Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Jen Hughes

Jen came to my attention through a mutual friend; I believe Tawny's exact words were, "You've got to feature my friend Jen, she has an incredible story!"  That claim was certainly on point!  Jen came to running after severe injuries from a car accident left her wheelchair bound for over 5 months followed by 6 months in physical therapy learning to walk again.  Her first marathon was 5:30, but she kept coming back and ran a handful between 2:45-2:51.  When she told her dad she was going to pursue the OTQ, he asked if she'd qualified for Boston - who can relate to this?! Many times when I was asked about my marathon goals and replied that I was trying to qualify for the Trials people were quite unimpressed that I hadn't run Boston... 

Jen is an amazing women and you'll want to read more about her!
 Name: Jen Hughes
Age: 41
City/State: Salem, Utah
Work for the School District, HS Track & Cross Country Coach, Caterer (part time)

Hobbies/interests outside of running: 
Our family loves to travel!
Love the outdoors-so anything active outdoors. 
I love to read.

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try? 
What inspired me to try… this could be a long answer, but I will make it shorter. I was in a car accident when I was 23. I broke my legs, shattering my right leg (I have a rod in my right leg now) and tore all the ligaments in my left knee. I was wheelchair bound for a little over 5 months and it took another 6 months to go through physical therapy…walking again. I was unable to do too many physical activities for some time after. My doctor told me that I may not ever be able to do what I was used to doing because of discomfort and problems that may come about. I have arthritis in my legs and knees because of the accident, but that has helped the pain and circulation with the blood flow. When I was told that I may not be able to do the things that I was used to and loved, I became determined to try harder and not let it hold me back. I never knew I would be good at marathons. It just happened to fall into place. My 1st marathon was 5:30. My husband and I hated it and we were so sore afterwards! Who would have thought I would have run another one.

I have been shooting for this particular goal of making the Olympic Trials from 2014-2016 and then again 2018-2020. In 2016, I finished off with a time of 2:48:12. This cycle at CIM 2019 I finished with a time of 2:45:27.

Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes.
Houston Jan. 2019: 2:51; I was just getting back into training and wanted to see where I was at.

Chicago Oct. 2019: 2:50; I felt great up until mile 20 and crashed. Windy conditions and I couldn’t keep up the pace anymore. I knew I was going to go do CIM so I was not too disappointed. I was to the point that I just wanted to beat my 2:48 time from 2016.

CIM Dec. 2019: 2:45:27;  I ran like I never felt before. My good miles felt great and the miles I struggled in felt harder. My emotions were everywhere in this race. There were many times that I self-doubted, wanted to drop out or slow down but there were times that I could not stop smiling because I knew I had it. I even got choked up at mile 22-23 because I felt so good and was right on pace… I just knew this was the day! I was about 5 seconds ahead of the pacers going into mile 24. Still feeling strong. Then almost to mile 25, I started to struggle. In a matter of minutes, my legs, arms, everything felt so heavy. I felt my body and mind slip from “The Zone”. The pacers passed me at about 25.2ish. I tried to hold on to the pacers but slowly they began to pull ahead further and further. That last mile felt like an entire marathon. I ran a 6:35 I believe but that was the longest 6:35. As I crossed the finish line, I just broke down and couldn’t stop crying. At that moment, I was not happy about my 3 min PR… I was so devastated and crushed. So much hard work to let it go that last mile. But it is what it is. 

Houston Jan. 2020: 2:49: Well, after CIM I knew I had to go to Houston. I did not want to look back later in life wondering “What If” and have regrets for not giving it one more shot. I also knew that this race and training cycle would be so much harder than any other training cycle. I was mentally and physically tired but more so emotionally tired. My coach (John Stazza) helped me to recover, put in some great workouts, and taper again in that 5 weeks. I couldn't have done it on my own.  But my legs were not as fresh. That weekend in Houston I was able to get in the zone again. I had a great night sleep the night before (which is rare) and felt positive… until I opened the door to head to the start line the morning of the race. It was windy! I hate the wind!! I had to get back into that positive mindset quickly. The group of ladies around me were wonderful and so inspiring. We all helped and uplifted each other out there. I went into this race to leave it all out there. Unfortunately, the outcome was not what I was hoping for. I was too tired going into the last 10K and could not hold on to the pace I needed. But it sure was fun trying! 
What did you gain from this journey?
Definitely not the OTQ! ;)

On a serious note, I have gained self-enlightenment by acknowledging my lack of confidence. I look back to the last few races and vividly remember lining up on the starting lines looking to both sides and thinking how cool it is that I get to run with these elite athletes? What the crap was my problem… I had not realized until now that I was one of them. I have become a person that I never thought I could become. 

