“We don’t grow when things are easy.” - Unknown
First Race Ever
When I was in middle school, I ran my very first race ever...but I didn’t finish it. Just a small couple mile race on a hot fall day ended up with me passed out by a tree on the trail. Yup, heatstroke. The ambulance came and everything. For the record, I was winning. They even ended up giving me a “pity” medal. I never even hesitated when the second race came… I destroyed it before it destroyed me.
Michele Suszek (Yates)- Middle School XC
First High School Race
In high school, things wouldn’t get much easier with my big sister, a senior, and myself a freshman. Although I enjoyed the competition and breaking her school records, she made me work for them, and in the end, I was happy to hear her say “I’m happy it was you that broke them.” We were able to make school history a year later and qualify for states as a team for the first time.
First Marathon & Triathlon
My first year in college wasn’t what you probably expected. I chose a collegiate soccer scholarship rather than running. In my grand scheme of things, I figured I could do both, play collegiate soccer and run some road/trail races on the side. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the best. However, I did run my first marathon (Cincinnati Flying Pig) at age 18 as a bet with my older brother. I would kick his butt at the marathon (my time- 3:41:26, his time: 3:54:33, my place 622 his: 1014)...while he kicked my butt at the Hubbard Lake triathlon. I puked the whole way home after my marathon from Cincinnati to northern MI! And yet, I wanted more…
Side note: I came back the next year to give my brother a run for his money in the triathlon. I still couldn’t beat him but beat my swim time by over 10 minutes from the year before (and I needed to trust me)! I counted it as a win. I stretched and grew as a person.
First Collegiate Race
My first collegiate running race after transferring out to UNLV to run for them was okay. I never felt I tapped into my potential but yet stretched as a person when I also ran one of my first track races. The head coach put me in the steeplechase. I laughed, never seeing it in person myself, and actually thought she was joking since I only related it to horse competitions. Double footed (you are supposed to jump it single footed), I cleared that water jump and hurdled the rest...only to win a competition I never even saw before. I was hooked. After all, it was the most challenging event track had to offer.
Michele Suszek (Yates) - Steeplechase UNLV
First Post Collegiate Races
My first race in Colorado after moving here from Las Vegas felt like the oxygen had been removed from my entire body… piercing pain in my arms and legs and sucking wind like no other. It was a local turkey trot. I stuffed my turkey breast into my mini crockpot and headed out. Although I don’t think I won, I did win this awesome glass pumpkin! It would all be worth it after about 6 months (the time it takes to fully be acclimated and you have more blood vessels develop).
My first marathon after graduating college (so technically second ever), I jumped in the car with my best friend for a visit to her family down in New Mexico. I won in a time of 3:04. Bummed I didn’t break 3 hours, I of course was now obsessed and going after sub 3’s, Olympic trials qualifiers, and more…
My first trail race post-collegiate, USA National Championships Trail short distance. USMRT. My heart was pounding, wondering what the hell I got myself into. I was up against the best of the best (and that would be true since Kasie Enman would finish World Champion just a few months later). The gun went off, the goal was to hammer up and down this ski slope on the East coast twice. I held on for dear life on the climb. Let it rip on the downhill (in those days pre-hip surgeries, I’d say this was my strength and passion, technical downhill). I’d earn a runner-up position, next to the eventual world champion, Kasie Enman, as well as a position on the team to go to the world championships.
Michele Yates- Mountain Trail National Championships 2nd place
First Olympic Trials
My first Olympic Trials road marathon was in Boston in 2008. It was a hellishly tight looped course (not the typical Boston marathon course). Most of us blew out our IT Bands and one poor girl blew poop out her pants! That was how intense it was. A nice tight pack of ladies going for sub 2:40 and the one leading letting it fly (literally)! EWE...I got out of there quickly but with respect. I was the second youngest (or one of the youngest) to earn a spot to participate. Age- 25. Time: 2:45:16. Place 60th of 124. I wouldn’t be done, I came back fighting in 2012, on pace to run a sub 2:35, only to fall short with a 2:40:33 and 43rd Place in Houston TX. Disappointed, I didn’t even get a PR (2:38), I soon changed directions to where my heartstrings tugged me, the trail.
Olympic Marathon 2008
Olympic Marathon 2012
Side Note: Did you know Coach Michele got her start in road running? She was
2x Olympic Trials marathon participant, winner, and record holder of several
Road marathons including Miami, Seattle, and more.
Michele Yates- NYC marathon
First World Championships
My first World Championships in Albania ended in heartbreak. Not feeling well at all (later back in the U.S. given the ecoli poisoning diagnosis..yayyy) I finished 20th. Not a terrible thing to be the 20th fastest trail runner in the world but I certainly was hoping for a podium finish.
