Friday, January 23, 2015

Athlete Interview: Lisa Stickel

Walt Disney World continues to find new and fun ways to encourage people to come and enjoy their parks.  If you hang out in any type of social media with other runners, one of the most common threads you may have seen as we turned into the new year was people running down at Disney and hearing about things like the Goofy Challenge.  Frankly, large crowds and lots of sugar crazed kids make me sometimes think just going to Walt Disney World is a goofy challenge, then throw in several days of races, wow!  A friend of mine from Twitter, Lisa Stickel was there recently and tells us about her race weekend in the following interview!

Lisa Stickel hanging around with pals Chip and Dale at Walt Disney World!
Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith:  Lisa, tell us a little bit about yourself and your running background. 

Lisa Stickel:  I am a mom of two teenage boys, Mayson and Clayton.  I decided to become a CPA as a junior in high school and have been doing what I love for over 20 years. I will be celebrating 10 years of owning my own CPA practice this May.  I provide audit and accounting services for nonprofit organizations and income tax services for individuals and small businesses.  I am a Christian and I attend Long Hollow Baptist Church.  I like to run, read, travel and laugh.  I am in the process of going through a divorce after being together for 27 years.

I dabbled with exercise and working out in my 20's and 30's but never made it a part of my lifestyle. My oldest son started struggling with his weight several years ago so instead of nagging him I wanted to be a role model to him by living an active lifestyle.  I was not a morning person but I knew something had to change.  I hired a trainer for strength training and started driving 30 minutes to a gym twice a week at 4:30 AM to workout.  This was 4-5 years ago.  I also started running 3-4 days a week.  I ran several half marathons without training, which in hindsight, was not that smart. However, I grew to love running and got serious about it in my 40's.  As you can tell, I am pretty busy, so I am not always consistent with running and it does not come easy to me.  It took me years to run a mile without walking.  Running is 90% mental for me.  I have ran 12 half marathons and 2 marathons.

Brad:  As the old saying goes, I think running is 90% (or more!) mental for most of us!  You are definitely a busy lady leading your own CPA practice, two teenagers, and going through a divorce. That's a lot of stress especially as tax season is just beginning here at the end of January.  I can guess that running is a great release for you.  

Lisa, tell us about your most recent running event and why you chose to run it?

Lisa:  It was the Goofy Challenge on January 10-11, 2015.  The Goofy Challenge is running a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles at Walt Disney World. I ran the Walt Disney World half marathon in January 2011 with a friend and I ran the full marathon by myself in January 2013.  I had a heel injury when I ran the full in January 2013 so I was going to run the marathon again in January 2014.  Something came up and I could not make the trip in January 2014 so I deferred the marathon to January 2015 and decided to step it up to the Goofy Challenge.  I like attempting things that are a challenge and this was definitely that for me since I cannot run a half without walking.

My 16 year old, Mayson, also runs with me, so I signed him up for the half marathon.  I thought it would be a great first one for him.



Mickey Mouse in jungle gear, Lisa in full marathon mode!
Brad:  How was your training going into the race weekend and what were your goals?

Lisa:  My training started in July 2014.  It was the first time that I was consistent with my training up until about 6 weeks prior to the event.  My longest training run was 9 miles on a Saturday and 20 miles on a Sunday.  I ran the 20 miles in a little over 4 hours.  Then the stress of going through a divorce got to me and I got sick for about a month during the holidays in November and December. Work was also quite hectic.  So my training was not where I wanted it to be going into the event.  My goal was to finish the half marathon with my son.  I had no time limit other to not be picked up by the van of shame!  

My son quit running 2 months before the event but I said he would have to pay me back the money if he didn't run.  It may not have the wisest thing for him to run, but I wanted him to experience the excitement of the half marathon.  I also wanted him to feel the accomplishment of finishing what he started and not to quit. 

My goal for the marathon was 5 hours prior to getting to Orlando.  After Saturday's half and spending all day walking the theme parks, my goal was to simply get in the right mindset to start and finish the marathon at all!

Brad:  The lesson you sought for your son to learn is an important one, and perhaps, he wasn't the only one living it out that weekend.  Tell us about the rest of the weekend and why you think it turned out that way?

Lisa:  During the half marathon, I stayed with my son and he finished and I still qualified for the Goofy Challenge.  This was the goal for day one.  I don't even know our time.

Lisa and her son Mayson after finishing the half marathon together!

Family smiling together with their medals of accomplishment!

