Tag Archives: running

Oh Running, How Do I Hate Thee?

What I look like runningI have never been a natural runner. When I was in 7th grade, and in a public school for the first time, I found out that gym class involved actual exercise, like running, gymnastics, rope climbing, and sit ups. I loved being in a larger school, with more options for friends and fewer options for crabby nuns, but if I could have gone back to parochial school for any reason, it would have been gym class.

By 8th grade, however, I had my eyes set on attaining the Presidential Award for fitness. I no longer remember my reasoning – I think it was peer pressure – positive for once. So, Mom and Dad – I didn’t just skip out of school or drink beer underage or smoke cigarettes at the corner with Donna (which you might not know about. Mom – sometimes I stole your Pall Malls. Coming clean here….) – I actually exercised under the influence of my friends. You probably don’t know that, seeing as you were too busy driving around town trying to find me when I was skipping out. (To my nieces and nephews and children: I only skipped out ONCE. ONE TIME. And that single time, guess who found me? GRANDPA CONARD. Yeah. You know he is hardly ever angry but man, you don’t want to meet him in his yellow Country Squire when your supposed to be in school.)

The sight of this coming towards me will remain forever etched in my brain.

The sight of this coming towards me will remain forever etched in my brain.


If you wanted to qualify for the “Presidential”, you had to be able to run a mile in under 15 minutes. I practiced all spring. I ate salads instead of macaroni and cheese (a huge sacrifice, I’ll have you know). I asked my dad to measure the distance to the end of the road, and then when he told me it was a tenth of a mile, and that I would have to run back and forth 5 times, I wanted to die. I would never make it. But dammit, I was going to try.

On the day of the test, I remember running on the crushed black gravel of the school track, the hot sun beating down, and my vigilant gym teacher with her mocking stop watch, calling out my time with each pass. I got a side stitch and I had to walk a few times, but I persevered and ended my final lap under the 15 minute mark. I have no idea how much time I had to spare, but I don’t think it was much. I just remember that I did it, and even though I was the last kid on the track, I was pretty darn full of myself. My gym teacher just rolled her eyes, because seriously – running a 15 minute mile when you are 13 years old was pretty lame. But from the perspective of old school Catholic gym class involving scooter boards, it was a pretty big accomplishment for me.




I decided to never endure that hell again (giving up macaroni and cheese), and didn’t willingly run again until I was 43, once again influenced by peer pressure. Incidentally, I also gave up macaroni and cheese AGAIN. WTH.

I started out in my crappy yellow Kohl’s Asics, my floppy cotton shorts and t-shirts and started running. I gradually built up to a mile, then two miles, then three. I distinctly remember the jubilation I felt when I got home after making 3 miles. Never in a million childhoods did I ever think I could run that far. This was the turning point for me. If I could do this, I could do anything. Runners High, here I come.

In truth, I hate running, and always have. It does not come easy for me – I’m like a plodding, ancient, plow horse, prone to hip bursitis, plantar fasciitis, Piriformis syndrome, sore boobs, hemorrhoids and if that wasn’t bad enough: stress induced incontinence (SUI).

Yes, that’s really a ‘thing’. Many women can attest to the occasional sneaky leak produced after sneezing or coughing, but it can also come with exercise, such as running and jumping. I discovered this ‘thing’ on my very first run (age 43, not 13 – just to be clear), midway thru my neighborhood. I slunk home, hiding behind bushes and pulling my t-shirt down as far as possible. Needless to say, I no longer run without my protection, and I don’t mean a Smith and Wesson, although shooting my bladder doesn’t always seem like such a bad idea.

What I loved was being DONE running. The feeling of accomplishment, the endorphins, the victory, the conquest of each mile added, the drive to beat my last distance or time, filled my veins like heroin. I was off and running (get it? AH-Hahahahahahaaaa! I kill me!).

With my friend Shari after completing the New Year's Day Polar Bear Run.  I took 3rd in my division - mainly because only three of us showed up.   But I'll take it!

With my friend Shari after completing the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Run. I took 3rd in my division – mainly because only three of us showed up. But I’ll take it!

About 4 years ago, my clean food plan took a dive – sugar and flour and, specifically, my beloved cake, began to show up sporadically, and then frequently, and it became harder to run because my weight was going up (ironically, I still don’t eat mac and cheese). I started biking about 2 years ago, and fell in love with a sport that took me all over the countryside without injury (except when I fell in my clips – ow). My running distance dwindled, until last winter, when I was running about, well, zero miles a week. I didn’t miss it. At least, I didn’t miss it based on all the reasons I hated running to begin with.

