First, a trial of my faith

Usually when an uncomfortable, inconvenient mishap occurs in my life my immediate reaction is to feel discouraged and upset.  Then I take a step back and remember that every time these things happen they lead to growth, gained wisdom, and eventual blessings.  From my experience, whenever God is preparing me to receive something amazing he first tests my faith with a challenge.  Maybe he’s testing me to see if I am ready to receive the gift he has in mind or maybe its simply to help me feel even more grateful as I feel the stark contrast between less than ideal circumstances and amazing vistas.  “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Ether 12:6

Our BYU Cross Country team indubitably experienced this phenomenon right before the 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Greenville, South Carolina.  We were favored to win the NCAAs that year and we looked stronger than ever in the Mountain Region meet a few weeks before NCAAs.  Shorty after the Region meet our top runner, Misa suddenly started unraveling and was not feeling good mentally or physically going into NCAAs.  Maybe she was over-training or had just been going too hard for too long and needed a break.  Whatever the reason, we were all a little worried.  Everyone was trying to talk her back into feeling confident while praying that she could pull it back together for one last great race at the NCAAs and hopefully lead our team to the win.  A few days before the race, we departed SLC for Greenville with a layover in Atlanta.  As chance would have it, just as we landed in Atlanta there was a security breech in the Atlanta airport and all flights out were cancelled.  We sat in the Altlanta airport for a few hours while Coach tried in vain to get someone to give us our checked bags off the plane so we could drive to Greenville.  Finally accepting the fact that our bags were stuck there we got a few rental cars and drove the remaining 3 hours to Greenville, arriving at our hotel after midnight on Friday night before the Monday race.

After checking into the hotel a few of us went to our trainer, Kevin’s hotel room door with cups so he could share his saline solution with those of us who wore contacts and had put our contact lens cases in our checked bags, which were stuck in Atlanta.  In our team meeting the next morning we all proudly affirmed that we had heeded Coach Shane’s incessant promptings to carry-on our racing spikes and uniforms in case something like this happened.  Our training shoes and running clothes on the other hand…well, those were in our checked bags still in Atlanta.  Only a few of my teammates had the foresight to wear their running shoes on the plane.  The majority of us, myself included chose sandals.  ‘Cmon, we were going to the South after all.  Its so WARM there.

We were all a little worried that we would not get our running shoes and clothes in time to run the course and do some strides to loosen up our travel legs.  Coach may have been slightly upset with us for not being fully prepared for this exact circumstance.  It was stressful and Coach Shane spent a lot of time on the phone talking to the airline and airport personnel.  Finally around 4 or 5 PM on Saturday, our bags arrived in Greenville and we went straight to the course to loosen our legs.  Misa was still feeling flat and unexcited to race but the rest of us were just grateful to have our shoes and clothes and looking forward to our Sunday rest day before the race on Monday morning.

On Sunday we all went to Church together and had a restful day concluded by a team devotional.  Our team captain, Tara read “The Little Engine That Could” and we shared our thoughts about the impending race. Coach Shane reminded us to trust in ourselves, in each other, in our training, and in the Lord to help us do our best.  Our words of faith and encouragement to each other brought the light and excitement back into Misa’s eyes and we all felt happy and grateful for the peace in the room.  It was one of the most powerful devotionals I had ever been a part of.  As we ended with a group prayer, we all felt unified and close.  We were so aware and tuned into our friendship and trust in each other that it didn’t even matter what the outcome of the race would be because we all knew we were each going to give our best for each other.

The next morning as the NCAA Championships got underway we toed the line together with great excitement and confidence gained from the night before.  The gun went off and after  a fast first quarter mile the course took a sharp turn to the right and one of my teammates Sarah, who was running a few spots ahead of me stumbled and was pushed flat on the ground.  My teammate Amy and I saw it happen and said, “Sarah!  Trust!” as we went by.  Sarah quickly jumped back up, only losing a few seconds.  I had been the 6th runner for our team all season and Sarah had consistently been 4th or 5th.  As she got back into her groove, I was impressed by her toughness and tried to draw strength from her tenacity.  Misa, Jessie, Tara, Lindsey, Sarah, Myself, and Amy all gave our BEST that day and finished remarkably well, securing 1st place by a margin of 86 points.

