So one of the awesome things about my life right now is the fact that I get to be around some amazing runners! I get to work with them, run with them, pick their brain on all kinds of running related things. Basically it is a big run nerd fest 24/7 over here. One of the main things being around all this running greatness does is inspire me. I thought if I am inspired you all might be inspired too! So I am asking some of these amazing people to share some of their wit and wisdom with us.
First up is Kena!
Kena recently ran Across the Years- a six day running event and totally rocked it. Yep 6 days of running people- mind blown!
Now I have repeatedly told Kena I have a big 'ole run crush on her (yep more than once- things are getting creepy over here) because I think she is just amazing. My guess after reading this you will too.
So Kena tell us a little about yourself! How did you start running? What are your favorite distances? Favorite after running treat? Must have running gear?
I am a mom first and foremost and I love it! I have worked running specialty almost as long as I have run and I love that too! Something about helping people run and getting people started with running really makes me happy! I love it and I want to help everyone else love it too.
I started running almost exactly 7 years ago. I quit smoking (cold turkey) on January 1st and I was successful for 2 weeks but I felt horrible. I was grumpy and tired and I just hated it. So, I called my sister Fran and I told her how I felt and that my plan was to start smoking again. I remember telling her that it was January and January is a terrible month to quit. It is bleak and cold and dreary and I felt miserable and that I knew why hardly anyone was successful with that particular New Years resolution. I remember being very frustrated! Fran told me to exercise to take my mind off of it. She told me that she was running a half marathon in March and that if I could teach myself to run 3 miles that I could run it with her. The plan was to run and walk our way to the finish line. So, I did it. With the help of my cousin (and dear friend) Mike I learned to run 3 miles without stopping and I ran the inaugural ING Marathon in Atlanta in the slowest time of my life. BUT I loved it!! I ran 9 miles of the race and walked the rest. Unfortunately my sister Fran was unable to run it with me because she had a medical issue that prevented her from it. But our friend Julie was there and we had the best time! Anyway, that is how I started running. I loved it instantly and I knew right away that I would be a good distance runner.
If I had to choose a favorite distance, I would say that it was anything past the marathon. I love that I can run a long way and enjoy it at the same time! I don’t really have the same level of enjoyment when I am running a marathon or a 10k. I always feel like the focus is on time and pace rather than having fun. Don’t get me wrong; I love competition as much as anyone. But I want to love what I am doing too.
My favorite running treat? Wow, that is almost embarrassing! I love McDonalds Fish sandwiches while I am running!!
My must have running gear is my Mom’s bandana. I always have that when I am running. In fact, it is thread bear.
So you are kind of a big deal and run some big races! Recently you ran Across the Years- the six-day event- how did you prepare for something like this?
I am not comfortable with the kind of a big deal part. I am really just doing what I love! To prepare for the 6 day at ATY I ran a lot. I tried not to race during training (although I did sneak in Hinson Lake and Merrell’s Mile. J) I just kept my mileage as high as I could. I averaged 100+ miles a week during my training for ATY. Outside of that, and almost more importantly, I just tried to make sure that I was happy and comfortable! I have burned out a little before and I did not want to repeat that. I think that if I am doing something that I love I should love how I feel when I am doing it.
My brain can’t quite comprehend running for six days. What was say day three like? Do you sleep during the event? How often and how long? What do you eat? After the event can you eat nothing but cake for a month because you have burned so many calories?
Ha ha! I am not sure that I have a handle on it yet. J This was my first 6 day race and I would be lying if I told you that I was not terrified! I think that definitely impacted my race a little. Every day brought challenges, but I just kept working on the problems until I found the best solution that I could. And by I found, I mean we found. My team of handlers was AWESOME!! There is no way that I could do anything without them!! They did so much more that they had to and I love them very much!!! So, I guess day 3 was like days 1-5 if you think of it like that. Day 6 was amazing though! I could never express how wonderful day 6 is in words!!
This time around I took 38.5 hours off the track. That was a lot more than I planned on but I had a few challenges that I did not plan for like a stomach bug in the middle and a really painful shin splint. I feel terrible mentioning it though because I was not the only runner that faced those problems.
I ate instant oatmeal and mashed potatoes, fish sandwiches :-), avocado, bean burritos, eggs, bacon, Ensure and applesauce. I lost A LOT of weight this go round, especially because I was sick. Not to worry though. I can put it back on quickly. I have a gigantic appetite!
What has been your favorite race thus far and why?
Hard to say! Across the Years will always be one of my favorite races! This is my fourth year running it (the three past years I ran the 72 hour category because there was not a 6 day yet) and I have discovered some of my talents there and I have overcome so many challenges there and I found a family in the runners that come back year after year. I love that race! It is one that will always be special to me! I also love Hinson Lake. That is another race that I go back to year after year and for the same reasons. Last but not least, any race that my good friend Willy Syndram directs. We have so much fun together and I will never miss one of his.
What running accomplishment are you most proud of?
Wow! That is a tough one! I guess that I would have to say finishing the Mt Cheaha 50k on a year that I wanted to drop a million times, (I only beat the cutoff by 10 minutes that year) My first and third ATY (the first one because I had no idea what I was capable of and I was so exited to be there and try something new and the third one because I broke the 72 hour record and got to do it while running with my amazing friends) and the ATY 6 day because I learned so much about myself and I found that I really love multi-day races.
What exciting events are coming up next for you?
I am not sure that I want to answer this one. But here goes. I am running the Sri Chinmoy 6 day in April as well as Six Days in the dome in August. In the process of training for them I am running a 48 hour on July 4th at Merrell’s Mile. (It is a Willy Syndram race J ).
Do you have any advice for runners who are thinking of venturing into the ultra world?
The best advice that I could give anyone is to run with your heart and not with your mind. When I asked George (my 8 year old) what his advice would be, he said make sure to run a lot. I would have to endorse that piece of advice as well. J
I have heard that during ultra events things can get a bit rough, low points, feeling depressed, really needing some candy, struggle to keep moving forward, etc. Does this happen to you and if so what are some ways you move past and keep on truckin?
It definitely happens! But I just try to remember why I am there and what makes me happy. I talk to my team and other runners and friends at home. I can honestly say that I feel like the most loved and cared for person and I can’t think of a single time that this did not do the trick for me. I have the best friends in the world and I know how lucky I am! One of my favorite quotes is “I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as me”. I just remember that.
Anything else you want to share about running or life in general?
I love it! Life, running, they are the same to me!
Isn't she the best!
So you may have noticed a race called Operation Endurance on my racing schedule- while this fine runner is the race director. After volunteering at another of her races and seeing the amazing aid station food....well that spread really sold me. That and she is so inspiring and makes running ultras sound like the most fun and easy thing to do. Truly inspiring.
Thanks Kena for letting me pick your brain!