Thank You Suzi for taking the time to participate in my blog interview and big congratulations on your 12 Hour Women’s Treadmill WORLD RECORD! The previous record was 68.5 miles. On March 4th 2016, Suzi crushed it when she ran 73.3 miles in 12 hours to set a new women’s world record.
(Suzi S. running to set a new world record)
To be honest I just happened to stumble on to your world record attempt while browsing pages on Facebook, could you provide my readers some background on your running resume.
Thank you very much. It was a very special day and was only possible because I had so many people supporting me and encouraging me, including Three Rivers Running Company, Summit City Bicycles and Fitness, my running teammates, friends and most importantly my awesome husband and children.
I don’t have the most impressive running resume. I truly feel I underachieved in my younger years due to circumstances in life. However, I began running at the age of 8 or 9 with my dad who was an avid runner. I was very successful during middle school cross-country and track, not losing a race my entire 8th grade year. Then high school came and although I was all-conference my Freshman year, I began to lose the focus I needed and my competitiveness- due to suffering from depression and anxiety and experiencing some difficult life events. I ran one season at Ball State University, but transferred out and felt I lost my love for running.
I eventually got my life together by turning to my faith and working through my personal issues. I then used running as a source of healing in my life. I ran my first marathon at the age of 19 – 3:45 at the San Francisco Marathon. I ran two more marathons before settling down and starting a family. I then put all my energy into my role as a wife and mother and running was just something I did on the side to stay healthy. However, in 2004 I learned that my older brother was running his first marathon. This ignited a desire to start taking it seriously again so I started running with my brother on the weekends. Then I started running marathons again. One day I was introduced to this strange thing called ultramarathon running. I thought it sounded really dangerous, but decided to give the trail running a try. I was immediately addicted and signed up for my first 50K. Then another, then a 50 miler, then a 100 miler. My PR for the 100-mile distance is 20:08 at Run Woodstock which was a course record. My 50-mile PR is 7:28 at Tunnel Hill. And my PR for the 50K is 4:25 at the HUFF.
(LOVE the motivational posts…you can do this!)
I was happy to see you thanked God after breaking your record “First and foremost, this accomplishment was only possible with the grace of God and the gifts he has given me.- Suzi”
Would you share a little about your faith?
God is my strength and my purpose. I have not always had the strongest faith in Him. Actually, I am still trying to grow in this area. We all go through trials in our lives that test us. I lived with a lot of anger for many years and only learned to let go when I found Him. I give credit to my husband for helping lead me to Jesus Christ. He took me to his church and helped me get involved with some retreats and activities there. I pray frequently while I run. I am by no means perfect or even close to perfect! But I strive to live my life through Him and for Him.
Thank you so much, now we’ll dive into the nuts and bolts of setting that awesome world record.
Q). What prompted you to go after the World Record? Was this a long term goal, or something that popped up?
This specific goal popped up about a year ago. I had dreams as a child of breaking a world record or being a professional athlete, but I lost my self-confidence during those difficult years in my life and let go of all those dreams. A little over a year ago I was talking to some running friends about a guy who broke some treadmill world record. Out of curiosity I looked up all the treadmill world records and saw the female 12-hour record was around 60 miles. There was also an unofficial record of around 66 miles. I thought to myself, wow, I think I can do that. For fun I filled out the Guinness application for attempting the record. A few weeks later it came back approved. However, I decided to run some other races and this got put on the back burner. Then a month ago, a lady named Susie Chan from England broke the record by running 68.54 miles. Hearing her story re-motivated me to look into the possibility of attempting it. I brought the idea up to Three Rivers Running Company (I am a member of their ultramarathon running team) and the idea just took off from there.
Q). I’m totally unfamiliar with the Guinness book of records procedures, what goes into making sure your efforts and in this case success is recognized by Guinness Book?
They have numerous guidelines. I had to have a certified (calibrated) treadmill. I needed two independent witnesses at all times, but none could work longer than 4 hours. I had to have at least two video cameras. Every second of my attempt had to be filmed. There needed to be at least two clocks. And the witnesses had to log my exact mileage every hour. I was allowed to get off the treadmill any time I wanted but the time continues. I was not allowed to step off of the treadmill until it came to a complete stop. I also was not allowed to grab or lean on any part of the treadmill. I could only touch it to change the speed.
Q). During most Ultra-marathons there comes a low point in the race, maybe a point where you doubt success, did you have one of those low points during your attempt? At what point was that and how did you battle through?
The only low point I had occurred early on, maybe 20 miles in, when I started having stomach cramping and subsequently took 4 bathroom breaks in less than three hours. I obsessed over how much time I was losing with these breaks and worried that it would continue and I wouldn’t reach my goal. Luckily I was well ahead of my scheduled pace. I struggled with nausea off and on the entire last 40 miles and it was very difficult to eat. I have this issue in every ultra. My teammates were there pushing me to eat and they would all cheer for me every time I took a bite of something. After mile 40, I was very confident that I was going to make my goal of at least 70 miles and I began to relax. However, over the 12 hours I took a total of 8 or 9 bathroom breaks!