Many, many friendships! I have met so many great and inspiring runners of all ages and abilities. We all have our stories.

A drive to always do/be better in all aspects of life.

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit?
Showing my kids (4 girls) that even through the good and bad, I never gave up. That I rolled out of bed every morning to pursue a dream. And who knows… maybe in a couple of years, I may try again (depending on the time of qualifying :)). 

Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit?
My eating habits- eating healthier and not eating brownies and ice cream every night.

My mental game- working more on the sports psychology/mental strength...I wish I would have believed in myself the way everyone around me believed in me.

What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits?
To never give up. 

To have fun with it. 
Choose a reasonable “long term” goal you want and then make short term goals along the way to get to that long-term goal.

Tell us something unique about yourself.
I am working on my Greek citizenship (my mom was adopted from Greece into the U.S. when she was 11).

I have 4 girls all a year and 2 months apart to a year and 4 months apart (and no boys).
What’s next for you?
I am going to Greece in April to run a half marathon and then I will race the St. George marathon in October.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Oh the stories I could tell… 

Actually, here is a cute story regarding my dad:

I called my dad to let him know that I decided I wanted to try to Olympic Qualify. (I just ran a marathon with lower miles and not the proper speed training and was able to pull off a 2:54.) He sat there on the other line for a minute then finally spoke up, “That's great, but have you qualified for Boston? I heard that’s a hard race to qualify for.” I replied back with a smile on my face and said, “Yes dad, I qualified for Boston.” He was so excited! 

He has been that “proud” dad even at my age of 41 years. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about a year ago.  I really wanted to achieve the OTQ goal for him!

Monday, February 24, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Kristen Briglia

Kristen lives in a town adjacent to me, but we met through randomness instead of mutual running friends like you'd expect!  I was pacing a friend for 22 miles of the April 2019 Frisco Railroad Run Marathon (with the race director's permission), which is an out-and-back race that includes several different distances.  When the half marathoners were coming back as we were headed out, the leading woman looked strong and fast, which I thought was odd because fast people generally don't travel to run that race and I thought I knew all of the fast women in our area.  I later saw her hometown listed as Springfield in the race results, and thought, "I need to invite her to run with our group."

Fast forward to June 2019, when I was in the finisher area after Grandma's Marathon. I saw the woman again, and in my post-race weirdness I went up to her and asked if she was from Springfield and invited her to train with our competitive women's group - and at some point also told her how I recognized her!  She'd run a 2:55 at Grandma's so I asked her if an OTQ was on her radar as we got to be friends.  We don't get to train together that often, because we live far enough apart to eliminate work morning runs as an option, and because we work with different coaches, but we communicate often.

I'm blessed to have added her as a local running buddy, and she's a wonderful voice of encouragement to others.  She's had to contend with far too many injuries her past few seasons, but she is a hard worker and I admire her tenacity to go for it.  Even more, I admire her faith.  She is a talented athlete with a lot of marathon potential still to come!
Name: Kristen M. Briglia
Age: 34
City/State: Springfield, MO
Occupation: Sr. Art Director for the White River Marine Group at Bass Pro Shops Corporate Office

Hobbies/interests outside of running:
Cycling, hiking, fishing, boating, etc.—anything that gets me outside; playing with my fur-baby; cooking; health & fitness; strength training; friends & family; art; music 

