Since starting this blog two years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing runners, from all over. Getting to know athletes in my beautiful home state and right here in northern Michigan has been especially sweet because it’s just so fun sharing stories about getting outside and taking advantage of our gorgeous landscape–the stretches of shoreline, rolling hills, wooded trails…I count myself lucky to get to know these individuals, this tribe of like-minded people, because they inspire me. You all inspire me.
I’ve featured other Michigan runners here from time to time, like trail marathoner Heather, longtime-runner-turned-charity-fundraising-marathoner Trisha, stellar biker and writer Kandy and “aiming for 50 marathons” Tony, and I’d like to keep this up. I know I’m not the only one who gets fired up hearing other runners’ journeys. Which leads me to Cassy Stone, a 34-year-old mom of three who is rockin’ both running and biking races here in northern Michigan. Her determination and perseverance inspire me. She’s got a big heart, too. She’s the kind of person you want to be around, her energy and vibe is just that way. She’s always there to share in your excitement or offer words of encouragement–you know, the words we athletes all need to hear from time to time, whether we’re struggling with an injury or training for a big event. We appreciate hearing from someone who just gets it.
A treadmill runner, she is not. I couldn’t agree more with Cassy, who grew up in the Upper Peninsula, when she talks about why Michigan is the place to be an athlete: “We are blessed with four amazing seasons. All with their own sweet and not so sweet attributes. I have run through every kind of weather and have found joy in every single season.”
Mama to 8-year-old Isaac, 6-year-old Ali and 4-year-old Brodie, Cassy has been married for 14 years “to a gazelle like runner who makes running look like a cake walk,” she says of husband Jeb. “He runs 50-60 miles a week and just picked up biking this year. He was a runner in high school and excelled greatly at it. My fear is we will both flirt with the idea of a full marathon in the next 2 years.”
I hope you enjoy getting to know this Michigan runner as much as I have…
How long have you been running and biking? Has it been something that’s always been part of your life, or are these activities that have become more integral to your lifestyle in recent time?
I started running in the summer of 2006, when my daughter was 9 months old. I had run one 5k prior to that in the summer of 1999. (Simply to cross it off the bucket list) I started running because I was, at the time, a stay at home mom of a 3 year old and a 9 month old and I thought it was a good way for me to get out and step away for a minute and I knew the benefits physically would be rewarding. I have been running ever since. I even ran when I was pregnant with my youngest son, up until 8 weeks before I had him. I started biking in the Spring of 2010 simply as a way to rehabilitate from a running injury I had sustained in the Spring of 2009. I had a bike hung up on the garage ceiling that had been from high school and thought moving again after dealing with a pelvic stress fracture would be a good idea. I knew I wasn’t ready to put in miles on foot. So, I hopped on my bike and later signed up, blindly, for Iceman 2010. I had always been a kid who tried every sport I was interested in. It wasn’t until I was faced with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 22 did I fully comprehend the importance of not taking moving and exercising for granted. As an adult you have these enormous to do lists and all kinds of responsibility. I fell in love with crossing finish lines as a way to reward myself and show my children that as an adult, it is ok to step aside from life and do something for you. Putting mom’s races on the calendar next to my children’s activities lets them know that we all take time to do what we love.
Favorite recent run or bike ride would be….
I took up snow shoe running this winter and loved it! I have never been a treadmill runner and keep my normal schedule throughout the winter here in northern Michigan. My husband and his friend participated in the United States Snowshoe Nationals last January and I had a, “I could do that!” kind of moment. A year later, I participated in 2 snow shoe races and placed 1st and 2nd in my age group! My most favorite run is the Traverse City Track Club’s Frozen Foot Five Mile. Love the distance. Love the course. Love that it’s usually in the single digit temperatures the morning of.
I just completed the 3rd annual Mud Sweat and Beers Stout race this month. It is the first race of the season and the vibe amongst the biking community is that of such relax and “chill” atmosphere. I love the race and love that I have been riding it since its inaugural year.
However, my favorite ride is the fall classic Iceman Cometh Challenge bike race. From the time of sign up, sitting at your computer the morning of March 1 to the race on the 1st Saturday of November, the excitement is indescribable. The event turns Timber Ridge campground into a small city with its own zip code. The ride itself can never be compared to the previous year as Mother Nature waves her wand and spins her weather wheel as she wishes. Last year I pre rode Iceman 2 times before the race. I hope to ride it 3 times this year. There is no way to prepare for Iceman, but to ride Iceman. A little like childbirth, in my own opinion.
What are your health and wellness goals for the year to come? Any particular races on your schedule?
My goal is to stay healthy and remember to implement more strength training. You can’t expect great results from the whole body if you aren’t keeping the whole body strong. It all moves and connects together. Since my training for the current half marathon has afforded me 6 months of gradual increase in mileage, I am hopeful to keep it up through the summer. Remembering to stretch and keep track of little aches and pains that need to be attended to are a bigger responsibility this year as well. My motto is, you wouldn’t ignore an indicator light on the dashboard of your vehicle. Don’t ignore when your body is telling you there is an issue.
The schedule will be, Bayshore Half Marathon, Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon, Cherry Festival 15k, Peak to Peak Mountain Bike challenge, and Iceman. There will be a few other 5k and 10k opportunities sprinkled in there.
Most if not all of the races that I am able to participate in give back in some capacity to another organization or the community. Knowing that the person in charge of organizing a race has the mind to share in the love of movement, logistics, and giving back, gives me peace. I choose to participate because I want to be there so when I know a portion of the proceeds is helping someone, I am grateful.
What have you learned from being an endurance athlete?
The biggest thing I have learned is that no matter whom you are, no matter how slow you are or where you fall at the finish line, just getting that 1st foot out the door makes you a rockstar. I am a 34 year old woman living with Multiple Sclerosis and I choose to move because I can today. You don’t get to go backwards in life. I knew once I started wrapping my brain around starting with a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon let alone biking 29 miles through every terrain northern Michigan woods has to offer that later on in life I can say, “I already did that!” Not, “Oh I wish I would have done that!” I have learned that pushing myself to the hardest limits imaginable can be done at 34. And I’m sure I will feel the same way at 84. Being an athlete has no requirements other than desire.
Best advice you’ve ever received about living an active lifestyle…
The best advice I have received about living an active lifestyle would be Nike’s good old fashioned, Just do it. I move because I can.
Hey everyone, your turn!
Where do you like to run and bike in Michigan?
What do you love most about being an endurance athlete?