My marathon time the next day was 6:18.  I cut 22 minutes off from my time in 2013.  At the race in 2013, I had a heel injury which prevented me from training for 2 months before the event.  I never ran over 14 miles.  I was getting shots in my heel and just trying to get rid of the pain.  I walked the last 6.2 miles in 2013 and it was the most painful thing ever!  So I had really hoped to do better in 2015.  However, I also took lots of pictures and decided to enjoy every step.  My goal was to finish and I did.

Brad:  Did you ever!  Knocking 22 minutes off your time from two years ago is awesome!  Rock on Lisa!  Now, that said, let's be honest, what struggles did you have out there that weekend?

Lisa:  You have to get up really early for the Disney runs, so not getting enough sleep was a big struggle.  Wake up time was 3 AM in order to catch our bus at the resort by 4 AM.  We also had gotten up at this time the day before to catch our flight down to Florida.  I felt great after the half marathon because I took it nice and slow to be with my son.  My 14 year old son, Clayton, was also on the trip, but not running.  He wanted to go to the parks after the half and I thought that would be a great way to spend the  rest of the day. That night however, about 7 PM, while at our third park, the fatigue hit me out of nowhere.  We still had to eat and I knew I would not be getting into bed until 10 PM.  My legs started to hurt and I seriously considered not running the marathon.  I decided I would get up the next morning and go from there. 

Brad:  Somewhere in a Tweet you sent out, I read that you cried between miles 25 and 26.  What was going through your head? 

Lisa:  I had gotten up at 3 AM and really didn't feel like I had the strength to run the marathon.  I was exhausted.  I went through the motions of getting dressed.  I looked at the weather and it said it was going to rain around noon.  I thought I don't want to run in a storm so that may be a confirmation that I don't need to run.  I got ready and checked the forecast again and the rain was now due to arrive around 1 PM.  Well, I knew I would be done by then so decided I would keep moving toward the start line.  I was still not feeling up to the run.  I was sitting in the corral and starting to get really anxious because I didn't know if I would be able to finish.  I was tired.  However, I didn't know if I would have to make the long walk back to the Epcot parking lot at this point if I failed to start, so I decided to start and see how I felt.  I decided I would stop if I felt I couldn't go on. I figured it was better to start and not finish than not start at all.  It also went through my mind, that I had spent all this money on the trip and race and so if I didn't start I would have to come back another year to race!  I wanted to get it over with now!  So when I hit mile 25 there was no question I was finishing and the emotions washed over me.  I was crying tears of joy!  All my doubts and worries seemed to be for nothing at that moment in time.  Plus, with 2015 being a year of major life changes, I knew that if I could complete the Goofy Challenge, I could face all the unknowns getting ready to come my way.

Brad:  Awesome Lisa.  Sometimes we just have to put one foot in front of the other and have the faith to step forward.  As you reflect back on the weekend of racing, how did you make it through what was a pretty tough challenge for you?

Lisa:  My faith in God allowed me to start and finish the marathon.  I prayed and talked with God the entire morning.  I asked Him for the strength to get me through the marathon.  I also had friends praying for me.  They called me and prayed for me and sent me texts.  Two of the people closest to me sent me texts with these words as I was waiting in the corral: "I believe in you." As I kept running, texts would keep popping up encouraging me.

Brad:  Encouraging words, somtimes that's all we need to keep moving forward in the right way.  Lisa, do you think that suffering and joy are linked in this life? How so?

Lisa:  Yes, I believe as a follower of Jesus Christ, that suffering and joy are linked in this life.  I am going through the most difficult time of my life right now with my divorce.  It is gut wrenching sadness and worst than a death in my opinion.  Yet, I have a joy in my heart that is not explainable to someone who does not believe.  I am joyful in knowing that God is good all the time regardless of my circumstances and He will provide for me at all times.  Joy is based not on my circumstances but on my relationship with Christ.  The sufferings are necessary to mold us to grow more like Christ each day.  It is through the suffering that I grow closer to God because I cling to Him and He in turn gives me peace and joy all the time. 

Running is also a metaphor for suffering and joy when I stop and think about it.  Running the long distances, such as the Goofy Challenge, brought a lot of suffering along the course of 2 days.  I didn't realize how hard it was going to be. Yet, I had joy as I started running and trusting the training that had led to this moment.

I am thankful for the gift of running and exercise that God has allowed me to experience over the years.  I stumble and fall in my training but I always tend to get back up and start over.  I am proof that anyone can learn to run and change their life.  You just have to want it bad enough for yourself.


Lisa with her marathon and Goofy Challenge bling!
Brad:  Lisa, thanks for your sharing your adventure with us.  Despite the hardships you are going through right now, your faith sounds strong and persevering.  May God guide you through 2015 and the days ahead as He did out on the race course down at Walt Disney World.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Saying Good-bye to 2014 & Hello to 2015!