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try?
So, there’s kind of an interesting back story to this question. Running marathons was never something I thought would be my forte. I was a middle-distance runner growing up, had run several half marathons, and the furthest I’d ever ran at one time was 17 miles. But I wanted to run a marathon just once to check it off my bucket list. I didn’t care how fast I was or if I had to stop at all. I just wanted to do it. Once. You know, to say that I did it. So, December 1, 2018 I ran my first ever marathon in my hometown at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. It was HOT and humid at 70 degrees and sunny. Gotta love that mid-south weather. I thought I might finish around 3:45 maybe 3:30 at best. I finished at 3:25 getting me a BQ. I was pretty stoked about that. First ever marathon, did way better than I expected AND got a BQ which was a dream come true. I remember the first time I thought about running a marathon and looking at Boston thinking how cool it would be to do that race, but man I’ve got to qualify first—no way, I’ll never be fast enough. Funny how God likes to surprise us. 

So, then I met my now coach who wasn’t even a friend at the time, he was just my doctor, and he explained that I needed to run a couple marathons in 2019 to get ready for Boston 2020. My first was Grandma’s. He and his wife let me tag along with them on their trip up to the race. My training was going really well. I was excited. They thought I could easily hit 3 hours or maybe even less. I thought, no way. If I get 3:15 I’ll be happy. I had so much fun on that course. I felt great, the weather was awesome, and the view was gorgeous. I finished in 2:55:25 making it a 30-minute PR. I couldn’t believe it. Wow! Not too bad for my second marathon.

I met Sara after the race as I made my way to gear check. She told me about a group of fast runners that she trained with back home and asked if I wanted to join them. During our runs together, Sara told me about her quest for the OTQ. I had never thought it was something I could go for if not for Sara’s encouragement and enthusiasm. And so it began. 
Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes. 
My first attempt was supposed to be at Twin Cities in October 2019, however, injuries sidelined me for most of the fall. I could only cross train on the bike for quite a while until I gradually got well enough to start increasing my fitness on the Alter-G treadmill. CIM 2019 was going to be my fall back race, but instead it become the next big goal. I figured it would be at least a PR seeing as everyone talks about it being such a fast course with a 350ft elevation drop.

However, I was not feeling very confident going into that race. I was very undertrained and just not feeling on point. A large portion of my training was done on a bike and the Alter-G, and my longest run going into that race was only 20 miles a couple weeks before the race. Nevertheless, I toed the line ready to give it all I had. Which I did. The first few miles flew by, I was on pace and feeling good. Then, around mile 8 or so, my left knee flared up. I had been having random flare ups of inflammation here in there in my buildup, and here it was again. I was worried about it becoming a major issue, so I slowed the pace. Even still I PRed in the first half at 1:25. I was excited. If I could just hold this pace and step it up in the last 3-6 miles then I had a chance. If nothing else, I could at least hit my second goal which was 2:50. That didn’t happen at all. I lost it. I lost sight of every goal I set for myself and landed with just finish. My body was not having fun with this and I had to fight for every mile. I saw my goals slip away, but told myself it’s ok, you still have Houston. You have another shot. I finished in 2:57:55.

I was so upset, I cried the whole walk back to my hotel. It’s not in my nature to give up like that. What just happened? Well, I didn’t listen to my coach for one. He told me the best plan to reach my goals, and I didn’t listen. I was so down on myself. I had just spent all this time and money and totally failed. But then a very good friend and my coach reminded me that I just finished in under 3 hours in my third ever marathon which was on the goal list. A goal much lower on the list, but a goal achieved non the less. I love the way my coach put it, “You’re a marathon infant still — you’re learning.” Haha I still laugh at that. It’s so true. It’s hard for me to grasp that sometimes because I’ve been running for over 25 years now. Me, an infant, no way. But it’s true for marathons. I’ve only just begun. 

