Anne Picken- age 38
Occupation- Mom/Substitute Teacher
Residence- East Patchogue
Family: Husband Chris, Daughter Rileigh (6)
“You knew this day would come!!” That was Lou’s follow up to asking me if I would like to share my “story” for the Selden Hills Warrior of the Week spotlight. I was hesitant at first (must run in the family…see my brother’s Thomas Lankowicz’s spotlight) and needed time to think about it. But Lou asked me again while I was on my “Tri High” after recently completing my first ever triathlon and I agreed.
So here it goes….
I began running competitively 33 years ago. I was just starting kindergarten and was only 5 years old. I had a few older brothers who were on a team called the Sunrise Striders so I just tagged along. Although, looking back I think my mom wanted to get me out of the house and have some kid free time. I can’t blame her really…I was the last of eight children and the only girl. Now I know what you are probably thinking…no, I was not spoiled and not a princess! I was also not beat up or tortured or overly protected.
I loved traveling with my club team to track meets all around the metropolitan area. Often times the coaches would load us all up in a van or two and off we went for the day. Amazing to think at such a young age I went to so many races all over the place without my parents. It was a day full of fun hanging out with friends and I usually came home with a medal. This sort of reminds me of races I go to now with my warrior friends from the hills.
By the time junior high rolled around I had been pulled up to the high school cross-country and track teams. I always ran well, but was never a super-star. One spring day in the eleventh grade I finally found my event when I jumped into the race walk in order to gain some extra points for our team. Turned out this was the event that I would really excel at and stick with for many years. I competed at the national level for several years and was fortunate to attend training camps and learn a lot about how to train properly and effectively. The highest rankings I had earned were third at USA Track & Field Junior Nationals and tenth place at Senior Nationals. I often joke that I used to be able to walk faster than I now run, but it’s true. My fastest 10k was in Central Park in 49:19. However, when the Olympic event in the women’s race walk changed from a 10k to a 20k I was just not able to transition well and thus moved away from the event back to running. To this day when I run I still shuffle my feet like a walker. It’s an old habit that is hard to break.
I was glad to get back to running. I wasn’t limited anymore to paved, flat surfaces. I was able to get back to a variety of places to run, especially the woods where I love to run most. My next adventure turned out to be the marathon. In 1998 a childhood friend of mine got into running and asked if I wanted to run the inaugural San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon with her. The only reason I ran it was to support and pace her through the race. I didn’t properly train for it, but we got through it and I vividly remember how sore I was for the next two days. I went on to complete three other marathons after that: Honolulu (2000), Marine Corps (2001), and Boston (2002).
For the next few years I kept up running, but backed off on the marathons. I also didn’t race a whole lot. There were even months where I hardly ran at all. As time went by and I wasn’t running as much I had put on some extra weight. The little bit of extra weight in conjunction with a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) was making it difficult for me to conceive. I got back into running regularly, lost some weight, and finally became pregnant. I ran and then waddled up until I was eight months pregnant. At this time I was also in the process of changing careers and left my insurance job to pursue a career in teaching. I student taught all the way up to the day before I gave birth.
Now this is where my story changes and becomes difficult for me to talk about. For the most part I had an easy pregnancy and I thought labor was going smoothly. That is until the last few minutes…my daughter was stuck sideways in me and it was too late for a c-section. With the help of suction and forceps she finally made her arrival to the world completely healthy and happy. Me on the other hand had suffered a terrible tear, lost a lot of blood, and had to have emergency surgery to be repaired. Turns out that I suffered a major injury to my pelvic floor that day and I didn’t even know it for sure until almost a year later.
The next five years were a difficult time for me. I tried several times to start running again, but my I let me injury get the better of me. I missed running so much. I also really missed the consistency of my old job and seeing the same co-workers each day. Substitute teaching can be a thankless and lonely job since you are constantly in new environments with new people.
When my daughter entered kindergarten in 2012 I finally had some time to myself since as a sub you don’t get many calls in the first month or so of school. I was now under the care of a specialist for my injury and even though I wasn’t fixed and may never be she encouraged me to exercise. So I decided to give it one last final shot to try and get in shape. I took it slowly, very slowly. I couldn’t even run for a minute without having to stop. So I just walked at a brisk pace. I basically created my own couch to 5 k plan and entered a local 5k. I pushed my daughter in the jogging stroller and finished in a whopping 31:33. It was a start. I am thankful for the support of my husband, my brother Tom, and my sister-in-law Eileen Donlon that were there that day. They cheered me on even though I wanted nobody to notice me. It was that day that I went home and started my training log and wrote myself a note that I look back to often for inspiration to keep going, remind myself to have fun, and to be proud of what I achieve no matter how slow or fast I may be. I am grateful to have the ability to run again and remember that every time I do. It keeps me going.
So I kept going. On New Year Eve’s I set some new goals for the year. I signed up for the Providence Half Marathon. I picked out an easy plan to follow to just get me through the race. And I did it! Wow, I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I was done I started to think about the “what if” of another marathon. Just one (hah!). Just to prove to myself that I could since for 5 years straight I thought I would never ever run again. So I signed up for a fall marathon. It was 11 years since my last. I prepared well and toed the line with tears in my eyes. Just getting there I felt like a winner. And I did it! One year after starting to run again I completed The Hartford Marathon and didn’t let any obstacles stop me that day.
2013 was a great year for me. I became healthy and happy again. I completed some major goals that I previously thought were unattainable. It was also the year that I joined the Selden Hills Warriors in the summer of 2013. Up until this point I trained alone and all I knew at races were my brother and my sister-in-law. It was just us three until the summer of 2013 when I was standing with Eileen after the Shwachman-Diamond 5k Dash for a Cure Race when she struck up a conversation with Rick Secor. He told us about these hills in Selden that make you stronger and faster. My first run was with April Matarasso Rosequist. She wore her Selden Hills Shirt and I just stared at her back the whole time and didn’t want to look up at the hills ahead. The back of her shirt read ‘It’s Just a Hill…Get Over It’ and that struck a cord with me. Since then I have made lots of new friends and now it’s no longer just the three of us at races. It’s a ton of us hillbillies in red shirts!!! I find so much inspiration in all the different level of athletes and find the hillbilly enthusiasm to be infectious.
So New Year’s Eve rolls around again…I spend the morning running with over a hundred hillbillies and in the evening I reflect on my year and go back to setting new goals and signing up for new adventures. One goal is to run a p.r. in the marathon. I would love to beat a younger version of myself. I also decided to sign up for a triathlon 6 months away. I figured that would give me plenty of time to be ready. I joined a triathlon class at the YMCA in Patchogue with Timothy Steiskal in January and became more than ready for my first tri. On June 1st I completed the Smith Point Triathlon and became a triathlete. I am having a blast training for a multi-sport event. It’s a challenge, it’s something new, and I am having fun doing it. I have plans to do more and will most likely add half ironman as well as other new adventures to my list this New Year’s Eve.
Thank you for taking the time to read “my story.” Keep On Going!!! I think that will be my new mantra. And if any ladies have questions out there please feel free to private message me.