Michele Yates World Championships Albania
Later in 2012, I decided to try my hand at my first ultra. Skipping over the 50k distance I went right to the 50 miles. In Texas once again, but this time dancing over the rocks and roots at the 50 mile USA National Trail Championships, I would earn my first national title. My strengths were here. In the ultra distance trails. I could utilize speed, strength, agility, mentality, and all my disciplines from years prior. I was in love with ultra trail distance running. It wasn’t a natural talent, yet one I would be humbled by, learn from, be challenged from, and draw discipline from.
Michele Yates Nueces 50 mile also National Championships 50 mile Trail 2012
First 100 Miler
My first 100-mile race was a blow-up. As some may remember, this was the first year Run Rabbit Run was held. Wrong direction after wrong direction, numerous elites gave up. Yup, there is no easy way to admit this. I was too naive to push on after an aid station volunteer told me I’d never make the next cut off. I had 63 miles down but only at the 48-mile marker. At one point I was even completely lost sitting on top of a mountain when an aid station volunteer had seen me sitting up there realizing I had no idea how to get down and missed the trail down a mile back. So regardless of layering myself with garbage bags and filling my water bottles with hot broth, I listened to the volunteer and got in the van instead. I know it wasn’t totally my fault but it’s a regret that will live with me forever and I will always encourage others to keep going unless they officially say they are pulling you from the race. So despite the epic course marking blow up, RRR race directors came back with phenomenal improvement and a course that would sell out for years to come!
My first 100-mile win would come just a short time later in early 2013 at the Indiana Trail 100. The course was flooded (no really the first loop took us through a lake that had risen so high over the course markings it was up to my waist - I’m short but not that short), freezing (literally it was snowing) and muddy would be an understatement. Those that shared that day with me will most likely never forget those unforgiving conditions. And I also hope they will never forget the efforts they made that day. Not only did they encourage me to grind it out, but there is no doubt that they all displayed grit no matter how far they made it. Again another great display with race directing. After realizing the first loop was not practical for this distance, RD and volunteers literally remarked part of the course bush waking their way to help break some of it in for us.
Indiana Trail 100 mile- Michele Yates for the win 17:35
My first 100k trail win came in between the last two. Back down in TX again, I'd burst through the sotol plants only to have them bite back (and they do!) Still a newbie to the ultra scene, I did what I could, ate, drank, and ran as fast as I could. This too would be a National Title for me.
My first 50k would be the 3rd of my National Titles. It was exhilarating. Maybe the hardest of all. Held in Boulder NV at the Bootlegger race, I had some speedy ladies to compete with (those running low 2:30’s for the marathon) as well as a few big climbs and no room to slack off even for a second. It was the end of a long year. But at that last aid station, I sucked down some coke and took off. I fell. Yup, even I fall too... I actually jammed my fibula head partially out of the socket but got back up and kept going. It ticked off my compartment syndrome (which I had surgery on in my earlier years) but it only lasted for a while. The guy that I fell near encouraged me to continue, something I absolutely love about the ultra scene, the community of support even to those you don’t know.
Michele Yates- 50k National Championships
“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” – Albert Schweitzer
FIRST RACE POST HIP SURGERY
My first big race back after double hip surgery in 2016 was the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100 mile. Go big or go home. It was the first time I sobbed like a damn baby looking at a mountain. I couldn’t move. It was the first time I ever stood at the bottom and knew I couldn’t make it back up. At least not yet. I staggered my way through the dark, pulling, grabbing, grasping for anything to hold on to keep me upright. My hips kept on giving out. Others would offer me their poles, to go for help, or even physically hold me up. At dry creek that year, 70 miles in or so, I was forced to quit. AT LEAST for then. But I wasn’t going to let it beat me. I didn’t tax all avenues. For the first time, I was REALLY going to challenge myself. I was going to work harder than ever. I was going to lift heavier weights, work harder routines, and eat better and healthier than I ever had before. And for the first time, I was never more proud of myself, toeing the starting line again in 2018.
Michele Yates- Start of RRR 2017- Emotional to be there
“Never give up, Rise up.”
I won’t keep going on for now on my firsts (part 2 later with mountain biking and more) but I will encourage you to take note as you create your goals for 2021. Don’t always look ahead, look back on all that you have accomplished. Look back on your strengths, your growths, and note what it took for you to get there. Make your goals measurable, realistic, and intrinsic. Instead of asking “who am I to do this, ask yourself who am I NOT to do this?!”... “Why not you?” Quit relying on what you don’t know but rely on what you do know. Be obsessed with your commitment to your goals, don't be obsessed with your goals. Chase that feeling. You know, the one that you're thinking about right now. It doesn’t have to be running, it’s the same feeling every time you are proud of yourself. So go get life. Rise up.
“ I stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and lit that shit up myself.”