So, after CIM I was ready to do it right at Houston 2020. I wasn’t sure I could get the OTQ, but I wanted to go out for 2:50 and see what happened from there. Things were going really well. I was FINALLY getting into my groove and it felt soooo good. I was getting excited about this next and final attempt. On January 1, I was scheduled for a 14 mile progressive fast finish. These fast finishes hadn’t been my strong suit. In high school track, this wasn’t something my coaches taught us. But, I was pumped. I just knew I was going to nail it this time. Around mile 4 or 5 I started feeling a tug at my previously injured ankle and now the heel. I wasn’t really hurting too bad and was really wanting to nail this workout so I ignored it (word of advice, NEVER, EVER ignore your body). I pushed through it until the 10th mile and my body wouldn’t go any further. I was 3 miles from my house and walked home. I was super grateful for it being a sunny day so that I didn’t freeze and get sick on that walk home. I wanted to cry. Why is this happening again? I was sidelined…again! It was not good. I could barely put pressure on it the next day. I laid up on the couch, working from home with my foot on ice all day.  It was somewhat better after that, but still I reverted to the crutch. A few days later I talked to my coach and we decided the best plan of action was to drop out of Houston and focus on getting my body healthy and strong again. And just like that, my pursuit was over. 
What did you gain from this journey?
So. Much. Knowledge. Not just about marathoning, but about myself. I learned that first and foremost, you HAVE to listen to your body. That’s so hard for us runners. We just want to run all the miles. But when your body is aching, it’s trying to tell you something and cross training on the bike here and there is nothing compared to being completely sidelined. I am becoming a much better listener.

I’m also learning a lot about how important solid nutrition and sleep is to my performance. It’s amazing what I have been able to do on so little. I’m looking forward to balancing those variables and seeing what else I’m capable of when I’m properly balanced. At the beginning of 2019 I started a quest to solve my acne issues. I had tried everything else and was now on food. I did a very strict elimination diet on my own and got way too lean (7% body fat). After the stress of no food while training for Grandma’s and now training for an OTQ, my body started shutting down. I lost my period. I was moody. I wasn’t sleeping enough. By mid-August, my ankle hurt so bad I couldn’t run on it anymore. Come to find out, I had a stress fracture and tendonitis. This side lined me for a few months of rehab before CIM, and has come back to haunt me a couple of times since. I’m still working through the aches and pains as I get stronger and build back up. I have also since been working with a sports nutritionist to balance my body back out. Looking forward to a new normal this year.

I also learned that when your coach sets a plan for your race, you should listen to that too. Because I mean after all, you’re working with him because you trust him and he knows what he’s talking about. Don’t go rouge. At least not until you get closer to the end. Then you can maybe go against the plan if you’re feeling good. But not at the start.

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit?
I’m proud that I tried at all. I wasn’t nearly as close as many others were, but you never know what you are capable of until you try. I’m also pretty proud that I was able to run a marathon in 2:57 after recovering from two injuries and with only about 5 weeks of real training.

Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit?
Regret is one of my least favorite words—it’s so negative. I try to not look at things that way. We can’t change the past any more than we can predict the future. All we can do is work on right now. So that’s what I’m doing. In baseball they call it DTD (day to day) when a player is injured and they aren’t sure when he’ll be back on the field. I call it a way of life. Because I don’t know what’s coming, but every day I can try my best and give it my all to be better than the me from yesterday. Sure, I could sit here and think What if this, or I should of that, but really that does nothing but add stress.

And honestly, I’m glad things happened the way they did. I learned a lot. I needed to learn these things to be better, stronger and faster. So for me, I always say No Regrets! Instead, as my dad always tell me, adapt and overcome. And put your trust in the Lord. It's hard because we just want to run all the miles and reach our goals. When you feel that frustration and that anxiety, remind yourself that however awesome and huge your hopes and dreams are, God's plan is a thousand times better than that. Take a deep breath, let that sink in and allow His peace to set you free.

What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits?
None of this is possible without the strength, determination and drive that the Lord has blessed me with. All the Glory goes to Him. I am so thankful for every stride. 

To my family, friends and co-workers, thank you for all your support not just in this pursuit, but in all my running adventures. You have endured my crazy and cheered me on. It truly means the world to me.