The past 6 months have been rough for me, emotionally, spiritually, and physically – moving, losing two family members, hormones, a long cold winter, and stress. Lots and lots of stress. My body is protesting the extra weight and sugar filled diet – it’s harder to move, I’m tired all the time, and I have frequent headaches and body aches. You know, I don’t really even care about the number on the scale, or about how I look – I haven’t quit exercising and I still bike, lift, and do some cross fit. But I do care that it’s getting harder to get up in the morning. Harder to motivate myself. Harder to get off the couch.

So, I’m running again. A sane person might ask me why – thank goodness I don’t know too many of them. But for those of you who are – it’s because of the mental discipline and accountability that running brings to the table. When I’m looking at food choices, I have to decide if I want to haul that around on my two-mile run. A successful run starts in my head. If I walk around thinking about how much I hate it, my run is going to suck. But if I concentrate instead on beating my last time or running a little farther, always throwing my mind forward to the finish – it’s motivating and euphoric.

These are both tools I need to cultivate again in my daily life. By concentrating on bringing it into my physical world thru running, it will spill over into my emotional and spiritual world as well, helping me to cope with life’s curve balls in a much healthier and positive way. That’s the plan anyway. I’ll keep you posted.

Currently, I am running about 2.2 miles at a crack. I started with a 50/10 sequence of running 50 seconds, walking 10. I’m up to running my first 14 minutes, and then finishing at 50/10. I have found the 50/10 pace is pretty easy for me to keep up now, but my pride wants me to run without stopping. That dang pride! Always nagging me! But there is something disciplined about running according to a beep in my ear – obeying a plan instead of endangering my health, so I think the 50/10 or some form of split is here to stay. Again, I’ll keep you posted! I


PS – What do you do to handle stress or stay motivated in a healthy lifestyle?  I would love to hear from you!!

Fall Photo Journey

Today I am posting a few pictures from fall.  I think it is safe to say that the beauty of fall is passing, and winter is setting down roots.  The last couple of mornings we have had temperatures below freezing and certain yorkie-poos I know were hesitant to venture out on the frosty grass.  They gave me the evil doggie eye when I made them go out anyway.

The first set of pictures are from the Fox River Trail in late September.  The most interesting thing is what someone wrote on the boards of the bridge that goes over the East River.  You have to look closely to read it all, but I also have it in the caption beneath it.  Has anyone read this book?  Interested to hear your take on it if you did.  I never have.

Fox River Trail

“Want the truth about why the world is the way it is? Were you in a union? Read: “Hope Of The Wicked: The Master Plan To Rule The World” by Ted Flynn. Read the whole thing before you judge. Then you’ll understand!”

Fox River Trail

Bridge over the East River on the Fox River Trail

Fox River Trail

Under the bridge.

Fox River Trail

Fox River Trail

Final blooms!

This next set is from my work trip to Boston in early October.  Not much time for goofing off, but we did get some fun in.  The pictures of all the fabulous bakery are from Mike’s Pastry in the North End.  They have the BEST cannolis.  Totally worth the blisters I got from wearing brand new shoes that day.  Yes, now I know – never bring new shoes on a trip!

Mike's Pastry


Mike's Pastry

Another great shot of Mike’s. Check out the tin ceiling. You can only pay with cash at Mike’s, so leave your Visa at home!

Mike's Pastry

I really wanted to get one of these too, but didn’t want to have to have all my clothes altered before I went home.

Mike's Pastry

My chocolate chip cannoli. Sooo good. Sadly, I only had one.


Quincy Square



Quincy Square

While walking around the Quincy Square area on Friday morning, we ran across the New England Holocaust Memorial.  It began to rain while we walked thru the monuments with the millions of tattoo numbers inscribed on them.

New England Holocaust Memorial, BostonNew England Holocaust Memorial, BostonNew England Holocaust Memorial, Boston

Some of you may not know what I do for my ‘day job’.  Nothing to glamorous – I sell commercial furniture for KI in Green Bay.  Part of my trip was visiting customers with my field reps.  The next two pictures are from an install of ours at Simmons College.  I love it when a plan comes together!

Simmons College

Portico tables with Strive chairs.

Simmons College

Sela Chairs in Pallas Busy Bee fabric

The following weekend after getting back from Boston, I went to Chicago with my sister and my niece to watch my other niece kick butt in the Chicago Marathon.  This was her first, and we decided we needed to cheer her on!  Congratulations, Alyssa!

Chicago Marathon

We know Alyssa is in there somewhere!!

Chicago Marathon

There she is!! Close to the finish! We were eating Garrett’s popcorn while we cheered!

