m so thankful to have finally met this 100 mile goal of mine, and I’m looking forward to many more adventures with people I love.

Dream big. Work hard.

-Kendra

Current Life Status…

Current life status:  Training for a 100 mile ultramarathon.

Things I’m succeeding at:  Running all the miles. Getting my kids to their games/practices (or recruiting help for this). Listening to all the inspirational running podcasts. Feeding the children (most of the time). Doing all the laundry. Forcing my children to play outside (often by joining them in unending games of one on one basketball). Doing 100 push-ups a day (started for Lent and didn’t stop).

Things I’m kind of sucking at right now:  Being a physically present friend.  Having a clean house. Having a clean car. Reading my daily devotional. Strength work (besides the push-ups). Being one of the social moms. Being a mom that volunteers….for anything. Life outside of my house and running.

I don’t think it’s actually possible to be doing everything well at the same time. I think that this thing called “balance” doesn’t really exist. At least not a balance where everything is equal. In my world, balance means that what’s important is going to change depending on the season that I’m in. If everything was equal, life would be pretty dull, right? If I was putting equal thought and effort into everything, there wouldn’t be a true passion for anything.

Right now, what I am putting the most effort and time into is pursuing my goal to complete a hundred mile run. I’m also making sure that I don’t drop the ball on any of the things that are really important to my children and to keeping our home functioning. But, other than that, I’m letting things go.

In order to dream big and actually live out those dreams, sacrifices have to be made. But I’m okay with that because it brings me tremendous happiness to work hard towards a goal and to always have new adventures to look forward to.

I was reading a book the other day that explained how most people, when asked, admit to wanting to live a happier life. However, the majority of those people also say that they are not actively doing anything to make their lives happier. I never want to be one of those people. I want to be someone who is working every day to live the life I want to live. Balance? Screw it. Who needs balance when you can become a master at juggling the things that are most important to the happiness of you and your family?

If I can get these things right, I’m good with that.

-Kendra

 

The Chances You Miss…

“Don’t worry about failures. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” – Canfield

This is where I’m stuck.

Over the last week, I’ve been struggling with the decision I made to not toe the line at the Euchre Bar Massacre. My sister, Rondi, and I signed up for this race back in May. We heard about the event through a group of pretty skilled runners and jumped at the opportunity to try something new, adventurous, challenging, and down-right scary. Originally, we signed up without being fully committed to the race. We figured we would register, and then make a decision a bit later as to whether or not we were going to commit to this off trail, unmarked 25 mile jaunt through the mountains of California, which a woman has not finished in the last 5 years.

Once we officially committed (and bought plane tickets), I knew there were some things I needed to do in order to show up as prepared as possible. First, I needed to put time and energy into learning navigation with a map and compass. I searched for a local orienteering class, but none of them fit with my schedule. So, I planned to just be self-taught with help from YouTube. But, in the end, I never did this. Any of it. Instead, I opted to rely on the map on my phone to show me the way.

Next, I knew I needed to work on incline and strength work, as the race profile looks like this…

We don’t really have any giant hills, let alone mountains, near my home here in Michigan that could properly prepare me. But, I vowed to do 30 minutes of incline work on the treadmill, 5 days a week, in addition to my marathon training plan, in order to be physically ready. I stuck to that plan for about 2 weeks, and then slipped into the “comfort” of just following a marathon training plan, sans true hill work OR strength work. Ya. Big mistake.

A few weeks out from the event, the race director posted this on the event Facebook page:

And at that, I went ahead and jumped right back into my incline work, fully aware that it was too late, and what would be would be.

All of this to say, I showed up at a campground in California for a race that I wasn’t really prepared for.  And, in a moment of weakness, I let that fear of being unprepared keep me from starting the race.

Now, I could sit here and list every single GOOD reason we had to drive away from that start line at 5:30 am race morning, but that’s not really what this blog is about. This is just me, owning up to that decision. I said I was going to start that race and give it everything I had, and I didn’t do that. And I don’t like how that feels. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don’t like it when people say they’re going to do things, and then they back out of them. And that’s exactly what I did.

To try and make up for that, I decided that the only way I wasn’t starting that race was if we ran 26.2 miles in California and another 26.2 miles in Nevada before heading home. So, that’s what we did.