A special thanks to my coach and friends, Dr. Marshall and Kimi Reed, I’m so thankful and blessed to have you both in my life. Thank you for all your advice, guidance and encouragement. Thank you for pushing me through many hard workouts, and for letting me tag along on your travels to races. Looking forward to many more great times together.  (Ultimatehealthrehab.com/run-coaching)
Thank you, Sara for sharing these stories. So inspiring. And thank you for all your guidance, encouragement, and sharing of faith. I am so thankful to have met you and in such a unique way (creeper, haha jk).

A few of my favorite scriptures and quotes:
  • "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." –Isaiah 40:31
  • "Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and mind." –Psalm 26:2
  • Don’t let perfect get in the way of good. — You may not have reached your goal, but don’t let that get you down. There is no failure, only growth. 
  • The devil whispers, “you can’t withstand the storm”. The warrior replied, “I am the storm”. — With God as our strength we can do anything. Trust in Him. 
  • If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. - Martin Luther King Jr.
Tell us something unique about yourself. 
I’m scared of the dark, and most of my training is done in the early morning hours before the sun comes up. Thankful for God’s watchful eye and for headlamps. 

Also, because most of my runs are done solo regardless of time of day, I run with my 9mm strapped to my chest. I worked with a friend of mine who makes gun holsters to create something that I could comfortably run with. It’s awesome, I love it and I feel much safer with it. You should never sacrifice your safety. Please at least carry mace. I have pulled my weapon on more dogs than people even in the best of neighborhoods. Bad things can happen anywhere to anyone. Are you prepared? 

Visit creeksidemercantile.com to order— I included a picture of my first one. I have a newer version now that you can have for running, biking, or hip carry.
What’s next for you?
I’m trying to get healthy and strong enough for Boston in April. It’s been on my bucket list for some time now. I will go into it undertrained, but plan to just have fun and enjoy it rather than push myself too hard trying to race it before I’m ready (lesson learned from CIM). If things are feeling good enough in the last 10K, I’ll give what I’ve got left, but I just want to enjoy the experience.  I also plan to keep working towards an OTQ for 2024. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Elizabeth Scott

Elizabeth learned some lessons from her OTQ-pursuit that I think we can all benefit from remembering:  not comparing ourselves to others, using a schedule that helps us run fast while balancing the others stressors in our lives, and dispelling negative self-talk. This woman also ran workouts at 3 a.m. before 28-hour shifts while training to be an Emergency Medicine Physician, ran after long cross-country flights, and ran 1 mile loops around her neighborhood; she sure exemplifies dedication!  She will plan her next marathon after she knows where she will be for her medical residency, but she also knows she is just getting started and there is always 2024, AND 2028.

Name: Elizabeth Scott
Age: 28
City/State: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: 4th Year Medical Student, soon to be Emergency Medicine Resident Physician! 

Hobbies/interests outside of running:
Backpacking/hiking, yoga, baking weird treats without a recipe, fancy coffee

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try?
The idea first crossed my mind in 2012 when I watched my Impala Racing teammates qualify and dominate the trials. At that time I was still in college, riddled with injuries but totally inspired by these women that not only ran fast but had full lives outside of running. At the Houston marathon in 2019 I had a breakthrough, going from a 3:05 marathon to a 2:51 on a picture-perfect day. I ran a smooth race with very manageable training and realized 2:45 was not too far off! 

Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes.
I only gave myself one chance to OTQ: CIM 2019. Given my school schedule, traveling for residency interviews, and my history of injuries; multiple marathons in a year did not seem wise. I also liked the idea of giving it my all without a back up plan. I got to the starting line at CIM humbly confident and fully knowing I was ready to let it hurt. Unfortunately, my body did not quite cooperate that day and around mile 10 I realized I was working pretty hard to stay on pace. By mile 14 I had fallen off 6:15's and just knew I would have to grind. Despite not making the time, I can truly say I gave every ounce of what I had on the day and learned how mentally tough I can be. I also fully realize that a year ago I would have been overjoyed to run a 2:53 so running that on my "worst day" is an accomplishment in itself. 