Chicago Marathon


While we were looking for Alyssa at the start, we ran across these ladies.  I chased them down for the photo because my daughter’s name is Lindsay and she absolutely hates running.  Then they turned around, and I had to agree!  Lindsay IS the best!  🙂  Love you, honey!

Chicago Marathon

Lindsay says, “No! No!”

Chicago Marathon

I wholeheartedly agree!

A couple of random pictures from the weekend after the Chicago Marathon – one from the Bridge Between in Denmark and the other from the Fox River Trail.

The Bridge BetweenThe Fox River Trail

And my final pictures are from a walk I took with the dogs.  I walk them every day, but with the shorter days, it’s often dark by the time we leave.  This was one of the rare occasions we got out before the sun set.  I love walking thru cemeteries, although they used to scare me as a kid.  I read the tombstones and imagine the lives of the person beneath it – especially if it’s from the 19th or early 20th century.  I try to imagine how the city must have looked then, and what they wore and what they did for a living.  I think the pictures below capture the solitude of quiet in the midst of a busy day.

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Mount Olivet Cemetery

I will leave you all with my last picture – a little less somber!  This one reminds me of confetti or fireworks or sprinkles on frosting.

Stay warm my friends!



Meet Joe

A few years ago, I met a young man named Joe.  Joe is one of my best friend’s nephews, and we went to a Toby Keith concert together.  Joe loves country, and Doreen (my friend) asked him to come with us seeing as we had an extra ticket.  She said to me, “I can’t wait for you to meet Joe.  He’s my hero.”  It was a fun night, but I didn’t fully understand her “hero” comment .  Then last spring, I had the opportunity to work with Joe on a project, and got to know him as a person, and not just as “Doreen’s nephew”.  It changed my life, and Joe is pretty much my hero now, too.

The next three blogs are about that experience.  Yesterday I was talking to my sister about how I tend to jump first, and ask questions later, and that when I buy in, it’s at a dead run.  At jump time, I usually don’t realize I am making a life changing decision.  Getting married, having kids, giving my life to Christ, changing jobs, signing up to run a half marathon… Doreen says it’s because I jump in heart first, not head first, and I think that is a pretty good description. My project with Joe was exactly one of those times.

On the outside it seemed pretty straight forward.  Joe and I were going to run the Bellin 10K together with a couple of his other friends for a really good cause.  Before I get into that, though, I want to tell you a bit about Joe.

Like many of us in Northeast Wisconsin, Joe lives in a home town community within minutes of family and friends. He has a mom, dad, step-dad, two sisters, a brother, and a whole slew of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews-all of whom he loves and they, of course, love him right back.

Joe has a best friend yellow lab named Tyson and a best friend human being named Tyler.

Joe’s favorite food is wings, and he also won’t turn his nose up at Butterfingers, ice cream, pizza, and anything his Grandma Marge whips up (I have been blessed with sampling some of Grandma Marge’s culinary delights. God sure loved me that day!).

Like a lot of men, Joe has an unhealthy relationship with the remote control.  Did you know the average American spends 5 hours a day watching TV?  Joe spends his 5 hours with Judge Judy, Pat Sajak and the boys from the Nerd Show (The Big Bang Theory for those of you not in the “know”).  He is also a diehard WWE fan, catching WWE Raw every Monday and WWE Smackdown every Friday , and will shell out for the Pay Per View specials as well as documentaries.  (On a side note – it’s kind of fun to say the word “Smackdown”.  I’M GONNA PUT THE SMACKDOWN ON YOU, BRO!)

Seeing as Joe always has a smile on his face, it’s only fitting that his favorite types of movies are comedies.  He likes silly humor along the lines of Austin Powers, Dumb and Dumber, and Ace Ventura, but the Rush Hour series, The Hangover and Ted are his current top picks.

As I said in the beginning of my post, Joe is a country boy at heart.  Shuffle his iPod and you’ll get a mix of Toby Keith, Zac Brown Band, Bryan Adams, Brad Paisley, Sugarland, Dierks Bentley, Darryl Worley and even a little Bon Jovi for good measure.  Bon Jovi isn’t country, but hey – a little Bon Jovi on anyones iPod is a good thing, right?  Plus he’s cute.  Not that Joe cares.  Just sayin’ though…

When I asked Joe what his favorite books were, I figured he would be like a lot of guys, mostly reading internet articles or magazines.  But he surprised me by coming back with a couple of unexpected titles: Max Lucado’s Outlive Your Life and Nick Vujicic’s Life Without Limbs.

Joe loves to write, and has aspirations of becoming a journalist. He has written for his hometown newspaper, and feels his strength lies in freelance.

