Yesterday was one of the best days of my life! From overcoming my fear of dark water so I could jump into a lake and swim 1.2 miles, to being able to bike 56 miles without having my knees complain and running 13.1 miles in the hot sun at a pace faster than most of my half marathons, to finally crossing the Raleigh 70.3 finish line after 7hrs 4 minutes and 15 seconds of physical exertion. It was amazing!
The official race report is coming soon, but today for My Inspiration Monday, I am featuring Michaela, the person who got me started in all of this.
After I signed up for my first half marathon in 2005, Michaela somehow convinced me to join her in June of 2006 to run the Stockholm Marathon. I am not sure why I said yes, but before I knew it we were signed up and made plans to meet up in Sweden.
Michaela is from Sweden and for the marathon we stayed with her amazing grandmother and hung out with her childhood friends (we went out and partied after the marathon with our finisher shirts and pointed to them whenever someone questioned our wobbly state).
I remember race day like it was yesterday. The race started at 1pm, but summer in Sweden means that the sun shone into our bedroom at 3am and I was wide awake and anxious…we were running a marathon!
Despite hitting the wall hard at mile 20, the race was amazing. We ran through a park, downtown Stockholm and over a crazy bridge, twice! Stockholm is beautiful, the weather was perfect, the streets were lined with crowds, they had sprinklers to run through, lots of aid stations and you got to finish in the Olympic stadium. I will never forget the guy, my Norwegian Viking, who stuck with me the last 6 miles of the race, to help me finish.
Michaela keeps telling me how I inspire her, but the truth is without Michaela I would not have joined the world of endurance sports and she continues to be my inspiration.
When did you start running?
Michaela was a competitive swimmer for 17 years and ran as cross training starting with track in elementary school. In middle school, she also did track and ended up always running the mile, mainly because she was the only one who could actually run the whole thing. She remembers thinking that the mile was torture. In high school she ran cross country and thought that the 5k was torture. Turns out, it was just too short! Michaela needed something where she could run for longer at a slower pace versus sprinting…Michaela, you’re a swimmer and runner, when will you join us for a triathlon?
Michaela has a fun perspective on being a middle of the pack age-grouper. After college, she says, I needed to lose some of that freshman 15 and signed up for my first marathon. She needed something she had to train for but couldn’t win. “I’m way too competitive, it was good for me to sign up for a race that I was nowhere near the top for!”
Our first marathon in Stockholm. She says that she made the mistake of freaking out and running the first half of the race way too fast (I remember starting together and by mile 3 she was long gone). The second half was over an hour slower than the first, but the 6-hour time limit terrified her (and me too)! She ended up finishing within the time limit and learning an important lesson: pace yourself.
“Finishing my first marathon. I thought, ‘I’m never doing this again.’ Well, I signed up for my next marathon shortly after.”
The past two years, she has run half marathons, raising money for scholarship and programs for Challenge Aspen, a non-profit that makes possibilities for people with disabilities.
She ran the half instead of the full due to back injuries, but realized that she really loves that distance! In 2012, she ran the half in Lausanne, Switzerland with a team of 35 other runners from around the US. It was 28 degrees, snowing sideways, and freezing but she loved it! It tested her limits. Her time was so-so but the experience was well worth it. In 2013, she went to Amsterdam (a HUGE race) and dropped 23 minutes off her time. This year the team is headed to Lisbon, Portugal. Michaela’s getting married so she won’t be joining them but she will be training with them this summer!
“Running with that amazing team and running for those that can’t, it makes any of the races I do with and for Challenge Aspen amazing.”
Michaela LOVES her Lululemon pants, Nike tanks and Saucony running shoes. She switched from Asics to a much lower profile Saucony last year and it has made her back stop hurting when she runs. She also runs with dried apricots. She can’t do the artificial stuff and dried apricots work the same way.
How do you overcome the mental barriers we face running long distances?
Michaela says, she think of all the people she works for in her job, the participants, who can’t run. They might have a cognitive disability or have had their legs amputated from a wartime conflict and they never give up. “We take them out skiing and they blow me away. When I want to stop, I think of how lucky I am to be able to run at all.”
This year Michaela’s been focusing on 10Ks and will be ramping up for a fall half marathon soon. Her goal this year is to get faster. She runs a lot but also cross trains by boxing three days a week and doing private training twice a week. She runs before or after each of these workouts and then does a long run with the team on Saturdays.
See why Michaela inspires me?
Amazing person, endurance athlete, travel junkie and charity runner. Oh and she’s a graphic designer too! (She designed Behavior Basics’ logo and will be designing Lean Green Island Girl’s logo too)
Michaela, thank you for introducing me to the crazy, amazing, inspiring world of endurance sports. I hope we can get together and run another race soon…maybe a 10-year reunion in Stockholm in 2016?