What did you gain from this journey?
Wow, so much. First, I learned how to train within the limitations of my busy schedule AND stay healthy. I dropped comparison to others and worked closely with my coach (Andres de La Cruz @Adrenalinerunning) to create a schedule that would not only make me fast but considered all the other stressors I have in my life. Second, I really dispelled a lot of negative self-talk about no being good enough or "elite enough" to pursue a big goal. I still struggle with seeing myself as a "2:51 marathoner" or "sub-elite" but even attempting an OTQ and getting within striking distance has been really impactful on my mental game. Finally, I learned how amazing this running community it-- from my awesome training partners in Los Angeles who basically just ran whatever long run I was prescribed each weekend to my remote teammates on the Impalas to everyone who dares to go for big goals; runners are truly a special breed.

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit?
I am most proud of the day-to-day dedication to this goal and consistency. There were times when I had to run workouts at 3 a.m. before going in for a 28 hour shift, after long cross-country flights, or around a 1 mile loop in my neighborhood. I am also proud of my last 10k at CIM where, despite knowing 2:45 was not going to happen, I pushed myself as hard as I could and passed a good 80-90 people!

Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit?
Nothing really! There is always 2024... 2028... I am just getting started!

What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits?
Your training does not have to look like anyone else's to work. All that matters is staying healthy and fired up. Even at 3 a.m., there is never a run I am not grateful for!

Tell us something unique about yourself.
Oh man, I am definitely very unique (read: weird). My friends would probably say my weirdest attribute is that I don't like melted cheese.

What’s next for you?
Fast road races this spring! And I guess this small thing called residency :) I fully plan to continue training and racing throughout residency but will plan my next marathon once I figure out what I'll be moving for the next 4 years!

Anything else you’d like to share?
Honestly, the true hero in this journey is my husband. He picks up all the slack as I work crazy hours and run even crazier miles. Without him I would probably eat peanut butter for every meal and never have believed I could attempt this lofty goal! 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Elle Ellender

When Elle’s surgeon told her she may never be able to run competitively again, she looked at him and her husband and said, “watch me”, before showing them two fast marathons!  I began following Elle on social media shortly before she ran her 2:45:12 at the 2019 Houston Marathon.  I felt for her then because I could imagine exactly how being so close would feel.  Learning more about her background, I am inspired by her never-give-up and no-regrets attitude.  I’m sure her future is bright and that she will continue to chase her dreams - and hopefully no more walking over hot coals.

Name:  Elle Ellender
Age:  36
City/ State:  Greensboro, NC
Occupation:  Stay at home mom

Hobbies/interests outside of running:
I love traveling and drinking wine :) 

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try? 
In 2017 I tore my hamstring and had surgery to have it repaired. In the recovery room I was told that it was worse than they originally thought, and that I might not be a competitive runner any longer let alone never be able to compete at long distances. I had just started getting back into running after having my children and taking a 5 year hiatus, so this devastated me and in my post-surgery fog I looked at my husband and surgeon and said “watch me.” I had a very long, slow recovery but had an amazing running community around me and two mentors who really believed in me.  It was these two gentlemen who pushed me to run a marathon and in 2018 I ran my first, Vermont City Marathon in 2:51:28, finishing 3rd female overall. After this race I knew I wanted to compete in another marathon and go after the Olympic Trials B standard.

My next marathon was Houston 2019, and I ran a 2:45:12. This race was devastating for me, the questions afterwards of what could I have done differently/better plagued me. I knew being so close I had to attempt it again. I tried to get into Grandma's but the elite field was already full and I knew I needed every second possible and was nervous about starting a minute later so I settled on Ottawa. My training cycle leading up to Ottawa was fantastic; I was hitting my paces and feeling confident. However, once again the marathon broke my heart. Having an unusually hot day, and stomach issues I knew from the start that it was not going to be my day. People were dropping out of that race left and right, and I was just happy to finish.