Joe has a couple of bad ass tattoos.  A ginormous one on his back, and a smaller one on his arm.

Joe would like to travel someday, and the first place on the list to visit is Italy.  He and his family talk about going often, but like most of us, his cash flow doesn’t have Italy in the budget.  Knowing Joe, he will get there someday, though.

Taken all together, Joe seems like an ordinary guy, living in an ordinary town, with an ordinary family.  Pretty much just like the rest of us.  So why am I focusing on Joe?  Why the ordinary?  I did so because I left out one important detail about Joe.  Joe has cerebral palsy.

Like many people with disabilities, Joe has lived his life in the shadow of what he can’t do and has fought hard for normalcy in his life.  It’s sad and frustrating to Joe that some people can’t see past the wheelchair to the person sitting in it.  He refuses to be victimized by his circumstances and strives daily to make the most of his life.  In fact, even the word “disabled” bugs Joe.  “I’m differently-abled, not disabled,” he told me.  Hey, Joe – me too!  The world shudders at the thought of Sue The Brain Surgeon.  God knew what he was doing when he put a pen in my hand, and not a scalpel, and He knew what He was doing when He created Joe, too.

That’s why it was important for me to spend this first post telling you how much Joe is just like the next guy.  I wanted you to see him as a living, breathing, feeling, thinking, loving, worthy, person – with friends, family, ambitions and desires, and not defined by the first impression you may have gotten if I had introduced him as a young man with cerebral palsy.

So what about this ordinary guy?  This “average Joe”?  What makes the ordinary extraordinary?  What is it about Joe that changed my life and reminded me to be true to myself?  Check back with me next week for the rest of the story!


Black Friday

Black Friday

Well, at least they are running…

Oh yes, I just shamelessly used the words “Black Friday” in my title, knowing it might give my blog a few more hits.  But for those of us trying to maintain a healthy weight, the day after Thanksgiving can indeed feel like Black Friday, should one be so stupid as to step on the scale.  Therefore, instead of being out shopping with the Crazies, I am at home, drinking coffee and writing an exercise entry in my blog.


Oh yes. This is exactly what I look like drinking coffee. Uh huh.

If you are like me, you know the holiday season can wreak havoc on the best laid plans of healthy eating and exercise.  In the long, dark days of winter, it’s very easy to choose sleep over an early wake up call to the gym, or to just go home after a late day at work, and watch the Big Bang Theory while eating your dinner instead of bundling up for a walk or run in the dark.  So, now is the time I encourage you to add some spice to your normal routine.  Boredom is the number one killer of exercise programs!


“You can’t make me go to the gym! You can’t make me, you can’t make me, you can’t make me!”

The first thing I did this year was to join the Y.  I haven’t belonged to a gym in over 3 years, choosing instead to utilize the gym we have at work with my co-worker workout buddies.  Very cheap (free) and it’s always more motivating to know someone else is depending on you to be there.  But lately, we find more and more excuses not to go.  It seems like such a chore – depressing even – and if one person backs out, it sucks the motivation from the rest of us.

Joining the Y has brought some spice back into my workout plans.  I can join a spin class, hit the pool, jiggle my love handles in Zumba, or run on the indoor track (so thankful I won’t have to think about running across ice patches this year).  It was just enough to bump my brain out of hibernation mode.  If you already belong to a gym, but are bored and find yourself not going, try creating an at home program.   Or find ways to exercise outside – like snowshoeing or cross country skiing if you have snow, or biking, running and/or walking if you don’t (be sure to read some articles on cold weather exercise.  There is a good one here:  ACTIVE.COM).  Or join a new gym – maybe one that offers some things you don’t have at your current gym.



The next thing I did was purchase an Ipad, which led me to justify said purchase by figuring out how to use it for reasons other than playing Spider Solitaire or Siege Hero.  I started looking for good workout apps, and found a few worth mentioning:  Daily Workouts, IPersonalTrainer, and Workout Trainer.  I’m not going to review them today, but brought them up because it was in my search for workout apps that I ran across a video called Plank Workout for Flat Abs and Toned Arms, led by a cute, perky girl who made doing a plank look oh-so-easy, even while adding in weights and arm movements.


Even perky while planking!

Further investigation brought me to more videos and then her website –Blogilates.com.  Oh my goodness – so much more perkiness (really, I am 48 years old – not much of me is too perky anymore) and sweating.  Seems an odd combination, but this girl has some killer moves.  Her name is Cassey Ho, and despite her everlasting good mood, or maybe because of it, I absolutely love her workouts.  They challenge my strength, they teach new moves to this old dog, and they make me sweat like a pig.  (Hmm…maybe that last bit wasn’t very appealing…).