View of Lake Tahoe from the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Lake Tahoe, where we finished our self-supported California marathon.

Incline High School track, Nevada. Where we ran 105 laps for a total of 26.2 miles.

I can tell you that that was really hard, and beautiful, and fun, and hard and loaded with memories that I wouldn’t trade in for other memories. But, I’m left with the regret of showing up at a race without doing the work necessary to complete the race, and then, not even giving it a shot. I don’t ever want to be known as that girl who says she’s going to do something, and then doesn’t do it. That isn’t me. And it leaves me wanting to be better. Wanting to work harder. Wanting to not only do the things I tell others I’m going to do, but also do the things I tell myself I’m going to do.

In the end, I know the weekend went exactly how it was supposed to go. It ended up being amazing, just not in the way it was planned to be. We went to California (and Nevada), and pushed our bodies physically and mentally, and I know that most people completely understood why we didn’t do that race.  It’s not really that hard to understand why someone would be too scared to give it a try. But, I don’t want to be that person that’s too scared to give something a try.  I want to be the person that is terrified, but still finds the courage to saddle up anyway.

“Every runner will face off with their toughest opponent….the weakness that dwells in each of us and does its best to prevent us from finding the greatness that is in there as well. weakness volunteers itself.
greatness we have to seek….” – Laz

Euchre Bar Massacre. It taught me a lot, and I hope to go back and see what else I can learn.

-Kendra

 

 

 

Dreams: Keep Growing Into Them

The longer that you do endurance events, the more you hear about people doing some pretty crazy things. Two years ago when my sister, Rondi, and I made a goal to run a marathon in all 50 states, I joked that if we did one a year, we’d be done before I was 85 years old.

As we started running some races in other states,while wearing our capes (made by our awesome Mom!) that said “26.2 in 50” on them, people began to tell us ways that we could get this accomplished a bit faster.

Running the Shoals Marathon in Alabama, wearing our capes.

Come to find out, there are actually whole race series that have marathons in up to 7 states in 7 days, having all of the states within driving distance from one another. So, in theory, you could check 7 states off your list in 7 days. This idea really stuck with us and we decided that we should at least try to run back to back marathons and check two states off our list in one weekend. (Did you know you can actually Google “pairs of marathons” and easily find states all over the country where this is possible?! Yeah, I didn’t either…)

And that is how this crazy idea came to be reality.

After doing some researching and looking at driving distance, the cost of the races, and the weekends that would work, we finally decided on Alabama and Mississippi. We marked it on the calendar, figured that we could leave Thursday after work and be home during the day on Monday, and honestly didn’t think much more about it until a few days before we left.

At that point, I decided to take a brief look at the course maps (noting that race one looked a bit hilly and race number two looked flat as a pancake), make sure there were breweries close by (because we also have a challenging goal of going to a brewery in all 50 states), and check what the weather might possibly be like on race day. Yes, approximately three days before the trip was the very first time that I looked into any of these things.

My older, wiser, sister, who was running her first half marathon that weekend! had looked at the course descriptions and made the brilliant decision to run in Mississippi (day two) because Alabama looked way too hilly for her. She is smart.

As it turns out, marathon number one in Alabama was INCREDIBLY hilly. Our plan was to just go slow, take it easy, and conserve our bodies so that marathon number two would be more tolerable. That was not possible. We ran our slowest marathon ever, and still felt completely beat up. There is actually no pace slow enough to make 26.2 miles feel “easy,” especially on a hilly course.

The best part of Alabama. The brewery the night before the race! 26.2 and a Brew. Genius.

Sign we saw on the drive to our hotel. We should have known…

My mile dedications for the weekend. It’s always helpful to think about people who are going through something much more difficult in their lives.

Rondi’s 52 miles for the weekend were dedicated to her friend Jenny, who at the age of 52 just lost her battle with cancer.

Somewhere around mile 8 maybe…who knows?! I just know we weren’t impressed.

Immediately after we crossed the finish line, we headed into the golf course club house and hopped in the shower. Rondi was adamant that we needed hot showers ASAP to help our muscles recover. But, after each of us hopped into the two showers that were available, we found out that one (mine) had hot water and the other (hers) was freezing cold. She toughed it out anyways and claims that maybe cold showers are the way to go! And then, thanks to our big sister who played chauffeur for the day, we were on the road to find a Mississippi brewery before packet pick-up for marathon number two.