Hey all!  It's been a while since I have posted.  December was a bit stressful for me and included an injury that sidelined me for most of about 2 weeks or so.  But, now it's time to look back at 2014 and ahead to 2015.

Final Race of 2014: My final race in 2014 was the 4 mile RCC Run the Woods trail race in Earlham, IA.  I went back this year with two kids.  My son who ran his first four miler here last year knocked several minutes off his time, having just concluded cross-country season a few weeks beforehand while my oldest daughter accomplished her first four miler ever.  She had quite a year completing three big girl races, 1.6 mile, 5K, and 4 miles.  All were trail races.  I got her to the finish line at this one, but it wasn't easy, and we were pretty close to last, but we finished!!! :)  

Final Tally for 2014: Due to a sinus infection around Thanksgiving and an injury for a good chunk of December, my goal of running 1200 miles in 2014 slowly slipped out of my grasp and instead I had to motivate myself towards the end with several other little goals along the way.  My year ended with 1152.26 miles, just over 96% of my goal, a bit over 22 miles per week, and a bit less than a mile per week more than the year before in 2013.  

Highlights of 2014:  (There are probably too many to list!)  But, my running highlights for 2014 included big PR's at the Hawkeye 25K in March and TNF ECS Trail Marathon WI in September.   Finishing the Zumbro 17 Miler in April after having been sick for 48 hours beforehand and in tough conditions, was, believe it or not, awesome. I also enjoyed racing several times with my kids.  The TNF weekend in WI being a big highlight for many of them!

In addition starting this blog and developing friendships worldwide via social media in the running community has been a blast.  It's been awesome getting to know so many of you, encourage and be encouraged, and in having the opportunity to interview people about their own race experiences.  

I also had a great time volunteering at this year's Runner's Flat 50K, 20M, 10M race in Cedar Falls, IA, the same race where I both finished my first 50K and DNFed my second! I believe that volunteering ought to be mandatory for any long distance racer just as they do in many of the big 100 mile races like Hardrock.

Finally, I have really enjoyed being a part of The Runner's Tea team as an ambassador.  Please make sure to check out there line of teas and my reviews all of which can be linked through this:
Runner's Tea Review & Links  Great stuff!  I had a great time being interviewed by Caity McCardell about my running and the tea.

Goals for 2015:  1200 miles, again.  January is not starting off so well again, (it's been bitter cold here all week in subarctic Iowa), but this number is totally attainable.  In addition, I am counting my miles this year towards the miles run by #teamhumanrace in the Earthathon Relay.  In this online running event, runners from all around the world are teaming up to see who can run the first 25,000 mile lap around the globe while we also encourage each other to corporately run 10 laps and 250,000 miles during 2015!  Pretty cool and I get to run on a team of a bunch of Twitter friends led by our fearless Captain Penny!!! :)

Also, I am running these 1200 miles this year to raise money for charity.  After much consideration, I choose Blood:Water, an organization that the rock group Jars of Clay helped found.  This charity's desire is to seek to end both the water and HIV/AIDS crises in Africa.  I am seeking to raise $3,000.00.  My page is Fartlek For Africa, and no, that's not potty talk! :)  If you don't know what a fartlek is, then check out my page and there's a link to the definition, but I would guess most of you runners probably already know!  But I did create a new word I think, I am fartleking for Africa!  (Or is that 2 k's=fartlekking?)

I am also continuing in my role as a product ambassador for The Runner's Tea and proud to do so. Their products taste good, settle well, and work.  They've been great to represent and be a part of these last several months.  

My racing schedule is not quite as developed as last year at this time.  Two of the races I did last year are on the same date, so I had to pick one over the other and decided to run Zumbro again, and not Hawkeye.  I loved the Zumbro course last year and want to make a major dent in my overall time for the 17 miler this year.  Great course with over 3000ft of elevation gain in just 16.7 miles.  I hope to catch some of the regular local races here in Iowa and possibly a few out west as I have time.

Finally, I am working with the Hardin County Conservation Committee and we are (tentatively) planing a 5K/15K trail race for September 26, 2015.  These races will incorporate 3 conservation areas just north of Steamboat Rock, Iowa and include a crossing of the Iowa River for those running the 15K.  There are some great trails out there with some short, but steep killer climbs!  

Let me close by saying thanks be to God for the ability I have to run and do all that I have, can, and will.  I love this passage from Isaiah 40:

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

May 2015 be a great year, a blessed year for each and everyone of you!  Now go out and run!  Thanks to all who made 2014 such a great year!

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