Once again I found myself back at the drawing board but I knew that I wasn't done trying; so next up Indy. During the fall everything was lining up perfectly. I was hitting PRs in shorter distances, I was feeling strong and ready. I went to Philly to run the half, hoping to get a PR and have a nice confidence boost before the marathon. About a week before that race I was having some hip tightness but didn't think much of it. 5 miles into the race I knew something was really wrong, but I was on PR pace and started having that internal dialogue with myself about whether I should keep going or stop. I did not get another half mile before my body just wouldn't let me go any further, every step was excruciating. I stepped off to the side and started the LONG disappointing walk back. That following week after an MRI I was diagnosed with gluteus medius/gluteus minibus tear.  Still not willing to give up on my dream I threw everything I could at it; time off, tons of cross-training, PRP, PT 2-3 times a week, cold laser therapy, dry needling. Yep, I feel like I tried everything to aid the healing process.

I readjusted my timeline and decided CIM would give me more recovery. My highest weekly mileage in my buildup to CIM was 45 miles, so I knew it was going to be a long shot but I had to try. I made it to 20 miles with the 2:45:00 pace group before I knew that my hip/glute was not going to let me have the day I had been dreaming about. I pulled out of the race knowing that I had given it my all, but totally heartbroken at the same time. I was SO close yet so far away. Those 13 second will continue to haunt me!!!!

So many people asked me if I was going to give it a last shot at Houston; I had a bib and I am not going to lie, the thought was there. But I knew that my body truly needed time and I decided not to go for it again.
What did you gain from this journey? 
This journey gave me confidence in myself. I had a dream that I thought was such a long shot that I was afraid to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. However, through the process I met so many amazing people who shared the same dream, the same fears, the same let downs and it was amazing to go through it together and have the support of each other. The running community is so amazing!!! I not only gained friendships but I gained a running family from this process.

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit? 
I am proud that I decided to go for it, to truly give it a shot and after multiple heartbreaks I kept trying.

Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit? 
I do not have any regrets, I think I would have regretted not giving it a shot. I think that throughout this process I was able to show my kiddos that no matter how old you are if you have a dream you should go after it. Even if it means failure in the end, is it really failure if you gave it your all?

What’s next for you?
I am planning to run another marathon this spring. I know I can break the 2:45:00 barrier and I need to prove it to myself without the pressure, etc. 

Tell us something unique about yourself.
When I was five I walked over hot coals and had third degree burns on both my feet. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Holly Read

Holly commented on another woman's 2:45:01 and Beyond story I shared on social media, and after visiting her page I knew I needed to share her story too!  Many women can relate to balancing performance timelines and pregnancy, and to pregnancy running not going as planned.  Holly is now 2 months postpartum after her second child, and I am sure she has some PRs coming this fall!  Her coach has participated in two Trials himself, and inspired her to begin this journey.
Name: Holly Read
Age: 33
City/State: Redding, CA
Occupation: Business and Marketing Consultant, Personal Trainer, XC/Track Coach
Hobbies/Interests outside of running: Eating Ice Cream ;)

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try?
I first was inspired by my coach, Ken Hunter, in 2015. He qualified for 2 Olympic marathon trials in '84 and '88. I actually was on an 8 year break from running after getting injured in college. I finally started consistently running again in August of 2015 and he told me I should go for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. I ran for 5 months working my way up to 50 mile weeks before getting hurt in a 28 degree 5K in Indianapolis on Jan 1, 2016. My husband and I also wanted to start a family, so I got pregnant that month too and thought I’d run through the pregnancy to build a base. I didn’t due to the injury sidelining me for 6 weeks and then being too nervous and tired to run pregnant. So I didn’t consistently run again until July of 2017 and from that point on I was ready to go after an OTQ. I had never run a half or full marathon, and not even the distance of a half marathon at that point. But the dream was born.

Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes.
My first marathon was the Eugene marathon April 2018, and although it wasn’t an OTQ attempt, I was originally trying to see what I could do and see if I could break 3 hours. Unfortunately, I got bronchitis which was almost pneumonia and was sidelined for 3 weeks about 9 weeks out from the race. Then the two weeks leading up to the race, my son and I got a horrible stomach bug. I was in urgent care the Wednesday before the race. But to my surprise I ran 3:03:21! Now I knew I could go for the OTQ but it would take a lot of dedication. 