Mississippi brewery on St. Patrick’s Day!

A couch to rest on? Yes, please!

Upon arriving at packet pick-up, we found that our Mississippi marathon was going to be run in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that we were literally going to be starting our marathon next door to a cow farm.

The laughing didn’t last long though, as the realization sunk in that our bodies hurt. Badly. And yet, there were goals to accomplish. Honestly though, if at any point before we stepped on the starting line, Rondi had said that she wanted to just wait and run Mississippi a different time, I totally would have bailed. There was NO part of me that wanted to run that marathon. Everything hurt so much and I just didn’t want to. In a short little video interview in our hotel room on race morning, I teared up because I just didn’t want to run that stinkin’ marathon. Luckily, Rondi cut filming and switched to a motivational YouTube video that reminded me that I don’t need to leave this earth with a body that’s in perfect condition. But, I do need to leave knowing that I’ve worked hard and done what I wanted to do. That I’ve set big goals, dreamed hard, and pushed myself farther than I thought possible.

So, that’s what we did. We waddled to that start line and kept putting one foot in front of the other. We actually RAN the first 3.5 miles without walking at all! Unfortunately, my stomach/butt started acting up and I ended up in the port-a-potty for quite a while, and came out with a head full of dread and a new plan. The new strategy would be to walk for 1 minute, then run for 4 minutes and just keep doing that the whole time. Also, I would eat and drink at every aid station. This proved to work to clear up my stomach issues, which was huge!

In addition, we listened to a motivational book, appropriately titled “Grit”, nearly the entire race. It was the perfect distraction from what was actually going on.

We saw our sister Tanna during our race! She was out there running her first half marathon and kicking butt!

The view during one of our many 1 minute walk breaks. It really was the perfect course for marathon number two.

And, eventually, we reached finish line number two. It took even longer than the Alabama marathon, but that’s okay. We got there with zero mid-race mental break downs, and that’s honestly what I’m most proud of! Not once during the race did I think about quitting or did I feel like I wasn’t going to reach the finish line. I didn’t even ever really feel like I didn’t want to be out there running that marathon. I got over those emotions before the race started. Because, once we started, you better believe that we were finishing.

Rondi, Tanna, and I at the finish line, smiling, but standing very still 😉

In the end, we decided it’s going to be a VERY long time before we sign up for back to back marathons again. It was hard. So much harder than we thought it would be. But, that just means that we grew stronger, both mentally and physically. And that’s what will help give us the courage to keep dreaming big and keep pursuing goals that might be a little too big for us. But, we sure are going to try and grow into them.

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” -unknown

Dream bigger. Work harder. Do more than you thought you could.

-Kendra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Kind of Crazy

Yesterday, my sister, Rondi, and I got to go on a run together.

8 miles in the Saturday morning sunshine.

This doesn’t happen very often. Honestly, we really don’t get to see each other much, but just about every time that we do get together, we make sure to squeeze in a run.

During our run yesterday we were talking about how hard it is for some people to understand why we do what we do. Nearly two years ago we decided that we are going to run a marathon (26.2 miles) or more in every state. In just under two weeks we are headed down South to do our first back to back marathons. We’re running one in Alabama on Saturday and another one in Mississippi on Sunday. It will be our first time running two marathons in two days and we’re hoping it goes well because that sure would speed up this process!

Anyway, that’s just one example of something that gives people a reason to think we’re crazy. Another, is ultra running. Last Fall I attempted my first 100 mile race. I made it 75 miles. Didn’t quite make it to the finish line, but sure did give it a go! I’ve also done a 50 mile race and a 50k. Plus, Rondi and I have completed two full Ironman triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). So, I guess there are a few reasons that we deserve to be called crazy, in the best way possible.

I like to think of the question everyone asks us as, “Why do you dream big? And what keeps you pushing so hard?” But really, the real question is normally asked in a somewhat what is wrong with you tone and goes like this…, “Why in the world would you ever want to do that?”