I noticed one of the posts on your Facebook timeline stated that at 4.5 hours into your run you had 30 miles on the books……that was a great start for a long day.
Q). What pace strategy did you use to maximize your endurance?
I planned out several different pace strategies, all which would get me to my goal. This would give me the opportunity to switch things up based on how I was feeling or if I just needed a change. I started out by running at a decent pace for 25 minutes (between 7.3 and 7.5 mph) then going down to 6.0mph for 5 minutes to break it up and focus on drinking and taking in nutrition. Then 25 minutes at the faster pace followed by 5 minutes walking. I did this for a couple hours. After I began having stomach issues and feeling nauseous I decided to switch to a walk every time on the 25:5 run-walk ratio. I kept this up for the rest of the time and ended up keeping pretty steady at 6.8mph for the run until the last couple hours when I went down to 6.4mph. This is the most walking I’ve done in an ultra the past several years. I think mentally I needed that to break up the monotony of the treadmill.
The longest I have ever run on a treadmill was while stationed at Thule Greenland, it was during the dark season (no daylight from Nov, to Mar) and I was training for my first marathon. I ran 21 miles. To keep myself entertained I watched the majority of the Tom Hanks movie Castaway…twice.
(Marking off the miles)
Q). What did you do to keep yourself entertained for 12 hours?
I planned on watching Netflix movies and running documentaries but we had issues getting my Roku hooked up to the tv. It turned out there was so much activity in the room that I really didn’t have time to watch movies. I was interviewed by several journalists and local television stations in the morning. Then my friends were coming in and out all day so I was talking to them whenever I could. My ultra racing teammates were absolutely the best at trying to entertain me and pass the time. One brought in some hoola hoops and they started having contests that were quite hilarious. My youngest child was also keeping me going the last hour or so with his cheering and silly questions like “Mom, are you tired?” Surprisingly, the time passed pretty quickly.
Q). So what’s next?
I am registered for Thunder Rock 100 in May. I am looking forward to a much more challenging 100 miler than I have run before. Flat treadmill running will not help me in this race!
Q). Do you plan to go after any other World Records?
I haven’t really thought about that, but my 16-year-old son was looking up treadmill records and saw the 7 day record and suggested I go for it. The only problem is finding a whole week that I could take off to do this… and the logistics of finding all the witnesses would be a nightmare.
From the seriousness of a world record to some light subjects.
(Smiling and running, running and smiling repeat for 12 hours!)
Prior to most long runs or races, to get motivated, I enjoy sitting in my car and listening to music, the adrenaline pumping kind of loud music.
Q). How do you get motivated for your races/record attempts.
I like my music like you. I also enjoy reading race reports and watching running documentaries, especially Ginger Runner!
Q)..What is your favorite food/meal after a race or a really long run?
Chocolate chip pancakes and/or a veggie omelet. I’m a big breakfast person.
Q). What does a normal training week look like for you?
I am coached by the awesome Michele Yates. I focus on speed work and hill work a few times per week with a long run on the weekends. I do strength training three days per week as well. I take one day off about every 2 or 3 weeks. I probably average about 70-80 miles per week.
Q). I see you’re a big Peyton Manning fan, what do you think of his retirement?
I have been inspired by #18 ever since he came to Indianapolis 18 years ago. I admire him for his work ethic and dedication to preparation, his giving back to the community, and his humility. I cried through his retirement speech! I am sad this chapter has come to an end but I know it was time. He timed it perfectly just as he timed his passes to perfection. (My next goal life will be to meet him in person).
I have found with my running that it allows me to help others go after an active lifestyle, and maybe inspire someone who does not believe in themselves.
(Success, a world record)
Q). What advice do you have for someone who was inspired by your world record and has decided to give this running thing a try?
Just yesterday I was checking out at the grocery store and the cashier said, “Aren’t you that lady who broke the world record on the treadmill?” We talked a little and she said, “I could never run even a mile.” I told her I believed she could and explained how to start off with mostly walking and building up to running for a minute, and increasing from there. She seemed to have a light in her eyes and told me she was so inspired and was going to go home after work and walk at least a mile. This made my day. I love being able to inspire others. My advice is to take small steps and remember that although it will be very hard in the beginning it will be worth the effort when you become a healthier and happier person. Set a goal and make it fun by finding friends to run with or join a local beginners running group.
Suzi, again thank you very much…I’m a big fan and will continue to follow your adventures!
You are very welcome. And I’d like to thank you for your military service. God bless you! Maybe I’ll meet you in person on the trails one day.