Plus, she makes new videos all the time!  And she has a clothing line!  And she has a monthly workout calendar.  And she has recipes.  And meal plans.  And inspirational stories.  And icing on the cake –  she is FREE (although you do have to subscribe to her newsletter for access to some things, like the workout calendar).

Her videos are about 10-15 minutes long, so perfect for those days you need something quick.  Or you can do two or three in a row, or you can do what I did.  I went thru a few of her videos, pulled out the exercises I wanted to try, and created an hour long workout routine that we did in the gym at work.  Holy sweat balls of fire.

And my last bit of advice – sign up for an event that will make you start training.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose (but it can be, if you want) – maybe as simple as just wanting to get personal best, or try something new.  Need some inspiration?  There are a lot of charity events and Team In Trainingorganizations (like My Team Triumph or the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training) you can work with to add some meaning to your training.  I have found I train better knowing I am running for someone who can’t run for themselves.  It adds a spiritual level to my workouts, and reminds me to be grateful and humble.

And that my friends, is that.  For now…



Summer of Sue…Part Deux

Today, I continue my “Summer of Sue” series, with a look at how leaving one sport and picking up another helped pave the way for more fun and relaxation.


A few years back, I discovered the “joy of running”.  However, that would now be more accurately defined as the “joy of stopping”.  I picked up running as a way to lose weight, build stamina and muscle, and just to prove I could do it.  It gave me a sense of accomplishment, confidence, triumph and stress relief.  It pretty much also gave me my sanity, as it became the best and most efficient way of dealing with my anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, it also gave me hip bursitis, hamstring injuries and plantar fasciitis.  It seems I have been battling one running injury after another these past 3 years, making each run painful before, during and after.  For the record, plantar fasciitis is evil, and the most debilitating when it’s flaring up, and taking the longest to ‘heal’.  I can’t even say it’s healed yet, because one 2-mile run is enough to still make me gimp around the rest of the day.  Still, I was reluctant to quit.  I was afraid I might quit working out altogether.  Afraid I would lose my drive.  Afraid the weight would pour on.  Afraid I would go crazy (literally) without that stress relief.

The Instigator and her willing pupil

Enter Kay.  Kay is a friend from work who began participating in duathlons and triathlons, and found she really liked the biking aspect the best.  She bought a better bike, joined the local bike club, and became one of those weirdo bikers cruising around in padded spandex shorts and funny shoes.  She began sending me invitations to join her on rides or bike club events.  I turned her down.  I was a runner, not a biker.  However, Kay, being the tenacious mother she is, did not stop inviting me.  Nor did she stop telling me about how much fun she had biking, and how it helped her lose weight and how it helped her get rid of stress.  Kay is not in sales.  She should be.

By the end of winter, she had me convinced.  I threw my hat in the ring and set my running shoes aside for a pair of Pearl Izumi bike shoes.


Back when our firstborn was an infant, I got a part time job at a local bike shop called Bob & Kip’s.  I learned a lot about bikes from the guys there, and purchased my first “real” bike with that knowledge (and some greenbacks) – a Cannondale SM700 mountain bike.  It had Deore LX derailleurs with rapid fire shifters, knobby tires and black paint with Chameleon green splatter.  I loved that bike, and rode it everywhere.

My baby!

Based on that memory, I decided that if I was going to do this, I wanted to do it on a Cannondale.  I found a local dealer, Pedal & Paddle, and picked out a Cannondale Quick 4 – a hybrid with a carbon fork and 700c wheels with a sweet spoke pattern.  It’s performance lives up to it’s name – nimble and quick, yet tough enough to handle dirt and gravel.  On the long haul, it requires more energy to traverse distance than a traditional road bike, but I like that it’s more durable, versatile and forgiving of my inexperience.


Ride 100 miles for strawberry shortcake? Why, yes! I believe I will!

Riding, of course!  Sponsored event rides with yummy foods at rest stops (Mmmmm….strawberry shortcake!), solo rides where I got to explore the countryside, bike club rides where I learned the intricacies of riding with a group, long rides with Kay, conversing about work or our families (if you can’t eat on a ride, then you must converse!).  I’m outdoors, staying fit, meeting new people and loving how I feel when I’m out on the road.

Riding has given me as much confidence, sense of accomplishment and feel good endorphins as running did, with the added bonus of not being sore and gimpy when I am done.  I also don’t have to mentally prepare before a ride like I did with running.  It’s all pure joy, and it completely made my summer.

Tune in tomorrow for a photo journey of the Summer of Sue…Part Deux!