One reason is that it’s rewarding to see what your mind and body are capable of. If you can get past the “why would I want to do that?” and ask “COULD I ever do that?,” that’s huge. Because if you’re wondering if you CAN do something, and you’re willing to work hard and try, it will feel so stinkin’ good to do the thing that you didn’t know if you could do! And then, you’ll be hungry for more.

Another reason I like to set new goals is that there is so much personal growth that happens from working your butt off for something and then either achieving it, or failing to achieve it. No matter what the outcome is, I learn from it, and it makes me a better version of myself.

Also, I absolutely love to have something to look forward to and be working towards. It keeps me motivated to exercise and be healthy because I have so many things that I want to accomplish in life. I need my body to be in the best shape possible so that I can keep checking things off my bucket list for a really long time!

And the final reason I’ll give today is that chasing big goals keeps me sane, which makes life better for me and everyone I’m around on a daily basis. Seriously. Running is my therapy. It helps me clear my head when I run alone, and it gives me much needed girl time when I run with a friend. It’s absolutely my happy “me” place.

Those are just a few of the reasons why we will continue to be crazy, hopefully forever. I highly recommend giving it a try!

Start dreaming BIGGER!

-Kendra

It’s Not Always Pretty

Lately, I’ve been kicking butt at running a lot of miles. They’re not always fast, but I’m spending a lot of time putting one foot in front of the other. In January, I racked up 154 miles, which is definitely more miles than I generally put down during the most miserable month of the year.

Blue sky, but the air hurt my face. Bbrrrrrrr.

I’m staying motivated to get out there because my sister and I put a goal on the calendar in March that is a little bit scary. We are going to be running a full (26.2 mile) marathon in Alabama on a Saturday, then driving to Mississippi and running another full marathon there on Sunday. Two marathons. Two days. Two states. Yikes. It’s a bit terrifying, which is what makes it a bit easier for me to stick to my training plan.

That is always what works best for me. I set a goal so big that it scares me enough to get out the door, because I know I probably won’t reach the goal unless I put in the effort to get there.

So I work REALLY hard. And then, what’s been happening the last couple of years is that all of that really hard work makes my body freak out. And suddenly, all of that motivation to get out the door is interrupted by my body telling me I need to take it easy for a hot second.

That’s where I’m at.

Last weekend, I went out on Saturday morning for a 16 mile run. (I’ve been doing long runs on Saturdays and Sundays to try and adequately prepare for these back to back marathons.) I decided to try something new for fueling, and it didn’t sit well with me. Starting around mile 11, I was doing the butt clench, shuffle/run for about 1.5 miles until I made it to a bathroom. After that, I had stomach cramps and felt awful for the rest of my run. That day I was left feeling completely exhausted and dealing with Ischemic colitis. To put it bluntly I had diarrhea and blood in my poo all day long. Not fun. (Sorry….TMI, I know….)

Sunday morning I hit the road at 7:45 AM to meet up  with a friend for an 8 mile run before church. I wasn’t feeling great, but this is a problem I’ve had in the past and normally it comes and goes. Well, apparently it didn’t “go” this time and by mile 4 I was off the road, behind a tree, squatting in the snow to find not poop, but just straight up blood. That stressed me out a bit, but being 4 miles from home, there wasn’t much I could do but turn around and run home. So, that’s what I did. And I felt awful.

By the time I got home, I was in the midst of another bathroom emergency and ran through the house to make it just in time. My stomach and bottom hurt so bad that I was on the toilet, taking deep breathes, trying unsuccessfully to hold it together, and crying tears of pain and frustration while beckoning my husband to bring me some Pepto. It wasn’t pretty.

I made it to church, but had to come home afterwards and take a long nap, and still felt miserable the rest of the day.

All of last week I took it really easy on my runs and still dealt with blood clots after every run until Saturday. Not cool.

I don’t tell you all of this for you to feel sorry for me. I tell you all of this so that you know it’s not easy. I love to post pictures like these:

Proud of my early morning run.

Beautiful snowy run.

Because I think they inspire people to get up and move. But, sometimes, I know that these pictures don’t portray the reality.

The reality is that any dream worth chasing is going to be hard. It’s going to have its ups and downs, and probably more downs than ups. It’s going to hurt. And it’s going to leave you questioning why in the world you’re doing what you’re doing. But, it’s going to be worth it.

So, fight through the pain, and keep chasing those dreams.

-Kendra