My attempt was at CIM 2018. I knew it would have to be the perfect day but after being sick again for 2 weeks about 9 weeks out again, I pr’d my half and ran 1:21:52, so now it was really possible. What unfolded that day was something of a nightmare. The bus was an hour late which meant I arrived to the race at 6:20. The bathroom lines were huge but a gentleman let me go ahead of him and I was able to pee. No time for a warm up so I put on my shoes, threw my bag in bag check and jogged to the seeded start corral. I got in a few strides, found the 2:45 pacer and he took me to the elite bathrooms, but I only had a minute to go and just couldn’t get my stomach to empty. I knew this could be bad, but I tried to stay positive and off we went.

6:17 pace felt easy and the miles were flying by. The weather was perfect and even the pacer had Maurten that he shared with us which I had been practicing with! This was going to be my day! However, my stomach started churning around mile 7 or 8 and by mile 9 I had to stop but knew if I could empty my gut, I still had enough miles I could make up the time.

To cut the story short, about 6 or 7 more bathroom stops occurred over the next 15 miles with most of them being in the last 5 miles including a stop on a tree in downtown Sacramento because no bathroom was in sight. It was not only humiliating but heartbreaking. The perfect day turned into a nightmare. But I knew I would at least PR so I kept going despite every urge to quit and save my dignity. My coach was a finish line official and he was waiting for me. And with crap literally all over me, he hugged me. I cried. 2:55:01. An 8:20 PR. 10 minutes and 1 seconds off the OTQ time.

No problem. I have another year, right? Well no, I promised my husband we would have another child. Our oldest was now 2 and we didn’t want them too far apart. We agreed I would try one more time in LA in March and then have another kid. We both knew now that it wasn’t just a dream. I could actually do this if I didn’t have to stop so many times. However, my body was done. I ran two of my worst half marathons leading up to LA and knew it wasn’t a good choice to try again at this point. So instead, we got pregnant and I spent 2019 running through pregnancy and having my 2nd son. I delayed my dream to 2024 but my son is so worth it.
What did you gain from this journey?
I learned that I’m tough. I fought hard through that marathon and I didn’t give up. I finished. I PRed. I proved to myself that I can in fact qualify for the trials. It was only my second marathon, so I have a lot to learn and a lot of room to grow. Learning to trust my coach and what he thinks I can do rather than my own doubts was also a huge step for me. 

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit?
Honestly, the guts to try is what I’m most proud of. A lot of people thought I was crazy to set that lofty of a goal when I hadn’t even run a half or full marathon at the beginning of 2018. I’m proud of myself for getting back up and trying again for LA even though I didn’t end up running it. I am also proud of myself for listening to my body and not running LA. Sometimes it’s harder to know when to stop than to keep going.
Do you have any regrets or things you would have done differently in your OTQ pursuit?
I wouldn’t have taken the bus to the start or taken magnesium the night before the race! Haha! I also, would have believed my coach sooner than I did. I did a lot of things right leading up to this attempt, but I think running through my first pregnancy and sooner postpartum would’ve given me more time and more attempts at an OTQ instead of just 1. I also would’ve chosen a sooner marathon after CIM instead of doing another full training cycle for LA. It was too much for my body. I had been going nonstop since August of 2017 so my body really needed a break.

What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits?
Dream big! Shoot for the stars! Never let anyone talk you out of a dream or goal. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dream. But most importantly, when you fall down, get back up. Try again. Don’t let the major heartbreaks break you. Come back stronger and fight for your dream, even if you have to delay it another 4 years. Don’t quit!

Tell us something unique about yourself.
I ran through my 2nd pregnancy, hitting 1541 pregnancy miles (10 of which I ran the day I went into labor). I was prouder of the races I ran pregnant, even though I was so much slower, than my non-pregnant PRs. I proved to myself I could do it. I won the races or my age group each time! I found a new strength inside myself running pregnant that I didn’t know existed. It was exactly what I needed this last year to find my love of running again in a new and unexpected way.

What’s next for you?
I am currently 2 months postpartum and am training for a half marathon in May, then the Women’s Indy Half in September, and hopefully the Indy Monumental Marathon in November this year to try for a sub 2:50. I’ll be 2 weeks shy of 1 year postpartum by then.