Susie Kuhler just ran the IMS half marathon on Sunday and is convinced that her CrossFit training over the last year contributed to her hitting her personal record. Check out her journey in our lastest “In Our Member’s Words”.
For 20 years, I considered myself a runner and a cyclist. I love to do both. I was fairly good at both. Not elite level, but somewhat competitive. I had always lived a healthy active lifestyle. However, about 10 years ago, after my final child was born, I decided to step it up a notch. That consisted of vast amounts of running. I was always a runner so it wasn’t foreign to me to just add onto what I was already doing. It was not unusual for me to run 7 or 8 miles a day on the treadmill. Every once in a while, I would dabble in weight lifting but not effectively or enjoyably. My husband told me over and over again to lift weights. He would always say, “weight-lifting will only help your running”. I knew strength/cross training was important but struggled with implementing it. In some ways, I felt out of my element, and possibly even self conscious.
I did a few half marathons and averaged an 8 minute pace or close to it. I was running 6 days a week and the closer I got to 40, the more injury prone I became. The older I got, the longer it took to recover from the injury. I was frustrated and felt in some ways my body was failing me. I even had to cancel a couple of half marathon races due to injury. In my mind, I was close to giving up on pursuing my first love…running. And, in fact, I gave up competition.
My kids started doing CrossFit at Fury. Of course, I had a few friends that tried and tried to get me to join but I resisted. Why would I join a place like that??? Well, sitting there watching my kids intrigued me. I saw that my daughter really loved it. Peter was always so friendly and welcoming. We got to talking about triathlons and my personal interests. He convinced me that CrossFit would only help me and that could be my goal. I didn’t have to have a goal of lifting the heaviest weight. So, I JOINED!
From an endurance perspective, I came in fairly fit already. I joined Basics and did that for a month and then added Prep class for another month before moving into crossFit. I was behind and lacking in my upper body strength significantly. I had no idea how emaciated and weak I was in my shoulder area. My legs were pretty strong from years of running and cycling. I quickly became known as the “light weight” in the gym. Honestly, I’m still known as the light-weight. HOWEVER, the strength that I have gained in my core and upper body has been remarkable. Even at my light-weight status. Probably the biggest issue I had prior to crossfit was my flexibility. It was horrible. Sitting in the crossFit squat position was more than uncomfortable. I now sit in that position to relax.
IMS marathon appeared on the horizon. I had not done a race for 4 years for many reasons. I knew I was mentally ready but wasn’t sure how my body would once again respond to a 6 day a week training schedule. I decided to take a leap of faith and do things differently this time. I trusted that my CrossFit training would help me. I decided to run two days a week. One 5-6 miles at race pace and one longer slower run. And, continue to do CrossFit 3-4 days a week.
My goal for 10 years of running was to run a half marathon at faster than 8-minute pace. My best half marathon was at 8-minute pace. I had never gone faster but I had done it several times. It was like an invisible barrier much like the sound barrier.
Race day was two days away. I did the appropriate “tapering” the week prior to race, ate the necessary fuel, and had a day or two of slight doubt. How could I possibly do my best time ever running two days a week? Possibly, I made a mistake. 24 hours before the race, I woke up with a terrible crook in my neck. The kind where you can’t even move your neck or lift up from a sitting position. Additionally, my husband and I both got a cold. Not the best circumstances for trying to do a PR.
Race day morning, I woke up. My back felt slightly better and my cold had not gotten worse. I went through the normal routine of getting ready for a hard run.
On the start line, I felt happy, calm and when the clock started counting down from 10 to go time, I felt like I was in crossFit. How we all love the timer clock. I took off and felt AMAZING. I thought – well, maybe this is a fluke. First mile, in the low 7’s, 2nd mile, low 7’s. That continued until mile 7 when it got a bit hilly. My core and upper body felt so strong and stable. My legs felt amazing. I couldn’t imagine that I would continue to feel this good. But, I did. I understand pace and was conservative because I wasn’t accustom to feeling that good during a race. When I approached the big “hill”, I said cross-fit, cross-fit over and over again. I flew up the hill and was running at about 7:15 the rest of the way to the finish line. I saw my daughter and she ran in with me. I, for the first time, got tears in my eyes when I crossed the finish line. My body had not failed me. At 42, I did it. I set my half marathon PR. And, I felt the best I have EVER felt during a race. I completely owe my success to CrossFit. I trained much less, ran fewer miles, and produced more. Interestingly, I came home and didn’t fall asleep like past years. I was wide awake all day. Today, the day after the race, I still feel great.
If there are any runner and/or triathletes out there frustrated like I was, I would strongly encourage you to try crossFit. My only recommendation is that it can’t be for a month or two. You have to adapt it as a way of life. It takes months, to humble yourself through achieving some of the skills. I had no interest or desire to do a one handed handstand, or climb a rope 10 times in a work out. But, now? I can’t wait to do them every week. CrossFit increases your athletic functionality in all areas including strength, speed, flexibility and, yes, even endurance. And, socially, CrossFit has been amazing. I have met the most amazing woman and men. I’ve developed incredibly close relationships and feel lucky every day when I walk into Fury. And, now I am able to watch my daughter conquer a 30” box jump at age 12. Pure joy to watch her.
Thank you to Peter, Aimee, Marcus, Kelly, Will, and Alfred who have personally helped me and others achieve our own personal best.
CrossFit doesn’t have to be about getting huge and competing at the Games. You can be just like me. A runner AND a CrossFitter. YES, I AM BOTH.