Susan and Michael Henderson
Michael and Susan Henderson from Holt, MI come to Craftsbury together each summer. With intense jobs as a doctor and a nurse, running is more than just a physical activity for these avid athletes, it bonds them as a couple (ed. note: Michael and Susan can be seen every day at camp holding hands and cheering each other on ) Michael will be returning to Craftsbury this summer for his third year and Susan for her umpteenth year (she hasn't kept track!) Susan has been a runner for 20 years. Though she's not kept track of how many marathons and 50k's she's completed, she says, with characteristic understatement, "There have been a few!" Her greatest accomplishment was completing a 50 miler. Michael began running in college and regularly ran 10k's through the 1980's. He began marathoning and hasn't looked back since. Susan has even enticed him into several 50k's!
You come to camp as a couple. What's the key to running with and coming to camp with your life partner?
Michael: This is a week that we look forward to all year. If we can run during the frigid Midwest winter, and get our 1/2 or full marathon done in late spring, we look at camp as a means to tune up our running program in order to make the fall marathon more successful with both a faster time and executed a bit more methodically. Going out for a run and knowing that I'll be with my life partner is a rare chance in life for me to have that one person who doesn't judge my abilities one way or another. Susan always cheers me on and she is always giving me a thumbs up.
Susan: Running camp has always been the time to get my running online for the longer, tougher end of summer races as well as the fall marathon. At home there are so many responsibilities that can cut runs short or make me skip them. At camp, my only responsibility is to run. Everything else is taken care of, I only have to run. The Vermont hills are great for strength training. Where we live, hills are hard to find. I feel so lucky to have a spouse who shares my joy in running. That our paces are similar is a bonus. There is nothing better than running with my best friend.
Why do you keep returning to Craftsbury?
Michael: Craftsbury is where the air is clean, the people are encouraging during camp, the terrain is a challenge, but so user friendly with drivers who respect others on the road and it's a great way to get a full week of intense training done. The variety of things to do at and in the area around camp is another great reason to visit the Northeast Kingdom. It's truly an opportunity to revert to a simpler way of life for an entire week.
Susan: It is the most reliable way to improve my running speed. Being at camp revs my speed up every year. And the people! Danielle from Canada, Mike from Cape Cod... seeing them that first day of camp where friendships are picked up where we left off last summer is just wonderful. Lynn and Greg are the best coaches and have taught me so much.
What's the best lesson you've learned from your time at camp?
Michael: Running is an activity that will progressively get better from whatever stage one starts. It makes no difference what stage you happen to be at in your training, there is always room to improve. With continuity, overall improvement does occur.
Susan: Understanding how a yearlong training cycle works. I have learned periodization and all of the training steps that build a perfect running year.
How does sharing running help you motivate each other?
Michael: With my work schedule when I finally get a morning off or a day off, if I didn't have my spouse to run with, I probably wouldn't have the motivation to get out to train or to run. So, when I don't feel like getting my workout done, having Susan say, "Let's go out and do what we can do" is excellent incentive for me.
Susan: Our long runs are our best talking time. I met Michael during a race and we have run together for 10 years. I have friends who are married to non-running spouses. They feel guilty for the 3 and 4 hours they are gone on Saturdays. Michael and I get to share this time and he usually lets me pick the trail on which we run.
Strategies for dealing with injuries: How do you approach being injured and what are some of your mental coping strategies?
Michael: Injuries are tough to deal with, whether they are relatively minor or large. The thought goes through everyone's mind, "Will I be able to run again?" My approach has been to concentrate on maintaining strength and flexibility during the recovery. If possible, cross-training on my normal training schedule works well for me.
Susan: This year has been a rough one for running. I tore my left medial meniscus and took off 4 months to heal it. Just as I re-started running, my right one tore. I am now taking time for that. I haven't run since last July! But I know the meniscal tears are healing thanks to MRI imaging. I don't cross-train except lift some weights. Michael and I watch endurance documentaries and marathon races for entertainment. "Running on the Sun", about the 135 miler at Badwater, has two runners who run on prosthetic legs. It keeps things in perspective. I feel so lucky to know that when I heal, I will be as good as new.
When it's snowy and cold in Michigan and the fun of a week at Craftsbury is a long way off, what memories do you call up from camp?
Michael: It easy to remember the people from the week at running camp and some of the conversations on runs and during training sessions. Having e-mail communication with many of the fellow campers on a regular basis has proven to be supportive and beneficial.
Susan: The morning we do the Ridge Run has to be the very best. Because I am a slow runner, I start early. I head down Lost Nation Road, with the forest on either side, just as the sun is starting to tint the sky. Then there's the big climb on Creek Road and I'm out in the open with all the farm fields. I can see the mist hanging over the lakes as I run along the ridge. I have seen foxes! It is so peaceful. Then Lynn is waiting at the bridge with water and I know I have reached the last stretch. I could run this every day!
How did you two meet? I know the story but if you are willing to share it...
Michael: Susan tells this story much better than I do!
Susan: Ten years ago, I ran all of my runs solo. I would enter one race a weekend all summer long just to have the change of company. I always found someone running my pace and would carry on a conversation. My coach said I wasn't pushing hard enough if I was talking. I started this particular race talking with a woman. She decided she had gone out too fast and dropped back. I had noticed Michael running my pace, just ahead of us, so I ran up to him. We had a great time and started meeting at races to run together. What a great way to get to know someone!
In January of the first year we were married, I got out my calendar and started filling in my favorite races. There is about one a month and many involve a little travel. I told Michael that if he had met me at a bar he shouldn't be surprised if I drank but since he met me at a race, he should have expected this! And, of course, he loves the races too.
Goals for 2012?
Michael and Susan: A half marathon in late spring and a full marathon in fall.
How many pairs of running shoes live at your house?
Michael: A minimum of a dozen. I keep 3 - 5 pairs of new ones around ready to go!
What do you tell yourself to get out the door when you are feeling less than motivated?
Michael: If you get out and do this workout, then that dessert will not be the enemy that you have to deal with.
Susan: For me it is always Michael and our dog, Larko. I can't let them down.
Favorite meal at Craftsbury?
Michael: The REAL turkey Sunday dinners! NOT A TURKEY FROM A CAN!
Susan: Driving the 13 hours across Canada on Saturday, I also keep thinking of the turkey dinner knowing it's the WHOLE bird! Craftsbury granola was a favorite for many years and I make it weekly at home.