For me, the moral of that story is to have faith and know that struggle and discomfort is given to us to test our faith and patience.  This week I have have been struggling with some discomfort and nerves.  After coming off a great run in the 15K championships and then heading straight into two big training weeks with lots of quality interval work, I felt GREAT and my fitness continued to improve.  As any runner knows, its a fine line between training optimally and over-training and I may have taken a step or two over the line.  By the end of those two solid weeks, I had a sudden outcropping of problems in my left leg.  You name it, its tight…glut/hip/hamstring/calf/plantar facia….all tight.  After taking Sunday off (as usual) and trying to work out the tightness with ART, massage, and ice while continuing to run, I found myself limping through the last set Tuesday’s workout.  I stopped, told Coach I was finished, and jogged back to my car.  Coach D and the rest of the team returned a few minutes later and Coach, Aaron, and I made a plan for recovery which included pool running, swimming, elliptical, whatever I could do to keep moving while allowing the pains in my left leg to recover.  Three therapy sessions and three days of cross training later, the problems subsided and I decided to run part of the workout on Saturday.  It felt okay but I could tell my plantar facia was still not happy.  Sunday morning just getting around the house was a limpathon and I have since resolved to stick to cross training as long as needed until everything feels really good.  While it is definitely a “less than ideal circumstance” to be struggling with pain two weeks from Boston, I also recognize that a little extra rest during my taper may be a blessing in disguise.  I know that my fitness is great and I have prepared well for this marathon.  “The hay is in the barn,” so to speak.  Now its time to rest, recover, and work out the niggles before the big day.

I had the pleasure of listening to LDS General Conference for a combined 8 hours on Saturday on Sunday and was strengthened by the messages I heard.  Aaron’s former Mission President, Elder Kent Richards gave a fabulous discourse on Pain.  He said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted.  It ministers to our education; to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility.  It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation that we gain the education that we have come here to acquire.  Pain brings you to a humily that allows you to ponder.”  So here I am, pondering.  Taking note of the things I could do differently next time to avoid this same circumstance. Praying that I can overcome this trial.  Pleading with God for a speedy recovery so that I will be able to give one last gutsy effort of this season in Boston.  I am mentally ready and physically fit and I have faith that my body will cooperate.

For more uplifting encouragement, I also enjoyed a Sunday morning talk by Elder Paul V. Johnson as he spoke about overcoming trials and tribulations.

My week in training:

Monday- 8 miles with strides

Tuesday – 10 miles with 4 miles of intervals

Wednesday – 60 minutes of pool running

Thursday – 45 minutes of pool running

Friday – 60 minutes of pool running, a half mile of running, and a 30 minute bike ride with Bre in the toddler seat (so fun).

Saturday -12.5 miles with 4 miles at MP

7 Comments

  1. Steve P

    Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed hearing about your experiences!

  2. Bryanna Johnson

    Hi Nan,

    I know it’s funny that I would be giving any bit of advice to a pro like you, but I noticed a few posts back you talked about your new orthotics you got.

    I just have to tell you that I got orthotics after having my first baby almost 6 years ago. A few weeks after getting them, I experienced one injury after another. They ranged from plantar fascia pain to different things all over my legs, like ITBS and knee pain.

    Long story short-I did some research and decided the orthotics might be hurting me and I took them out. It made a tremendous difference! No more injuries.

    So I just wonder if your orthotics could be causing you problems. Sorry if this is absolutely not helpful to you at all.

  3. Bryanna Johnson

    P.S. Elder Johnson is Jon’s dad. I liked that talk too 🙂


  4. Nan! I’m so so glad I saw this today! I am having some of the same struggles right now. I feel like my training (for Ogden) is the BEST it’s ever been and I’ve been feeling so strong and excited to race, but a couple of days ago I did something terrible to my hip/glut/IT??? and I’m having to take some days off and cross train–(and it’s hard for me to get the time to really have quality cross training). It’s been so discouraging! Thanks for your words of encouragement and good luck to you in Boston. I know you will do amazing!

    PS I loved hearing that story about nationals again. You guys are all amazing.


  5. it’s the boston curse; weren’t you going to run it last year? take it easy and get your booty here. reverse the curse!

  6. Michelle Lowry

    Nan, I listened to that pain talk on the way home from a dismal race. It was a good one, so applicable to running. Stick to your resolve to feel completely out of the woods before hitting the roads again. You won’t regret it. Our running careers are marathons, not sprints 😀

  7. Julie Crossley

    Inspiring post!! Sometimes our bodies tell us things our mind isn’t ready to hear…rest and recover….and you will reap the rewards of your faith. : D

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